Shane Filan, singer songwriter and former Westlife member chats with Kevin Cooper about playing the last ever Westlife show at the Royal Concert Hall, not being very romantic, the release of his third solo album Love Always and his forthcoming tour of the UK.

Shane Filan is an Irish singer songwriter, and was one of the lead singers and frontman of boy band Westlife. Born in Sligo, Ireland, he began his musical career with Kian Egan and Mark Feehily when they formed a band called I.O.U. Filan’s mother contacted Louis Walsh and eventually the three of them were joined by Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden and a band called Westside was formed.

A forced change of their name to Westlife saw Filan and the group go on to receive 28 platinum discs and to sell 40 million records worldwide, but after 14 years with Westlife they broke many hearts in 2011 when they announced that they were disbanding. Soon after Filan announced that he was intending to pursue a solo career.

With the continuing support of Louis Walsh, he released his debut album, You And Me in 2013, followed by his second album in 2015, Right Here. In August 2017 he announced the release of his third album Love Always, which showcased his favourite love songs.

Whilst busy preparing for his forthcoming tour, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.

Hi Shane how are you?

I’m very well thanks Kevin how are you man?

Well I have to say that I am very well if not a little nervous (laughter).

(Laughter) so tell me why are you feeling a little nervous?

The last time that we spoke you told me that “I tend to get fresher towards the end because if I have done a few good interviews throughout the day then I am at my happiest’. Well I’m first up today so it is a totally different ball game (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) well let me just say that you have got me all fresh this time around so don’t worry Kevin, all is good (laughter).

In that case let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all man, thanks for having me.

And just how is life treating you?

Life is good; life is really good actually. The new album was released last week and is doing really well in the charts. It is my first top five placing so I am really excited about that. That for me is a great result so I am really looking forward to the tour now.

Before we speak about the new album together with the forthcoming tour you and I last spoke in February 2016 prior to your Right Here tour. Were you pleased with just how well the tour was received by the fans?

Yes I was actually, and to be honest the tour was brilliant. For me going out on tour is the best part of my job; the best thing about what I do. Whenever I am getting close to going back out onto the road to tour I always get excited. I start wondering what the fans are going to think and it is just a really good buzz leading up to a tour.

And are you starting to get excited about the forthcoming tour yet?

(Laughter) believe it or not yes I am. It is the same again; it is exactly the same. Saying that I am probably even more excited this time around as this will be my third tour together with the release of my third album. And let me tell you it is a really good show too.

Well I have to tell you that I have been playing the new album Love Always for the past few days and I have to say that I think that it is a lovely piece of work.

Thanks man, thank you very much. It is always nice to hear that.

There are twelve songs on the album, but just how many songs did you start out with?

(Laughter) there were just so many; I would have to say about fifty plus. Myself and Louis (Walsh) had a list, the producers had a list, the people from the record label had a list, and so we all sat down together and I thought ‘just how can I narrow this list down and what is the best album here that I can make’ because obviously there were just so many songs for me to choose from. A lot of the songs made sense to me and they had reasons to be on the album. I wanted to make an album that people would talk about and not just record a few random famous songs. A lot of the songs that made it onto the album bring back memories for me of when I was younger and so I am so glad that I picked the ones that I picked.

Were there any songs that missed the cut which you now wish were on there?

No not at all although I suppose that if I had more time then I could have made three or four of these albums. I’m sure that there are lots of songs that I have missed that could have been amazing. Perhaps if I do another of these albums then a few of them will make it then. That’s the beauty of these albums, there are simply volumes of them to be made if you want but it has to be at the right time. So when I chose to do another one I will sit down, make another list and try to make sense of myself again (laughter).

So are you telling me that there are certain songs that are currently being saved for the follow-up album Love Always Volume Two? (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) just what are you trying to say (laughter). I have to be totally honest with you and tell you that there is nothing being saved as we aren’t even thinking like that at this moment in time. This album is most definitely something that I have enjoyed making and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was going to make another one sometime in the future because I definitely will. I really did enjoy making this album. It was a lot of fun for me to sing these amazing songs and I just love to sing. For me to sing these amazing sings was such a privilege and I am in such a really nice place to be able to do that. The album is something that I am really happy with and am very proud of.

I have to say that I love what you have done with Eternal Flame, the Bangles track.

Thank you. That track was definitely one of the ones that I was quite nervous about recording because having grown up with that song, it was one of my first memories of listening to pop music. It is one of the first songs that I can remember singing along to when I was about five years old. I just remember loving that song and then loving The Bangles. I am a big fan of The Bangles and so for me to record one of their songs was a big deal for me, but I like it. I like the fact that it is a very personal song and a close to the mic kind of song. My version is obviously different to the original but it is still the same song that I love and I love singing it. So for me it is great to finally get to sing it after thirty odd years (laughter).

At this moment in time I personally think that Beautiful In White is the standout track on the album. Would you agree?

Really, well thank you, that is very interesting. Beautiful In White is a song that has got a life of its own really. I recorded the song almost five years ago now and it really took off over in Asia which I had no idea about until I finally managed to get over there on my first tour. It is a song that has very quickly become a massive part of my history and also my solo career. Up until recently my fans here in the UK knew nothing about that song really but they have suddenly picked up on the song over the last six months or so. Also the song is finally on an album which is great because previously it had never been on any of my albums. So you could say that it was my biggest song that I never knew about (laughter). It is what it is, it is a straight down the middle wedding song. It is a lovely song and people really do seem to like it.

On the subject of big songs, you have covered Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love. When you look at the list of artists who have previously recorded the song, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Adele, Garth Brooks, Bryan Ferry and Kelly Clarkson to name but a few, did that put you under even more pressure to step up to the plate and make the song your own?

