Brian McFadden, singer, songwriter and former member of Westlife chats with Kevin Cooper about losing his driving licence, recording with Mica Paris and Andrew Strong, his forthcoming album Otis and his forthcoming tour of the UK in April 2019.

Brian McFadden is an Irish singer, songwriter and television presenter who rose to fame in 1998 as a member of the Irish boy band Westlife. Following his departure from Westlife in 2004, McFadden released his debut solo album, Irish Son, which peaked within the top five on both the Danish and Irish albums charts, and produced his first two number one solo singles Real To Me in four European countries and also Almost Here, a duet with his now ex-fiancée Delta Goodrem which gained a platinum accreditation in Australia. Like Only A Woman Can, the lead single from his second album, Set in Stone (2008), became his third number one single as a solo artist. He has also had a fourth number one hit with Just say So.

In 2013 he joined forces with his lifelong friend, Boyzone’s Keith Duffy to form Boyzlife. They have toured the UK sharing stories from their pop heydays as well as performing each of their bands best know hits.

Whilst preparing for the release of his latest solo album, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Brian good afternoon how are you today?

Hi Kevin I’m fine thanks how are you doing mate?

I’m very well thank you and before we go on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not a problem, it’s an absolute pleasure.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is good, but having said that I was up until the wee hours last night so I’m not quite as sharp as I would have liked to have been but in general, all is good (laughter).

You and I last spoke on 22nd September last year just as you were heading off to meet Willie Morgan for a round of golf. Who won?

(Laughter) as you know I love my golf and I try to play as often as I can. I always like to win but with Willie I tend to take it easy as its nice when you let the old fellas win every now and again (laughter).

We spoke about the then forthcoming Boyzlife Tour so I just have to ask you how did it go; did you enjoy it?

Ah me and Keith (Duffy) had a great craic on that tour but, then again, we always do (laughter). For all of the years that we were in Westlife and Boyzone Keith and I never really enjoyed the tours, simply because the rest of the guys were always concentrating on work, they were always doing interviews, and to be honest we were flat-out every day. Now whenever Keith and I go out on tour, we just have a great craic on stage. It is just so much fun; we really do enjoy being up there on stage together, and it really is so much fun.

You probably saw me photographing the last date of the tour which was here in Nottingham at The Glee Club.

(Laughter) yes I did, I did see you and at one point I thought that you were actually hanging off the balcony (laughter). You will most probably know this by now but I left the gig that night and I got flashed by a speed camera and I have recently lost my driving licence because of that.

Well all that I will say is don’t hold that against me because I am based in Nottingham (laughter).

I wouldn’t dream of it. That was the night of the last gig of the tour. I left Nottingham that night and at twelve o’clock that night I got flashed on my way home. I was very unlucky, stupid but it was my own fault.

Didn’t they give you a bit of a rough ride in court?

Yes they did, well I thought that they did. They tried to tell me that I should Tweet my fans and ask them if they could give me lifts to the gigs which I thought was totally crazy. Look, if you break the law then you have got to be prepared to accept your punishment. I just thought that the court were being sarcastic and patronising when they said that I should get the fans to take me to gigs. But beside that, I have simply got to accept it and move on. I have been caught speeding four times in the last three years and if you do that then you have got to pay the price. It is what it is.

I was going to say swiftly moving on but we had better slow down a little hadn’t we (laughter).

(Laughter) bastard.

However, staying with the law for a minute, I personally do not thing that it is legal for you and Keith to be having that much fun on stage.

I know what you are saying, it is pretty unbelievable the amount of fun that the two of us have up there. When we were in our respective bands Keith and I would never drink on stage but with Boyzlife we do like to have the odd tipple on stage (laughter). Now we are that little bit older we have found that we can make those kind of decisions for ourselves now.

On the subject of Boyzlife I have to ask, will you and Keith be doing any new material?

It’s funny that you should ask that as we are talking about it at this very moment. Keith is going to be involved with the last ever album that Boyzone are bringing out on 19th November which is two weeks after my Otis album is being released on 2nd November. So we have discussed it and we currently have a couple of ideas so maybe when both of those projects have run their course and we have toured them then maybe. There are two options open to us at the moment; we might record an album which would be re-recording’s of some of the Westlife and Boyzone hits with the London Philharmonic Orchestra or we might recorded it as a double album also with the London Philharmonic Orchestra but this time including ten new original songs.

So one album would be remakes of the old Westlife and Boyzone songs and the other album would be all originals. That at least is one of the ideas but we will see just how it goes. Keith and I are always coming up with ideas and it will be down to how we feel next year. We both have such a lot going on this year with Keith touring with Boyzone; they are doing a full arena tour in January. I will be heading off to South Africa and Dubai in November and then Keith and I are doing another Boyzlife tour this month so as you can see we have got so much going on for the next six months. I think that we will look into things and take stock when we have some free time in the middle of next year. We may even be able to take in a little break somewhere, who knows.

