With his UK tour underway, we talked to Shane Filan about his new album and playing solo.
Just last month ex-Westlife singer Shane Filan released his latest solo record with Love Always which features classic love songs reinterpreted and a few newly composed tracks. The album hit the top five in the UK album charts and a cover of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over might just be the next single to be released. Shane shared Unbreakable, the first single off the new record, earlier this summer.
The Irish singer started his solo career in 2013 just after Westlife decided to call it a day. Much to the joy of Shane’s fans they didn’t have to wait long for the first two singles to be released. In the next four years to come, he recorded three solo albums, all of which charted in the top 10 in the UK and Ireland.
So with a new record out and being back on the road, we chat to Shane about making the album, touring solo and why he loves love songs so much.
Congratulations on the new album Love Always! How’s the first month been since its release?
It’s been really great! It’s the first top 5 chart that I’ve had in the UK which is amazing. It’s really cool to have that success with an album. It’s something that I really wanted and I just missed out on the first two, so it’s nice to finally get it. Really proud moment.
Tell us a little bit about the recording process – where was it recorded and who did you work with?
I did the whole album in Surrey actually, in Metrophonic Studios with Bryan Rollins and all the team at Metrophonics. I kind of did a bit of writing obviously for the album and then also mainly focused on the covers for the love songs album that it is. It was actually a long enough process to make it, I thought a record like this would take less time. But a lot of the time was pre-planning and pre-choosing songs. And then you try songs and you’re not happy so you go on to a different idea. You’re kind of over and back, so you’d record three or four songs then go away for a few weeks and come back then with a few more ideas to record. And then there was of course writing in different parts as well. It took about six months but it was a really enjoyable album to make. And when you hear the finished product you’re obviously nervous what the fans are going to think, but also you’re very happy with it. You’re just singing amazing songs – they’re obviously famous for a reason already so it’s nice to be able to sing them.
How did you decide to do classic love song covers?
It was just a kind of thing where with Westlife we’d done love song covers before and they’ve always really worked for my audience. It’s something that I’ve always noticed that there is a time and place to do it – do it at the right time. We’d done a love songs album before with Westlife as well, it was very successful. I just think my fan base love that. They love original material obviously, but I’ve done two of those albums, and they also love when I sing famous songs. I’ve done it a lot on tours in the last few years and they said, “You should do more”. I listen to my fans a lot because at the end of the day they are the ones that make my career so you have to keep an eye on that and with social media you really can. I watch out for stuff like that all the time. And I have my manager Louis come up with new ideas all the time and he’s been wanting to do this for a while as well, so it was just the perfect time to do it. And it was a really good decision, you know, it’s been my most successful so far.
How did you choose which love songs to include on the album? You have the classic Bryan Adams and Bob Dylan songs in there but also Lady Antebellum and *NSYNC.
It was a process of elimination really. You throw down your bucket list of songs and you think “no, I won’t do that one” or “I won’t touch that one”. I had a list of songs and Louis just made a list really and Bryan at Metrophonics made a list, and the label coming in as well and the record label get ideas – it’s just everybody together in a joint process. And at the end of the day I have to love every single song that’s on there. Songs like Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House, I would have never thought of that. A lot of them were Louis’ ideas. I’m so glad and possibly the next single now is going to be Don’t Dream It’s Over. It’s a fun process but it’s a tricky process because you really got to pick songs that you can really … the way I pick them is they have to have something really memory-wise for me and they have to have some real reason to be on there and note just because I’m singing a famous song. Even Eternal Flame was actually picked by a fan because I asked Twitter to pick some of the songs, just to see what they want. If you had the choice to pick a song what would you pick? So they all came up with loads of ideas, but Eternal Flame, The Bangles, was one I never would have thought of and it’s a song that I loved singing when I was young as I used to watch it on telly and used to love The Bangles. It’s just got really fond memories watching TV and watching music for the first time. And similar with Bryan Adams, I wanted to sing that song since I was probably six years old. I’ve always loved Heaven and he’s my favourite singer. So they all have their own little stories and little reasons to be on there and obviously I recorded them to see how they sound but I was really happy with them. Once I sang them I said, yeah they have to be on there!
So you’ve recently played a few in-store shows in the UK. How has it been playing the new stuff live?
Yeah, it’s been great! Well, I’m on tour, no actually the first night of the tour kicked off last night, so it’s amazing. Singing these songs – it’s funny, I sang Eternal Flame last night and it’s kind of a cool moment in the show, kind of dim lit and all the crowd sang every word as loud as if it was You Raise Me Up, you know. It’s the great thing about singing these songs, they all know the words. They’re just going down great. The set list is so strong this year as well. Because I can mix in the new album which are all famous songs with my other singles and Westlife songs as well. It’s a really good set list this year and I’m really, really happy with it.
What excites you most about going tour? You’ve been touring for so long, what still gets you excited?
I don’t know, it’s just everything about it. From start to finish. The minute you wake up in the morning, it’s amazing, you have a show that night. Everyone’s there, you’ve so many people with you – I have probably 20 people touring with me. You have a tour bus, you have a band, you have catering. It’s so fun being on tour. My kids are coming over at the weekend now after school on Friday and I can’t wait for them to see it. It’s just a really nice kind of family atmosphere. I’ve been touring with Liz Hobbs Group now for the last few tours, and I know everybody’s name. We’re a nice knit family kind of vibe. It’s very professional, very slick. And it’s very relaxed, too. I just think it’s really comfortable. I love being on tour. When I’m at home twiddling my thumbs, it’s like “I want to be on tour”. It’s like clockwork every night, you know your times. I like being organised, I love knowing exactly what’s happening. I have a great team of people around me.
Tell us a bit about your first ever solo show, what was that like?
It was a very scary night! I definitely had this freeze for a minute when I got on the stage where I found it hard to breathe. It’s exactly the same as when I did the first Westlife show. I just remember being very anxious, literally having to take a breath. It was in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, in a beautiful venue, just a couple thousand people but it felt like 100,000 – everyone looking at me. And you’re a lot closer at the theatre shows, you’re closer to your fans. It’s an amazing atmosphere. It’s something that you don’t have in an arena. You can literally high-five the front row. It’s an amazing experience to have and I love playing those venues. Since then I haven’t looked back, that’s four years ago now. So it’s going good.
What can the fans expect from your current tour?
This new show, it’s amazing. To be honest, I’m really, really proud of it. It’s really upped the ante when it comes to the screens and the production. It’s a real slick show. It’s a lot bigger production-wise. We just put together a really powerful show. Slick is probably the best word, it’s very classy. And obviously it’s got all the hits, it’s got all the new hits off the new album that are already hits, it’s got mostly the Westlife songs. It’s just got a lovely mix. The new band this year are absolutely outstanding. It’s fun!
Don’t miss Shane Filan on his UK tour which kicked off this week and will stop over in 23 towns across the country. Get your tickets now via Ticketmaster.co.uk.