Shane Filan chats with Kevin Cooper about Westlife working with Mariah Carey, the likelihood of a Westlife reunion, the release of his album Right Here and his forthcoming tour of the UK

Shane Filan is an Irish singer and songwriter, and was one of the lead singers and frontman of Irish boy band Westlife until the group disbanded in 2012. Now pursuing a solo career he released his debut solo album, You and Me, in 2013.

His single, Me And The Moon, from his second album was released in August 2015. That album titled Right Here, reached number one in the Irish Album Charts in the first week of its release.

After being made bankrupt due to the falling prices in the housing market, and following the release of his autobiography, My Side Of Life, Shane Filan now has a successful solo career.

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


Hi Shane how are you today?

I’m good man how are you?

I’m very well thank you.

That’s cool man as you are the last one of the day (laughter). I’m all ears (laughter).

To be honest with you I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing (laughter).

Take it from me Kevin it’s a good thing (laughter).

I usually try to get people first as they then tend to be fresh and up for it. After you have done ten or fifteen interviews you tend to be a little tired at the end of it all.

Well I have to tell you 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 (laughter).

Well in that case let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

It’s no problem at all man, thanks for having me.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

It’s good, in fact it is really good actually. I’m am in a really good place at the moment and I am really happy. The second album came out and it did really well but more importantly the fans were very happy with it. Plus I am going back out on tour singing once again. I love what I do Kevin, I love to call this my job, and I am glad that it is going well so far. I just keep going forward and keep looking forward to the next show, the next song or whatever it may be.

I have to tell you that I was fortunate enough to both review and photograph you when you last played The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham in March 2014. I have to be honest with you and tell you that you blew me away.

That’s cool Kevin, thank you very much. It’s great to hear that.

I really did enjoy the acoustic section in the middle of the set when you all came to the front of the stage. I thought that was great.

We all did enjoy that actually. It’s nice for us to do that. Firstly all of the lads are great musicians and I am happy to say that they are all touring with me again. But secondly and more importantly they are all very good singers and so it is nice to be able to sit down with them and basically jam. It is something that we would do during rehearsals as a bit of a laugh; we would rehearse the songs acoustically. We then thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to actually put it into the show as it is nice and relaxed and it has a good feel to it.

And the warmth which you and the guys generate, the audience simply feeds off it. It lifts the whole place.

Absolutely Kevin and I find that in these types of venues, and in particular Nottingham which was a great show and we are really looking forward to being back there, it’s not too big that you can’t have that intimate atmosphere, but it’s not too small that it can’t also be very energetic, crazy and intense. We still have a mainly female audience who roar, shout and scream at every song (laughter) but then you have the intensity of an acoustic set where people are very quiet and it’s great. It is actually the kind of experience that I had never experienced before because obviously Westlife was always so enormous and we had to play all of the big arenas, you kind of forget just how close to the people you are on a tour such as this one. You can almost see every face on every row. It’s unbelievable. So that is why I love doing tours such as this one.

You have briefly mentioned your second album Right Here, it got to number one in the Irish Album Charts. How did that feel?

That was one of the proudest days of my life being honest with you. I have obviously had some amazing days and success with Westlife, but to achieve the number one album in my own country, it is pretty cool and it will go down in history forever. It might be a small thing to some people but to me it was absolutely enormous. It was a very proud day and things like that spur you on. My last album went to number three, this album went to number one so it is an improvement and so I must be moving in the right direction.

The problem is that now I will be looking to see if my next album goes to number one (laughter). It is doing really well in the UK too which is obviously a much bigger market than it is here in Ireland but that day still meant an awful lot to me without a doubt.

Are you the sort of person who is continually writing with that next album in mind?

I kind of do but I have to tell you that I am not thinking too much about the third album just yet, but I am thinking about what I would like to do. The first album was obviously a more pop-country-folky type of album which I loved and enjoyed at the time to do; it was something that I felt that I needed to do. It probably help me to settle into the solo artist thing much easier because it was a lot more fun to perform more up-tempo songs. What was missing from that album were ballads; some really strong, powerful ballads like the ones that I used to love singing in Westlife. So I tried to focus on that on my second album.

You are always thinking ahead and I think that it will be similar to this album. However I want to find some great songs which is something that you are always looking for. You are always looking for the next great song or the next idea. If I am being honest with you Kevin I am already getting excited at the thought of writing and recording my next album. But I will be touring and promoting my second album so as they say I will just have to take things one step at a time (laughter). That is the way that I live, I love looking forward and I love looking forward to the next thing. That is the really cool thing about being a singer, you never know when you are going to find that great idea, or that great song. It could be around the next corner.

I know that you were extremely proud of your first solo album. Are you happy with just how your second album has turned out?

