New life after Westlife

Popular Irish boyband Westlife broke up in June last year and the four members have not seen one another since then.

And no, it is not because of bad blood, says the group's lead singer Shane Filan, now carving a solo career as a singer-songwriter.

"I miss the boys. It's only natural, I think we all miss each other," the 34-year-old says in a telephone interview from his home in London.

"We haven't seen each other, but we talk quite a bit on the phone and we keep in touch. We're starting individual careers. We probably will meet up and talk about where our lives are at, but we need to create a bit of a life first."

Filan certainly has his hands full right now. His debut solo album, You And Me, is released today. To promote it, he is travelling around the world. He will be in Singapore to perform at a showcase gig for subscribers of SingTel's AMPed music streaming service as well as hold an autograph signing session here on Sunday.

"The next phase of my life has started. I'm looking forward to hopefully create some memories and seeing where my career goes."

If lead single, Everything To Me, released in August, is any indication, Filan's solo career is off to a good start. It peaked at No. 7 on the Irish charts and No. 14 on the British charts. Still, it is a far cry from his heady days with Westlife. Formed in 1998 with a line-up of Filan, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Brian McFadden, the group sold 50 million records worldwide and registered 13 No. 1 singles on the British charts.

Of their 12 album releases, seven of them, including Coast To Coast (2000), Unbreakable: The Greatest Hits Volume 1 (2002) and The Love Album (2006), topped the album charts in Britain.

McFadden left in 2004 to go solo and the group carried on as a quartet until the split last year.

Filan, who married his school sweetheart Gillian and with whom he has an eight-year-old daughter and two sons aged five and three, acknowledges the fact that his fans will always remember him as being part of Westlife. He even indulges them by performing his former band's songs at gigs. "Fans will be upset if I don't do any Westlife songs. It's part of who I am and it's important for them to hear the songs."

1 How is the process of making music now different compared to when you were in Westlife?

When we were in Westlife, we didn't write any of our songs. That wasn't a bad thing. It's just what we did, we had great songwriters, I supposed we didn't need to write.

It's different when you're starting a solo career. You need to find your style and the best way to do that is to write songs. I didn't know how good I was going to be, I didn't know if I was even going to do it. But I got off to a good start and I took it from there.

2 What inspired the songs on the album?

All the songs, they are stories about my life, whether it's memories about my childhood growing up or about my relationship with my wife. They are honest songs, they are very true songs. It's a nice thing to be able to talk about that in a positive way.

And I hope people can relate to that. It's about my life, but it could be about your life or somebody else's relationship. It's quite important that it's not too focused on my life, and that when you listen to the lyrics, you can make sense of it.

3 It has been more than a year since Westlife broke up. What do you miss most about being in thegroup?

I think just the fun we used to have, the four of us were very good friends.

We got to tour the world together, we got to do some amazing things and see some amazing places, but when you're doing it with friends, it's a lot of fun.

And now on my own, it's quite different. People loving your music and welcoming you into their country, it's an incredible feeling.

4 For many people, you will be associated with Westlife. How do you feel about that, especially since you're carving out a solo career?

I'm proud of being from Westlife. We had amazing achievements and sold lots of records.

When I look back at my life, it's been pretty incredible as a singer and I got to live the dream of being a pop star in a boyband.

5 Do you feel any pressure to live up to the band's commercial success?

I don't think you can compare us. Even if you're a boyband starting out now, you can't compare to what Westlife did, the album sales back then were so big in every country.

But, of course, I want to have success. It's only natural to want to do your best and be as successful as you can be.

I have no targets. I'm just going to work hard, hopefully carve out a career of some sort and keep singing.

6 Will Westlife ever get back together again?

I don't know. There're no plans to do that. It's something that we said when we split up, that was it, we took our time, we stayed together for 14 years and I think we did an awful lot. We achieved everything we could possibly achieve as a band.

But at the end, we thought, this was amazing and that was a part of our lives and now we move on. So honestly, I don't know. It's an impossible question to answer.

Right now, I don't think so, it's the honest answer. The other three lads will answer the same thing. But you just never know what the future holds.

7 Do you listen to boybands such as One Direction?

I do, you hear them on the radio all the time and my kids are very big One Direction fans. We went to see their concert in London and I have all the albums. I play them in the car for my kids.

They're very good. I think they've got great songs, they work very hard.

And they are nice guys. They still haven't changed. They still seem to be very hardworking guys and obviously Niall Horan from the group is from Ireland, so he's flying the Irish flag which is cool.

I'm very happy for them. They're a huge phenomenon, and long may it last.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Hopefully, as a successful solo artist who was in a great band (laughs).

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