After two decades in showbusiness, they are still flying high – with or without wings.
They were formed in 1998, disbanded in 2012 then reunited – much to their fans’ happiness – in 2018. We’re talking about Irish pop vocal group Westlife of course, who are headed to Malaysia in August for a two-night concert (organised by MacpiePro). The group which currently consists of Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Nicky Byrne and Kian Egan rose to fame with their self-titled debut in 1999. It was followed by Coast to Coast (2000), World of Our Own (2001), Unbreakable – The Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (2002)
and Turnaround (2003), which continued the group’s success worldwide.
Before the start of their Turnaround Tour in 2004, one of the original members, Brian McFadden, departed from the band. The four remaining members continued as a group to release their cover albums Allow Us to Be Frank (2004) and The Love Album (2006) and the studio albums Face to Face (2005) and Back Home (2007). The later part of this year will see the quartet group releasing their 11th studio album, Spectrum. Its first single Hello My Love was released in January, followed by Better Man in March.
Ahead of their sold-out tour in Malaysia, Filan talks about their big comeback…
Is there a special reason the tour is held before the new album is released in September?
We want to kind of keep them close together but separate them as two separate things because this first tour is celebrating the last 20 years of our career with our fans. That would be in regards to the set list, it’s going to be very nostalgic. Meanwhile, the album is the new music and the next phase of Westlife which is new and fresh. We wanted to separate that.
After we get the Twenty Tour tour done, we would then focus on Spectrum. Then it will be another year of album promotion and perhaps tour for Spectrum.
What are your thoughts on Universal Music Malaysia playing an integral role in Westlife’s album and tour promotion?
I feel very happy about that. Universal Music has been a great label and I’ve told the boys all about that. When we signed with Universal Music as a band, I was very happy because I knew we were in the right place, in the right home, especially in Asia and Malaysia. I think a lot of people in Universal Music genuinely want Westlife to succeed not just because they are working at a record label.
They genuinely love the band. It’s important to be with a record label that believes in the project they are working on. So far it’s been amazing even with our two new singles. Being with the right record label on this new chapter of Westlife is very important and I feel happy we are in the right place.
Now that Westlife has jumped back into the music scene, who is the one musician the band would love to collaborate with?
At the moment Ed Sheeran has been involved in our songs with the new album. Working with Steve Mac who is our long-time collaborator has been great. But right now it’s hard to put a name to it, because we haven’t fully decided yet with the album still in the works. I definitely think that there will be a duet on this album, and lots of exciting names have popped up but we’ll just have to wait and see because I can’t give away any secrets.
With social media, do you think your fanbase has been different or is it been the same?
I think it’s gotten bigger; in the UK, our tickets sold faster than they ever did. It gave us confidence because we were actually very nervous about the whole tour and didn’t know how people would react until we put it out there. The fact that we are doing two shows in Malaysia is amazing and I feel that social media has helped a lot with that. It gets your music to your fans. It’s important for musicians to be able to interact with fans as quickly as possible.
Malaysia was already booked in for a two-day concert since the tour dates was announced. Would you say the band has a strong emotional connection with Malaysian fans?
Without a doubt Westlife has always had a special relationship with Malaysia. We’ve always had a huge fan base there. Even when I went there myself in the last few years to promote my solo music, I saw how much Westlife means to Malaysia. But the two-day concert came from the concert promoter as well, it wasn’t a decision entirely up to Westlife. But it felt great to know that it sold out really quickly. It gives us the confidence and excitement to come back to the country. This show really is the best Westlife show ever, on a different level all together.
Can you share with us what fans can expect from the concert?
Well, there are things we couldn’t do years ago, without the technology that we have now. We are actually working with the same show producer for the Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas to put up a visually spectacular show. We’ve literally got the best guys working with us to produce an amazing show. Our music is part of the story. It’s kind of hard to describe, but we are so excited.
What was it like to get back into the recording studio after so long?
It was very natural; I think we were just genuinely happy to be back together. We talked about the things we’d done in the past, all the stories we remembered as individuals. To be able to sit down and talk about it was a nice moment and it was very natural for us too, it didn’t feel awkward at all. We haven’t sat in a room together for six years so that was a big day for all of us and we are so excited for the future of Westlife.
When was the first day Westlife came together in the recording studio?
Last July 28 was the first day we went to see Steve Mac. That day was very memorable and nostalgic. When we came in the studio, he immediately started to play music like Hello My Love and we were already happy and knew that this is the type of music we want to release in 2019. It truly hit us then that we were back together again as a band.
How many songs will Westlife be performing at every concert?
We are very lucky to have a back catalogue of hit songs, so the favourites are definitely going to be included. We don’t want to perform any songs that the fans don’t know so we’ll keep it to three new songs and the rest will be a blend of our hits. We are looking at over 20 songs per show.
Could we expect the next coming single to sound along the lines of Hello My Love?
It will be probably close in regards to tempo. We haven’t fully decided on the song yet, but if it is the song that I hope, it’s an incredible song. If you love Hello My Love, you will love that song too.
Do you have any message for fans of Westlife who are anticipating the tour?
Thank you to everybody that has supported Westlife and this comeback. It’s been such an overwhelming response from everybody and we really respect how much love you have for Westlife. We truly cannot wait to come and do our shows all over the world. It’s going to be the best Westlife show you’ll ever see, I promise you that.