Most definitely Kevin because musically it is probably much closer to where I wanted to be. I love my first album but I was also experimenting a lot too. There is always something that you are going to find right and wrong with each album. As I mentioned the first album was missing some ballads and the second album might be missing a few up-tempos (laughter). You have to sort of make this into a career; it cannot simply be all about one album. It is all about trying to build a career and trying to have in five years’ time four or five really good songs that people love and hopefully one amazing song.

Every singer has that one song that you think of straight away and I don’t know if I have that yet but that is what encourages me to keep going forward, to try and improve and to try and be better. If you have it all straight away then it is even more difficult. Westlife had an enormous amount of success very quickly and then it was the pressure of marketing the first album right to the very end nearly (laughter). Every song had to get to number one. That’s a hard place to be in too. We were very lucky in that we had a great career in Westlife but I like this; I am finding out just who I am as an artist.

When I do gigs I am thinking of different things, different songs and all of the different things that I want to do next. The music business is a very funny place but it is something that I am very glad to in.

Funny and extremely fickle.

Without a doubt Kevin, you are only as good as your last song, your last concert, your last record, people don’t really care. Your fans are obviously the most important thing. You get judged a lot on certain songs or certain music but you just have to do stuff that you love. I believe in my music of course, I love singing the songs that I do, I love singing the Westlife songs and I love doing my shows and I know that certain people won’t like it but there are a lot of people who do thankfully. They are the people that I care about. They are the people who I want to join me on this journey and to be with me all the way.

I have been playing the album for a few days now and I have to say that I really do like I Could Be your duet with Nadine Coyle. How did that come about?

Thanks for saying that Kevin. That is probably my favourite song on the album if I am honest with you. It’s a great pop song which I wrote with a couple of guys whilst I was over in Denmark. It was a song which happened very early in the writing process, and the fact that it is my song, then I am very proud of it. I feel that it is a really good song and Nadine really did it justice. She is such a great singer and her name was mentioned straight away and we all thought that she would be great on it. We sent her the song and a month later we were in the studio so it happened quite quickly. She is such a great singer.

We also did it live when I was promoting the album and we really did have fun singing it together. It’s a great song to sing and I am looking forward to obviously singing it on tour. Unfortunately Nadine won’t be there, having said that she might make a surprise appearance one evening, who knows (laughter). It is just one of those great pop songs.

Did you actually get to record the song together. I know that is quite rare nowadays what with MP3 files being so readily available.

Yes we did, we actually recorded the song together. One of the girls who I was working with was a really good singer and so she recorded the demo which is what we sent over to Nadine. She needed a guide vocal to listen to. After that Nadine and I recorded the song and we put it together in the studio. The funny thing is that most of my vocals which were used on the song were taken from that very demo (laughter). It’s funny because when you try to sing something again it doesn’t always work out because I honestly felt that I had nailed it the first time.

When I knew that the song was going to be used as the single, I thought that I had better sing it properly (laughter). Then I started thinking about it too much in the studio and I simply couldn’t get it right so about 90% of my demo vocals were used for the actual song which is on the album. I don’t mind that because it shows that I did my best job on the demo and Nadine did a fantastic job too. Wherever I hear the song being played on the radio I still get that buzz; it is really cool whenever it comes on. It’s great.

On the subject of buzzes, how did it feel when Westlife first appeared on Top Of The Pops?

If I’m being honest with you it was very nerve-wracking Kevin (laughter). Looking back on it now it is all a kind of a blur. I remember we were all sitting on stools and wearing white (laughter). I was wearing a white and grey top with white jeans and black shoes so we were looking angelic like. It was very nerve-wracking because it was the first major TV appearance that we had made plus we had to sing live. Singing live was the big deal at that time. But despite all of that I absolutely loved it (laughter). It is a pretty daunting experience when you go onto Top Of The Pops.

We were from the west of Ireland coming over to the big smoke of London and we were on Top Of The Pops, it was pretty mental but also incredible. From what I remember Jamie Theakston introduced us. It’s funny the odd things that you remember (laughter). What shocked us was just how small the studio was. It was literally the size of your sitting room. It really was tiny. But again very intense, when you are singing live and you are nineteen years old, it really is a little daunting but like everything else, once we had done one that was it.

Everything that you do for the first time in this industry is quite daunting. Me releasing my first solo album, putting out my first solo single, touring on my own, every time that you do it, it is all very daunting but that is what excites you. That’s what keeps me going.

You mention touring, does it still excite you being out on the road?

Absolutely, it is the best part about it. It is a hundred percent the best part of this job Kevin. Making an album is good fun but actually writing the album can be a bit monotonous. You can go two or three weeks without coming up with a song that you really like. So for me, touring is when I get the chance to perform all of my best songs from my two albums, and also in my case the best Westlife songs too. So you could say that I am really lucky to have a really strong set list that we have put together for the tour.

