Love Always: An Interview with Former Westlife Frontman Shane Filan
With the release of his third album “Love Always”, the former Westlife frontman has managed to keep ‘love always’ in his life and for his fans.
Irish singer Shane Filan has been to Singapore around eight times, and last seen here promoting his debut solo album in 2014. But for those unfamiliar with the name, you’ll be forgiven, because he’s probably better known as the frontman of former boyband Westlife.
Meeting the 38-year old in person was a tweenage dream for many people of my generation, and to see and hear from him personally almost unreal. It’s an experience that for many at his exclusive showcase held last Sunday at the Esplanade Annexe Studio, took them straight down an epic, nostalgia trip back to their younger days of bopping to their bedroom jams in the early 2000s. He’s a man who exudes charm, likability and all around goodness, and it’s not hard to see why he still has plenty of adoring fans even today.
Since Westlife’s disbandment in 2012, Shane has continued to make music a part of his everyday life and career as a solo artist, having released three albums to date and achieving incredible chart success with each one. Said Shane on the changing music scene: “Nowadays, everyone’s either on tour or about to go on tour the moment they release an album. Albums have become the promotion for the tour as opposed to vice versa years before.”
Commenting on the recent revival of boyband mania, Shane said: “I’m actually a big fan of the Backstreet Boys, even before Westlife, and my wife surprised me for my birthday last year and brought me to Las Vegas to see them. They had an amazing show, singing hit after hit and I even met up with them. I think there’s always time for a boyband, and when you have a history like theirs, there’s a back catalogue of music that lives forever because of the fans.”
Shane is currently on a whirlwind 8 day Asian tour to promote his latest album Love Always, featuring covers of some of the best songs of all time about love, from Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ to even *NSYNC’s ‘This I Promise You’. After Singapore, he’ll be travelling to Malaysia, and then the Philippines. Said Shane: “This album has been such a surprise for me because it’s been my most successful album and got me my first Top 5 in the UK. I’m really happy with how well received it’s been because you never know what’s going to happen with an album.”
At the showcase, Shane may only have sang four songs, but each time he opened his mouth, the crowd went wild with anticipation at the next hit. From Scott Collins’ ‘Unbreakable’ to even Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’ (which Westlife famously covered), each song brought back a stream of memories and showed that his appeal has more than withstood the years.
On why he decided to make the album, Shane says: “I think that covers can work if they’re done right and released at the time time. Singing has always been my No.1 priority and to make a album full of these amazing songs and to get a chance to sing them is a breath of fresh air. When I go up on stage, everyone knows the words, and I even sing Westlife songs, because fans want to hear and re-experience these memories.”
Doing covers can always be somewhat pressurizing in terms of living up to the original, but Shane is confident of his release. He says: “I didn’t change the melodies or anything because these are all classic songs. My favourite song on the album is Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’, and it’s also one of my wife’s favourite songs. It’s beautiful and timeless, and even though my version is a little different, I don’t think I’ve damaged it in any way. “
On selecting the songs, Shane says: “Each of these songs strike a memory for me. I picked songs that I enjoyed, but I also wanted a variation in styles, even though most of them are ballads. The songs that didn’t make it to the album just didn’t work because some sounded too different, or I thought I’d sound better on them. You have to believe in the album you put out, promote and sing every night onstage.”
Musically, Shane admits that he cannot play any instruments. But he doesn’t have to, his success lies in his voice, and the universally appealing songs both he and Westlife have come up with over the years. Doing a covers album has made him miss songwriting, as seen on his previous two albums, and he teases that a deluxe version of the album is currently in the works. Says Shane: “We’re going to include some live tracks from the tour and some new songs I wrote. The beauty of songwriting is that you never know, you could just be walking into a a room and suddenly come up with this life changing song. It’s different from singing because it’s making something from nothing.”
Shane attributes his success to a good work life balance, and always giving it his all, and of course, his most fervent supporters of all – his wife and three children. Elaborating, Shane says: “I’ve been very lucky in love, considering I found my wife when I was young, even before the band started over 20 years ago. I think she’s an amazing person and an amazing mother, we’re best friends and we’ve stuck by and have a lot of respect for each other. She keeps me focused, and tells me to go out and work hard and give it my all each time. I leave the house. It’s little things like that that make me feel amazing.”
“You can only ride the bubble of success Westlife had for so long, and when it’s over, as a solo artist, you have to start again to a certain degree. People might know me from Westlife, but it’s not the same. People have to still like your music, and you have to keep working hard and coming up with good songs. Being on my third album, I think I’m in a really good place, and honestly through my music career, there’s been nothing but fond memories. Westlife had incredible success and we stayed right up there till the very end, with 12 albums over 14 years. Our legacy lives on, and it’s just an amazing position to be in, and I’m so lucky to have reached this stage in my career.”
Shane may only be in Singapore for two days and completely bogged down by interviews and TV spots, but when he’s back on 10th March for his full length concert at the Coliseum at Hard Rock Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa, he’s hoping to get a little more time to explore and see the city again. Shane finishes with nothing but love for his fans: “When I was touring this album last year in the UK and Ireland, every night was amazing because the setlist is so strong, and each time I finished a show fans always seem to leave happy, and I really want to just bring it to as many countries and cities as I can. Meeting these fans at concerts and signing their records, it really just gives you a lot of confidence, and you want to keep coming back again and again for them.”
Shane Filan returns to Singapore on 10th March 2018 to play at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa. Tickets available from SISTIC.