Perhaps a few rounds of golf somewhere warm?

That would be so nice as to be honest with you I haven’t played a round of golf for ages. Normally at this time of year I play every single day but for some reason this year I haven’t played golf for over a month now which is a very long time for me. Having said that it’s about time that I got my priorities right and actually started to do some work (laughter).

I think that you are being a little harsh on yourself as I understand that you have been working extremely hard on your forthcoming album Otis, which is your interpretation of some of Otis Redding’s lesser known recordings.

Thanks for saying that. It has been hard work but let’s just say that it has been a real labour of love for me.

Well I have to tell you that I have been collecting Soul and Motown records for over forty years now and one of my all-time favourite artists is Otis Redding.

No pressure there then (laughter). Well I really do hope that you like what I have done with the songs. If you are as familiar with Otis as you say you are then you will be familiar with most of the songs on the album. However, if you don’t know the work of Otis that well then most people wouldn’t have heard some of the songs on there, songs like Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Champagne And Wine, Cigarettes And Coffee and Security. These are songs that unless you are a real Otis fan then you wouldn’t know them. Hopefully you will appreciate them. Then I did a few of the songs which I thought that everyone would know, songs like A Change Is Gonna Come, which as you will know was originally written and recorded by the late Sam Cooke but I feel that Otis recorded one of the best versions of that song, Love Man, and These Arms Of Mine.

Have you stayed true to the original recordings?

Yes I have as I didn’t want to mess around with them too much. The production is pretty similar to what Otis did but I have managed to put my own spin on them. I have tried to keep them as true to the original recordings by Otis as I can.

Are you happy with the album?

Yes I am, I really am. I am so used to writing albums that for me to make an album of Otis covers, then for me the pressure is off. The only thing that I have to worry about is whether or not I do a good job. You know that the songs are great because they have already been great. The pressure is well and truly off whenever you record an album like this (laughter). I am usually under pressure when I have written an album; like what if people don’t like the songs, what if people think that it is crap, or what if people think that it’s stupid. So it is nice for me not to have that pressure.

There will be pressure but it will be a different type of pressure. This pressure will come from the purists.

I’m not making this album for the purists because I know that the purists will hate it. I have made this album for people who don’t know Otis Redding or his work and hopefully I can show you some of what Otis Redding did. I am trying to bring his work to a new audience. Hopefully people will listen to the album then go and buy some albums by Otis and listen to the original versions. I am trying to make the younger listeners aware of some of the work by Otis that they haven’t heard before. Most people my age only know of Otis Redding through Dirty Dancing. So hopefully this album will open their eyes to what he has done.

So there is an advantage to being an old fart (laughter).

(Laughter) I’m fucking getting there now myself. I’m rapidly approaching forty (laughter).

You have simply called the album Otis.

Yes I have. I thought that it would be good to keep it simple and straight to the point. It is just me paying homage to the greatest man ever to record soul music. So the album is simply called Brian McFadden…Otis.

I have to ask you, why Otis?

Well there were originally a number of artists who I first thought about covering on the one album but once I heard Otis it took me back to the times I spent listening to his voice and all of those great songs. After that the decision was easy, it just had to be Otis. As soon as I heard his voice again, it just had to be him.

I defy anyone to listen to Otis singing These Arms Of Mine and not get a tear in their eye.

When I was recording the album I had to write down the lyrics, and to be honest, I didn’t think that there was anything special in the lyrics. All of the magic in those songs is what Otis is singing. He pours every bit of soul, passion and tears into those songs. It all comes from his voice. The words don’t mean anything, it’s the way that he is singing them that tells you everything. The only other person who I think ever managed to do that was Michael Jackson. You didn’t listen to what Michael was singing, you felt it.

I have heard that there are a couple of special guests helping you out on the album?

(Laughter) how the hell do you know about that?

Let’s just say that I have my sources (laughter).

Well let me just say that your sources are right and when I find out who they are they may well find themselves out of a job (laughter). Mica Paris recorded a duet with me on Angel and then Andrew Strong from The Commitments joined me on Shake.

How is Andrew because he has had some problems with his voice in the past?

I have to be honest with you and say that Andrews’s voice is simply better than ever. It is unbelievably strong. Andrew has been one of my vocal idols since I saw The Commitments so I really was so excited to get to record that track with him. Watching The Commitments was the main reason why I wanted to record a solo album for the past fifteen years but I have never got to do it. He inspired me completely. I first met Andrew at a corporate show one night where we did a song together and after the show I told him about the Otis album and said that I would love to get him on it and he said ‘okay let’s do it’ (laughter).

And that was that, he just came into the studio, grabbed hold of a mic and did the duet with me. It was just unbelievable for me to sing with him and to hear his voice. For me to record with someone who I have admired for so long, and to stand there watching him belt out the song, it was brilliant.

What was it like working with Mica Paris?