Touring is where I have fun, I go out every night singing songs that I love; I have fun with the crowd especially in these sorts of venues. I have so much more fun with the crowd and I have to come out of my shell a lot more. In Westlife there was obviously more of a big fancy show; we had one speech each, we would talk to the crowd, introduce the next song and that would be it. But now that I am out there on my own I have to do seven or eight speeches. I now find myself having chats with the crowd. Sometimes I wing it as I am going along because I never know what is going to happen next (laughter).

Usually someone will say something or shout something up to me and I can hear it so loudly because they are only in the fifth row (laughter) and I can even see their face so it can be funny. I try to have a laugh with the crowd the best that I can. I find that part of touring really enjoyable.

You mention doing things for the very first time. After spending fourteen years in Westlife you have now found yourself up on the stage and when you looked around the rest of the boys were no longer there. How did that feel?

At the beginning that was a very daunting experience. I can still remember my very first solo show up in Liverpool when I played in front of two thousand people but to be honest it may as well have been two million people. I felt like I was completely surrounded by people. I have to say though that whilst it was very scary it was also an amazing experience. You want it to be good and you want it to be the best that it can be, so I don’t really think about things too much I just get out there and I do it. Once you get the fans approval then you are off and running and you just go for it.

When you were a member of Westlife you collaborated with some very big names such as Mariah Carey, Lulu, Joanne Hindley, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Delta Goodrem. Which of them gave you the most pleasure?

That would have to be Mariah Carey simply because she was our very first duet. There we were all of us eighteen and nineteen years old and we were singing with Mariah Carey. It was absolutely bonkers (laughter). I was actually surprised at just how normal and nice she was. You think that all of these people are such superstars with massive egos but whist Mariah was absolutely a superstar she was so nice and down to earth. She came over as being just like one of our mates. She immediately treated us as her friends and made us feel really comfortable.

That was probably one of the scariest moments; when you are in the studio recording and you look through the glass and there is Mariah Carey literally looking straight at you (laughter). But it is what it is Kevin, it was one of the scariest moments of my life but you just have to deal with it, you just have to perform. In this industry there is hardly any room for error, you just have to nail it. She was great, absolutely class, a beautiful looking woman, and we were all absolutely in awe of her. She was lovely, a really nice girl.

Song writing, is it something that you are happy with, do you feel that you are growing into the role?

Yes I think it is without a doubt. I found on this album that it was a lot easier for me to find my stride. I knew a lot more of just what I wanted to find. I feel that my song writing has improved a lot on this album. Song writing in my opinion is something that you are continually learning. To a certain degree you must be able to do it, you either can or can’t do it, but I think that if you are a singer and you love to sing then I feel that everybody can write a song that you love to sing. Music is in you, melodies are in your head, you just talk about stuff that you want to talk about.

You do not have to come up with these amazing fake stories, or create the perfect love song, you just have to talk about the things that you love, things that are in your life, or your experiences. I did that quite a lot on this album; I mixed it up quite a lot and so it was necessarily just about me, it could have been about you Kevin or someone else going through something in their life, which you try to put a great melody to. I think that the melody is the key to a great song. Lyrics are obviously important but I think that the melody is the absolute key to a great song.

I simply cannot speak to you without asking if we will ever see Westlife together again?

The honest answer to that question is that I don’t know Kevin. I honestly don’t know. It’s the question which I get asked at every interview and I honestly always give the same answer to it, there are no plans for us to get back together at the moment. It could very well happen at some point in the future but then again it might not. One thing that I do not want to say is that maybe it will happen because that gets fans excited and it’s not fair to give people false hope on something that I actually don’t know.

Westlife was amazing and we had so much fun with Westlife. We created history together. We are all still friends so maybe ten years down the line, who knows, maybe we will bring out the stools once again (laughter).

Was it an easy decision to make when Westlife called it a day?

No it was actually a very difficult decision. I actually think that we finished while we were still on a high. We finished on a very big high as a band and I think that it took almost two years for us all to be brave enough to finally make the decision. We all knew that it was the right decision because we never wanted Westlife to become a part-time thing, something that we weren’t a hundred percent committed to or a hundred percent weren’t in love with because you have to treat something that big with a hundred percent respect. It was very difficult to do it but we knew that it was the right decision and even now when we meet each other we still stand by it and agree that it was definitely the right decision. Westlife started on a high and also finished on a high. It was the most amazing time in all of our lives.

On that note Shane thanks once again for taking the time to speak to me.

Cheers Kevin. Thanks a lot buddy. I look forward to catching up with you in Nottingham.