Yes it did, that one really did. A lot of the songs on the album are so famous and have been recorded by a lot of huge artists but that one in particular has been recorded by a lot of famous artists over the years. I don’t think that it phased me in any way as I really do love the song so I wanted to try it; I wanted to sing it and when I was singing it I thought ‘this is great, I really like this’. I definitely tried to sing it differently to how everyone else has sung it previously. I suppose that everyone has their own version of it but it is just such a great song, and it was one that I wanted to try. I am really happy with how it sounded and that is why it is on the album.

I couldn’t think too much about who had previously recorded these songs because this is a love songs album; it is me recording my version of these songs, and I can only sing them like me. I just did my best and tried to put my own stamp on them. It is my fans who will be buying the album so for me it is all about giving my fans something that they have not had before. If I had started thinking about it too much then I would have started taking every song off the album and there is no point in that (laughter). This is what it is about, I love to sing, I just sing them the way I sing and I hope that a few people will like them.

Do you have a personal favourite on the album?

Yes I do it’s the Bryan Adams song Heaven. That song was always one of my favourite songs when I was younger and today Bryan Adams is by far my favourite artist and my favourite singer. So Heaven was most definitely a big song for me to take on but the minute that I started singing it I loved it. I have wanted to sing that song for so long. I have made it different and it is not like Bryan’s version at all. My version is a lot more laidback with just the piano and vocal. It is not a big rock version of the song, and I think that it is really a nice version of his original. Heaven is something that I am really glad that I did.

Your tour of the UK starts on 20th September are you looking forward to being back out on the road?

Yes I am, very much so, I really can’t wait to be honest with you. We are currently getting all of the final bits and pieces finalised. Rehearsals with the band have started already and I will be joining them early next week. I am already getting excited because for me, this is the best part of the year. Whenever a tour finishes I feel sad and I am looking forward to getting back out there again (laughter). When the tour starts I get excited once again. Once I get over the first couple of shows I feel great and ready to go. I will then start to tweak the set list and a few different things but I have to say that we have definitely upped the game this year with the show.

Saturday 30th September you will be playing here in Nottingham at the Royal Concert Hall. What can we expect?

Well what can I tell you without giving the game away is that we have upped the production and the whole tour is more exciting, more visual that it has been before. In my opinion the new stage set is pretty cool and in general we have just upped our game a little bit. In this game every year you have to keep surprising people in order that the people will want to come back the next time that you tour. That’s what it is all about.

Will many of the new songs find their way onto the tour set list?

Well I have to say that at this moment in time the set list is looking pretty strong. I thought about it long and hard and decided not to do the whole new album, but I have decided to do half of it. They are all famous songs so it makes the set list much better. Let me tell you that in my opinion there are no album tracks on this set list, they are just all brilliant songs. They are all fans favourite songs, even the Westlife songs that I include in the show. I will be playing a few of the singles off my previous albums which the people know very well and love; everyone who comes to one of my concerts knows them. In my opinion this is by far the strongest set list that I have ever done on tour.

Without giving too much away will you still be playing an acoustic section mid concert?

(Laughter) I probably will to a certain degree but it won’t be a fully acoustic section as it has been on previous tours. I will be singing a couple of songs off the new album which are obviously acoustic and more laidback so I suppose that will be an acoustic section but not an acoustic section as you have seen on previous tours. I can’t tell you much more without giving the game away (laughter).

Does being here in Nottingham bring back bad memories for you especially when you recall that Westlife played their very last UK concert ever here at the Royal Concert Hall?

Not at all, I have lots of great memories of my time spent up there in Nottingham. I have played there so many times over the years both with Westlife and as a solo artist and I always have a great show whenever I play Nottingham. I feel like the crowd up there have really warmed to me. Even with Westlife many years ago now we always had a great show whenever we performed in Nottingham. As you say Nottingham was the last ever UK for Westlife and I have to say that it was a great send-off. Our last show was our best ever show in Nottingham. Obviously it was a bittersweet moment as it was our last UK show ever but the place was packed, it was a great night, and we all have a lot of fond memories of our time spent in Nottingham so hopefully I will be able to continue making good memories.

On the subject of Westlife next year will be their twentieth anniversary. Are there any plans to celebrate the occasion?

I have to be honest with you and tell you that there are no plans whatsoever, nothing at all. I can guarantee you that there is most definitely nothing happening next year. There have been no talks and we haven’t even seen each other if I am honest with you. There has been a lot of talk from other people, fans online, journalists and stuff like that, but I can definitely say to you that as of today there are no plans for Westlife to do anything next year.

That’s a shame because it is Boyzone’s twenty-fifth anniversary next year and I thought that it would be great to see a Westlife and Boyzone doubleheader tour. What do you think?

Well let me tell you that is one thing that will never happen. You had better go and ask the Boyzone guys about that and why that will never happen.

Swiftly moving on, what is the most romantic thing that you have ever done?

Oh my god, I don’t know (laughter). When I was younger I can remember flying home from Germany and gave Gillian who was at that time my girlfriend a bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day. She was not expecting me home for two weeks but it was a good move I think, she certainly was happy and eventually married me on 28th December 2003 (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) believe it or not it was Uptown Girl by Billy Joel.

Who did you first see playing live?

That would have been Status Quo quickly followed by The Prodigy. They came to Sligo once so I went to see them.

Which song or piece of music last made you cry?

Oh my god, I have to say that I actually haven’t got a clue. I really can’t remember. What I will say is that sometimes I will get emotional when I am recording songs especially if it is a really deep song. So I’m sorry but I will have to say that off the top of my head I really can’t remember.

On that note Shane let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been a pleasure and I will see you here in Nottingham.

Cheers Kevin. Many thanks buddy it’s been great to catch up with you once again and we will speak again in Nottingham. Bye for now.