Mica was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I have sung duets with some of the best singers in the world, Mariah Carey, LeAnn Rimes, Dolores O’Riordan and Sinéad O’Connor but I have to say that Mica is one of the best singers that I have heard in my life. As soon as she opened her mouth, the hairs on the backs of the necks of everyone in the studio stood up. I personally think that she is one of the most underrated female singers that Britain has ever had. She should have been a lot bigger worldwide than she was. I really do believe that Mica should have been a superstar.

Everyone I speak to puts Ruby Turner at the top of the list but I personally think that Mica is there alongside Ruby.

Do you, I would place Mica above Ruby. Pound for pound she is our very own Aretha Franklin. We simply don’t have that many great soul singers here in Ireland.

You say that but to be honest with you I think that Imelda (May) could do a great Motown covers album.

(Laughter) fucking hell, excuse me, I beg your pardon, of course, Imelda May, what was I talking about, I had forgotten about Imelda May. I wouldn’t mind but the guy who produced my album produced Imelda’s album as well (laughter). I did want to have Imelda on the album but for reasons which were out of my control it simply never happened. I really shouldn’t be greedy should I as I have got Mica Paris and Andrew Strong.

Which formats will you be releasing the album on?

At the moment it will be released on CD and vinyl. We are actually going backwards as we have pressed the vinyl first before the CD’s (laughter). I actually bought myself a record player a few months ago now so I am really looking forward to hearing the album on vinyl.

You have a release date of Friday 2nd November. Is all ready for that or will you have to shuffle things around?

We should be okay. However, you have to remember that, unlike it was back in the day, you no longer have a definite date when the album will be released to the radio stations. At the moment a few of the radio stations are already asking us if they can play a few tracks off the album which I have to say is pretty cool.

And what about the Holy Grail of Otis Redding songs, have you avoided it?

You must be talking about (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay?

Yes I am and I have to say that, in my opinion, it is one of the greatest songs ever written.

Yes I have. There was no way that I was ever going to record (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay. I have stayed away from that and I have also stayed away from the songs that The Commitments have already recorded. I have left Try A Little Tenderness and Mr. Pitiful well alone.

Have you received any feedback on the album from either the Redding family or Steve Cropper?

I have to report that to date we have heard nothing from either party which could be a good thing. At least Steve Cropper hasn’t sent it back saying that it is fucking rubbish (laughter). What you have to remember whenever you listen to the album is that I haven’t touched the songs, the structure, the production, the guitar lines, the bass, the brass section; everything is the same. It’s just that I’m singing and not the great man himself. I honestly haven’t really changed the songs that much. Whilst I can’t sing the songs like Otis sang them, I have kept then as true as I could.

Will there be an Otis 2?

No there won’t. I already know exactly what I am going to do for my next album. Again it is going to be a solo album and I am going to write an album of original songs. I am going to write an original Northern Soul album. I want to write an album of original songs but I intend to follow that Northern Soul structure. I am hoping to write with some of the old school writers in Nashville and Memphis, some of the guys who were writing back in the Motown days trying to create that original sound but with a modern producer.

I see that you will be touring the album here in the UK in April. Are you looking forward to that?

Yes I am. It will be nice to finally get the album out there and see just how the audiences react to the songs. I really can’t wait.

You have mentioned the fact that you are approaching forty, and you say that you have finally recorded a grown up album. Is that the way you see your career going now, making real grown up music?

Whenever I make a record I only want to do something that I am passionate about. This album was the kind of album that I really wanted to make. In the past I have toyed with the idea of making a country album. I wrote a hell of a lot of country songs when I was over in Nashville so who knows, perhaps one day I will get the urge to release a country album. It really does depend upon where my head is at that time. Making a solo album is something that I really never believed that I was capable of doing because it is very tough to make a solo album. I am very happy with the way that this album has turned out so if I can make more albums like this, then I will be really happy. I honestly feel that this is a new beginning for me.

Balancing your time between your solo work and Boyzlife. Is that something that you are happy to undertake?

Absolutely. Listen, if I wasn’t doing Boyzlife as well as my solo career I would just be sitting at home. I am really focused on the album but I really do love it when Keith and I get out on the road singing the old songs. We really do have so much fun. It’s a different atmosphere whenever we do that. The good thing is that I enjoy them both equally. It’s good to do both.

What one thing can’t Brian McFadden live without?

That’s easy, I simply cannot live without my kids and my father. I also love salt and vinegar popchips, they really are gorgeous. Plus I really do get withdrawal symptoms whenever I don’t get to play golf (laughter).

What has been your most extravagant purchase?

(Laughter) you had to bring that up didn’t you. I bought myself a Ferrari when I was out in Australia which cost me two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Other than a house, that is the most money that I have ever spent on one thing. That was back in the good days (laughter).

On that note Brian let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. I hope to catch you at The Stables next year.

Cheers Kevin, I really do appreciate it. You take care and I will see you in Milton Keynes.