Music pulled me through the dark times says Ipswich Regent bound ex-Westlife star Shane Filan
- Credit: Archant
As part of Westlife, Shane Filan had the world at his feet. When the group fell apart, so did his life. He talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage how he came through his bankruptcy nightmare and is ready to take on the charts again.
Sinking in a sea of debt following property investments, resulting in eventual bankruptcy, music helped pulled Filan through the dark times.
“That was a very scary, very weird, time; it was crazy, horrendous... You’re scared out of wits about talking about it. Nobody would have thought it (could) happen to me, some people are out there now, going through tough times, whether it’s a student loan or a credit card, hopefully (talking about it) will help people go ‘you know what, if he can get through it’.”
“You and Me (his first solo album) is very personal to me as it’s very much about my wife Gillian who has been by my side throughout everything. It made me talk about stuff that made me feel happy, relaxed,” says Filan, just a teenager when Westlife formed in 1998.
“That’s why I wrote a lot of songs about our relationship when we were growing up. I put myself in a very happy place when I was in a very scared, very anxious place. It took me away from all that.”
Things are very different now. He’s more positive, much happier and accepts nothings ever going to be perfect. Bad things will happen and you’ve just got to learn how to deal with it and try your best.
“The worst thing possible I thought in my world happened to me and I’m still here. I’ve still got me wife, me kids and I’m still singing. I just want to continue to do that; that’s what I’ve learned - if you’re good at one thing in your life stick to it and you might not go too far wrong.”
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With that in mind, Filan’s hitting the road with his You and Me tour; dropping by the Ipswich Regent November 25.
A world away from being part of a boyband, flying solo has been a learning process. His first lone gig, back in February in Liverpool, was a bit of a daunting night to say the least. It was scary, but he loved it. he’s blessed, he adds, with a strong set list which includes some Westlife songs.
“They’re huge songs and (have) huge memories for the fans so you feel confident when you’re on the stage and you’re singing those and then you’ve got a couple of your own that have been popular as well.”
Making new memories with his self-penned material, it’s a proud moment when audiences sing the lyrics back to him; especially as they’re about his life.
“I never experienced before but that’s what a live show is all about, that closeness with the audience. These venues are particularly intimate, you get to see the people’s faces and see them singing along; it’s pretty amazing.”
Working on songs solo was a strange new challenge, but once he started writing he couldn’t stop - ending up with more than 40 songs.
“I never really tried to write songs properly before, obviously I did a bit here and there Westlife but we were very lucky to have some great songwriters and obviously great cover ideas so we never focused on it much. That was the biggest surprise for me... That I actually felt I could write songs and I was decent at it.
“But I was telling stories about my life, I wasn’t trying to make it up... That’s probably why I took to it so well. If I tried to write a song about something that was completely nothing to do with me I found it very difficult and couldn’t do it. Maybe that’s something I need to challenge myself more on my next album... You’ve got to learn, to try to get better.”
Wanting to make sure everything went exactly as he wanted, Filan was determined not to rush releasing the album; laughing he’s very grateful to everyone for being so patient. It was still a pretty nerve-wracking moment when he finally did.
Knowing he’d put his heart and soul into the songs - an eclectic mix of pop, soul, country, folk and a hint of raditional Irish music thrown - all he could hope was people loved them as much as he did.
“It was an experiment, but you know what, you have to do that with your first album you know. You’re trying to work out who you are. You have to experiment and I still will on my next album. I’m really excited about my new album, I’m writing a couple of songs that are still slightly different to the last one. I’ve got a couple of really good songs already I feel. I want to find that killer ballad you know, that amazing song everyone wants to have in their roster - hopefully I’ll find it before next year.”
So no techno or rave tracks then?
“Look, it’s always going to be somewhere in between Westlife and the style I have now, it’s going to be pop music,” laughs Filan. “Whether there’s piano, a fiddler or banjo I don’t know yet but I love folk music so there’s always going to be a bit of folk. I love banjos and ukuleles. 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.”
He hopes audiences will give the show a chance, promising those who do a fun night.
“If you like pop music great, if you like Westlife great, if you want to hear me sing great,” he laughs.
Filan has revealed how he tricked his way into Westlife after Simon Cowell turned him down at his first audition.
“The night before the audition I was out with my girlfriend Gillian drinking Sex on the Beach cocktails. I knew I should get an early night but I fell into bed at 2am.
“On the train to Dublin with the band I felt like ****. Simon wasn’t famous then but Louis (Walsh, their manager) said he was a big deal.
“We sang a Backstreet Boys number - but the cocktails and lack of sleep caught up with me and I struggled. We left and Louis stayed talking to Simon. He reappeared with a face like thunder, stormed up and slapped me in the face. ‘What the **** was that, Shane’ he yelled. ‘It was *****. He didn’t like you.’
“Simon only liked Kian and Mark. He didn’t think I was a star. ‘You **** it up.’ Louis yelled.
“In three minutes, with one hangover, I’d messed up the band; my career, my whole life. I burst into tears. ‘Don’t panic’, Louis said. ‘Simon said if I find somebody else, he’ll see the band again in a few weeks. You can dye your hair and audition great next time. He’ll never recognise you. Trust me’.
“In three months I got a sunbed tan, grew my hair over my shoulders and went peroxide blond. Simon was smiling and nodding. ‘Who’s the new guy Louis? He’s so much better than that other chap’. ‘Yeah’, agreed Louis. ‘I got rid of him’.”
Filan will be supported by Ben Montague, a radio playlist regular since bursting on to the music scene in late 2010 with debut single Can’t Hold Me Down.