Shane Filan opens up to Shirley Temple Bar about life beyond boybands, bankruptcy, the moment his bandmate, Mark Feehily came out, and which of Westlife he’d fancy if he were gay.
It’s unbelievable what you can learn when you bunk off school. I’ve been hanging with the skateboarders outside Dublin’s Central Bank for the past few weeks and I’ve learnt more about finance from their tricks than I ever learned from my ex-boyfriend, Eddie Hobbs. Okay, I still don’t know what a tracker mortgage is but I do know that an economist is no good in a crisis, particularly if her own blood is involved. I’ve also seen firsthand that things that go up can most definitely come back down and past performance does not guarantee future success.
If you don’t believe me, ask Shane Filan.
Back in 1997, Shane’s Ma rang up Louis Walsh to convince him to manage Shane and his mates. Louis listened and soon had Westlife signed by Simon Cowell. Together with Mark, Nicky, Kian (and, for a while, Bryan), Shane released 12 studio albums featuring karaoke classics like ‘Flying Without Wings’ and ‘Fool Again’. Over ten years they had 14 UK number ones and just as much number two – and they made a lot of money. It looked like Shane had the world at his feet.
Then the band decided to call it a day with a massive farewell tour in 2012 and broke a lot of hearts. Unfortunately for Shane, that’s not all that was broke. When the Irish property bubble burst, all of Shane’s investments went with it.
So now, in the hope of earning some hard cash, Shane is starting out afresh in the music industry, and this time he’s doing it alone. I’ve been trying to get him on his own for years, so I jumped at the chance to meet him for a chinwag.
You look like a million dollars, Shane! What have you been up to?
Thanks, Shirley! I’ve been on a tour of the UK and Ireland that’s taking in all the sights! I’ve done London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Belfast and finally a few nights at The Olympia in Dublin as well.
God, you must miss Shane, Mikey and Keith. Is it different touring without the rest of Boyzone?
Not really… considering I was in Westlife, Shirley. But yeah, it’s weird doing it without the other guys. You know that moment of doubt where you think nobody is coming to your party? That’s how I felt a lot!
So, have you done a Robbie and gone all post-boyband rock ‘n’ roll to rake up the sales?
Well, the music is not a million of miles away from what I was doing with Westlife. If anything, it’s more country. I’m calling it Country Pop.
Or ‘Coup’ for short… Maybe not. That’s a disease, isn’t it? Then again, it’s fairly contagioius.
Look at Garth Brooks! He’s a legend in Ireland. But it’s not just him. People like Shania Twain, and now Taylor Swift have been among the most successful acts in recent years.
Can I ask when you realised that you really should stop the Westlife racket? I mean, career.
To be honest, it just didn’t feel as special anymore and we all felt that. So, after ten years of Westlife, we took a break. We came back after six months and began working again. But pretty soon we were asking: ‘Is this still enjoyable?’ We had always said we’d end it when it stopped being enjoyable.
Enjoyable for whom?
We made 12 albums together, toured the world and achieved great successes.. Ironically, our last year was one of our best, so we certainly went out on a high.
Until, of course, you realised you were bankrupt.
Yeah. That’s been difficult. I’m starting with nothing again and I have no idea how it will work out. With Westlife, everything had an air of certainty. Gigs would sell out. Albums would go to number one. I don’t have any of that certainty now. There are no guarantees, so I have no expectations. In a way, that’s very liberating.
Speaking of liberation, when Mark came out to the world, was that a surprise to anyone apart from Louis Walsh?
I didn’t know at all! Mark is a very private person, but he told us himself when he was ready. He had obviously been worried about it and we could see the relief on his face when he told us. We were all really proud of him. There was lots of hugging and it was definitely a celebratory moment.
Now, describe the hugging, slowly.
Ah, come on, Shirley… Shortly after that it became public and it was great to see the fans get behind Mark. I think it did him a lot of good. We all noticed there were more signs for Mark at the gigs after that – and, yeah, lots of them were probably from guys!
So now that you’re all down with the gays, if you were a gayer yourself, which one of the Westlife fellas would you fancy? And you can’t pick yourself.
None of them! You have to remember I know those guys well. I’ve seen them without the grooming, and it wasn’t always a pretty sight.
On the subject of sightings, when was the last time you saw them? I’m asking for a friend.
We hardly see each other these days. It’s hard to be in the same place at the same time because we’re all so busy with work. Nicky’s on 2FM, Kian’s been doing a lot of TV. I hadn’t bumped into any of the lads since our Croke Park Farewell gigs. Then last Christmas, someone came over to me in the pub in Sligo and said, ‘I was just talking to Mark. He’s over there’. It was great to have the chance to catch up.
There’s my plan for Christmas 2014 sorted. Thanks Shane.
Shane Filan’s debut album You and Me is out now, find out more here.
Follow Shirley Temple Bar on Twitter here.
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