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Westlife Frontman Shane Filan Goes Solo

“Once I started writing, I felt that if it can be sung in a pub and also sung in a big venue, then it’s a really good song. It’s a very singalong album.” says Shane Filan.

If you’ve sold 50 million albums, had 14 No 1 singles and been a multi-platinum pop star for well over a decade, what do you do? If you’re Shane Filan, you forget about the gold discs and start all over again.

When Shane’s old band Westlife amicably ended in 2012, he knew he wanted to go solo – but he wasn’t sure if he knew how to do it. “All my life, I’ve said I’d love to keep singing for as long as I can,” he says. “But when Westlife split, I thought ‘Oh, okay! I’m going to have to do it on my own.’ To be honest, it was something I was never looking forward to. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being solo, but I was 32 when we ended and I didn’t want to retire. I want to sing for a living and I’m lucky I’ve got another chance to do that.”

 

For six months, Shane didn’t do anything. He had well-documented financial problems after investment deals went wrong and admits: “I was in a very nervous and scary place.” But he had the support of his wife Gillian and wanted to provide for their three children.

It was that steely determination and realising what’s important in life that provides the backbone for Shane’s album – a record Shane has written himself, and the most accomplished, heartfelt and above all celebratory debut pop album in years.

“People don’t want to hear about your problems,” Shane states. “Everyone has problems, lots of people are struggling financially at the moment and it’s not something to harp on about. What I got out of my situation is that I’m so lucky to have three healthy kids, a healthy marriage and an amazing wife. That’s what the album is about – trying to tell people not to worry. I’ve been there and it’s not worth it. You get through it and you try to stay positive, so I’ve tried to keep the songs positive.”
For anyone who had Westlife pigeonholed as balladeers, it’ll be a shock to hear just how euphoric Shane’s album is. There are only a handful of ballads on a record dominated by uptempo and mid-tempo songs that will slay the radio for years to come. It’s a reflection of Shane’s own record collection, mixing pop with folk, soul, country and even a hint of traditional Irish music.
“I love banjos and ukuleles,” Shane nods. “When you’re in a pub with a pint of Guinness, watching music that makes you stamp your feet, that’s what makes me happiest. But some songs that work in pubs don’t work in bigger venues. In the studio, I’d think ‘Could I sing this to a big crowd? Will they react to it?’ The songs that stood out were the ones I think will work in both.”

Shane co-wrote a handful of Westlife songs, but his solo album sees him emerge as a pop writer to be reckoned with. He signed to Universal partly because they were the most encouraging in persuading Shane to write songs himself. The very first song he wrote, the irresistibly catchy Everything To Me, is his first solo single.


“I got off to a really good start,” he laughs. “Everything To Me felt like beginners’ luck, but I didn’t know how good it was. Then the label were phoning, going “This is great!” I’d shown to myself I could do this and that took the pressure off. I was flying in those first two weeks and then suddenly I was in Nashville with really famous songwriters, partly thinking ‘WOW!’ but also ‘Right, let’s do this.’  The fact I have a blank slate as a solo artist helped, as I wasn’t saying ‘Let’s write a song like this’. We’d just jam and see what happened.”

Shane’s co-writers include his old Westlife writer/producer team Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, plus Nick Atkinson (Gabrielle Aplin), Nexus (Lana Del Rey), Paul Barry & Patrick Maskell (Enrique Iglesias’ Hero) and Nashville songwriters Kylie Sackley and Brandon Hood (LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill). It’s produced by Martin Terefe (Train, Jason Mraz) and Steve Mac.

Shane, during his show in Skydome in Manila, PH

“Nearly every song is about Gillian, and how amazing shes been to me over the last few years” says Shane. “Or the positive outlook I have on life, which you might not see when you’re going through the bad stuff. I’ve kept it universal, so that everyone can relate to it, but it had to be about things which are important to me. Songs were flowing through me and I couldn’t stop, I wrote about 40 songs. Me writing songs? It’s been coming for a while.”

Shane’s experiences are perhaps best expressed on the stunning All I Need To Know, a soulful tribute to his wife, destined to be a future classic. “Gillian is my rock, and that absolutely nails how I felt while making this album,” recalls Shane. “Sometimes you have to cry, not be afraid of reaching out to someone for help. Every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps. Every time I sing it live, it’ll be emotional.” 

Equally emotional in its own way is the cheeky Everytime, a handclapping folky stomp reminiscent of Mumford & Sons featuring the raunchy chorus “I feel my heart beating faster, I might need to sit down after, it feels like we invented love everytime.” As Shane says: “We had fun with that one! Me and David Sneddon from Nexus had a laugh with those lyrics. There were a lot of lines that we had to take out because it was a bit too much. There are a lot of serious songs on the album, so we needed a fun one. Everyone’s had that ‘first kiss’ feeling.”

Marital bliss is also celebrated in the bittersweet Coming Home (“It sounds a bit Christmassy as I’ve always wanted to spend Christmas in New York. I don’t know why, probably watching Home Alone too much”) and rattling country foot-tapper When I Met You (“I was friends with Gillian for ages before we fell in love. It’s about the night I realised she was the one.”)

Shane during a presscon for his Manila Tour

Writing the likes of the anthemic About You with his old Westlife mentors Steve Mac and Wayne Hector brought home to Shane how far he’s already progressed on his own.

“It was like going back to my old school and trying to work with the teachers,” he grins. “I went to the loo at their studio, and there was a disc on the wall celebrating Westlife selling 45 million albums. You just think ‘Hopefully we’ll achieve something here, then…’ There’s such a history of pop with those two guys, and to this day Steve pushes me to get the best out of my voice for each song, and every song has a different energy.“

“Some of the original demo vocals, ive kept for the final mix of the album. The day I wrote those songs I captured something in those vocals, it was the way I felt that day, so I kept them for the album. Its hard to recapture a feeling.
"

Not that Shane isn’t ambitious for the album. That includes winning over people who had dismissed his old band.

“The album is definitely not like Westlife, but I think Westlife fans will like it,” he muses. “It’ll shock a few people in a good way. It’s not totally leftfield and I think the melodies are amazing, which is what Westlife songs were all about. The songs are more international – they could work anywhere."

“I’m ready to be judged. I’m nervous, but that’s good, because if I didn’t have nerves it’d mean I don’t care.  The most important thing to me is that my fans like the music, that’s what drives me every day. Westlife was amazing part of my life that I’ll never forget, but now it’s me on my own, proving myself again.”


As Shane sings in All I Need To Know – “Sometimes you’ve got to go back to the start.”

Here is Shane's carrier single from his first solo album:

                                   
                               


* Special thanks to John Earls.

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