EXCLUSIVE: Westlife Interview

Nicky Byrne on Westlife's new direction and being abandoned by Simon Cowell
Wednesday , 06 April 2011
Nicky Byrne, Mark Feehily Shane Filan and Kian Egan of Westlife
Nicky Byrne, Mark Feehily Shane Filan and Kian Egan of Westlife
(L-R) Nicky Byrne, Mark Feehily Shane Filan and Kian Egan
(L-R) Nicky Byrne, Mark Feehily Shane Filan and Kian Egan

Westlife have been topping the charts for over a decade and with nearly 50 million albums sold, one of the World’s most successful boybands shows no sign of giving up. After walking out on Simon Cowell’s label Syco records last month, the band are already working on new material with record giants RCA to rival the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Katy Perry.

When Ahlan! Editor Nathan Kay caught up with band patriarch Nicky Byrne this week, he admitted, “Pop music is moving on and when you look at someone like Lady Gaga she is the new Madonna. You’ve got to try and cling onto that as much as you can. Hopefully the new producers we are working with this year can come up with something a little bit of a step up from what we did last year. Not necessarily up tempo but great songs.”

“We have been tarnished with a very ballad brush but I’m not the boring guy who likes dressing in a suit and sitting on a stool so I’m not sure why we developed into that. It’s not always about recording a ballad and only a ballad. If we are going to keep up with the big pop stars then we have to think outside of the box and that’s what we’re doing now with our new team.”

After 13 years under the supervision of music maestro Simon Cowell, one would have thought that with his vast knowledge of the industry he would be able to guide the boys in the right direction but not according to Nicky: “We signed to Simon back in 1998 and he was brilliant but then came the development of X Factor and American Idol. Simon became famous himself and his interests went that way rather than on Westlife. We almost felt a little bit unloved with Simon Cowell, if I was to be honest.”

“We need someone in AR telling you that’s going to be a hit or not. We had it with Simon but he got so busy and would do it at the very last minute and we needed someone who was on it all the time. We have that now as we’ve just moved across from Syco records to RCA so it’s a different team. It’s their job to put us in with the right producers and co-writers so if it goes wrong then there’s someone to blame but if it goes right then happy days. We’re in that position now where we have someone working on it full time.”

Two years ago, the band reached a point where they had to take a break and re-evaluate their focus and direction. It’s now an ideal time for the boys to get their teeth stuck into their careers and give it their best shot with RCA. Nicky admits, “The break was well needed but it was only a year so it wasn’t like when Boyzone or Take That had a break and then got back together. Nobody did any work and we just thought lets not have an album out this year and it worked well. Taking a year out set us up so that we can make a good go of it for two or three years then maybe take a break. We had What About Now which was a really big hit for us everywhere and we’re on tour right now which sees us go all around the world and then across to Dubai.”

Ahlan! magazine is a huge Westlife fan so we are as delighted as you guys that the band will be heading over to Dubai on Thursday April 14 as part of their Gravity tour. Luckily, Nicky is a fan of the UAE and can’t wait to head out. “It feels good to be back, it’s been too long. It’s an amazing part of the World and we can’t wait. I remember last time we were there we did the concert in an open air park and it was pretty spectacular so coming back to the Middle East is very special.” Nicky says.
So, with all of this new found vigour and excitement back in their careers are the band going to take advantage of recent media reports that former band member Brian McFadden will be rejoining the group?

“Well, I always say never say never but some of the boys may have a different attitude on that. We certainly have no plans to do that and the reason why I say never say never is because I’m older now and things come and go and I would have no problems with hooking up with him again, at the right time and for the right reason, for a song, a tour, an album but that’s yet to be discussed.”

“We’re still friends but friends to the level of where we talk to each other on Twitter and have each others numbers. It’s like having an old school friend but then again we all shared something that nobody else can understand. Therefore, doing something with Brian, I think, would be fun. I don’t want to get to the stage when this is long gone and I think back and say why didn’t we do anything with Brian. I know Brian is quite sentimental and I have spoken to him about things. He will text one of us or when we’re chatting and say you’ve got to go on Youtube and check out X, Y or Z and you’ll see it and remember those times.” At this point, Nicky’s twin sons Rocco and Jay, with former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern’s daughter Georgina, left, can be heard scrapping in the background and as he steps in to break up the fight, he admits, “It’s great being a dad. It’s stressful as they get older, but it’s great. They love coming to the shows and trying the songs and the moves.”

“As a dad I would love them to play football as that’s what I did when I was growing up. Whatever they want to do, as long as they are strong, happy and healthy and we have a strong family unit then I’m happy with that.”