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MY SIDE OF LIFE - AUTOBIOGRAPHY [ADDED CHAPTER]: AMAZON
01 December 2011: Westlife singer Shane Filan, 32, talks to Metro about why the band decided to split, the worst gig they've ever played and why he suspects Louis Walsh was behind some of the group's most ridiculous stories.
Why did you decide to split up?
It’s been 14 years as a band, the Greatest Hits (album) was coming up, we’ve been talking about it for a year and thought it was better to end it on a high. The tour should be massive and it’s better we were honest with the fans now rather than tell them when the tour finishes.
Was it a difficult decision?
Yes, it was a massive thing. We’ve been in the band for half our lives. It’s given us the life we have and meant we can provide for our families. We could keep it going if we wanted to but every year we enjoyed it less and less, the past three years especially.
What bits weren’t you enjoying?
Just keeping it going. Making new albums, trying to get things to a level we wanted to be at. We haven’t had any bad years but we weren’t getting any better or bigger.
What will you miss the most?
The live performances. The adrenaline of performing on stage to a crowd – there’s nothing like it.
What have been the highlights?
Playing our national stadium, Croke Park, in 2008 and we’ll be doing it again for two nights next year. Our first night there sold out in four minutes.
You’re renowned for sitting on stools singing ballads – were you a fan of the music you were making?
When we started, we wanted to be like the Backstreet Boys but Simon Cowell was adamant we had to be different and there weren’t any other bands singing ballads. We had seven ballads in a row before we released Uptown Girl. They were going to No.1, so people liked it. Songs such as Flying Without Wings and Swear It Again are hard to come by. We’ve made 12 albums in 14 years and finding those songs every year was getting harder.
Were you frustrated with the material you were given?
Not at the start but towards the middle, we were being given lots of covers. We were striving to get the original songs but they weren’t there like they used to be. Our fans liked us doing covers so there’s no point knocking it.
What’s the worst gig you’ve done?
A gig in Germany around six years ago. It was 5,000 capacity and 500 people turned up. I was like: ‘We’re not that big in Germany, are we lads?’ We concentrated more on northern Europe and Britain after that. We still sell 100,000 albums there but to be big there you need to sell a million.
What lessons has the music industry taught you?
It’s very cut-throat. You’re only as good as your last album. You need to work hard, keep your head down and don’t lose your focus – we could have easily lost the plot but we didn’t. If you have the songs, you’ll have a big career. If you don’t, you won’t.
What’s the most ridiculous story your manager, Louis Walsh, placed in the press about you?
Louis will deny to the last he’s had anything to do with any of those stories but I suspect he did. There was one that I’d broken my back and was in a wheelchair – that was on the front page of one tabloid. The reality was I’d fallen off stage in Asia on to a drum kit. I’d hurt myself but that became exaggerated a bit. There was one that Kian was chased by lion. I think that came from us going on a safari in Africa and a lion came up to the van – we were covered by a cage – and growled at us. If a lion had chased Kian it would have eaten him. You just have to laugh at it.
Does Westlife have a typical fan?
The record company did a survey to find out who our demographic is and it turns out most of our fans are aged 44 to 64. We thought it was around the thirties. We were quite surprised but when you go to our shows you see we have older fans, which might be why we’ve been around for so long. They’re not teenagers who’ll grow out of us. It was mothers bringing their kids rather than kids bringing their mothers.
What’s the audience like?
Great – there’s lots of hen parties, ten women in a row wearing wigs and having fun. Performing is the best part of the job. We walk over on the frames and are ten feet from the fans, and they’re 50 years old, pulling their tops down, screaming like teenagers. Maybe it makes them feel like teeny-boppers again.
What’s been your most extravagant purchase?
A four-seater helicopter. I used it for a year-and-a-half before I had children. I didn’t like taking my daughter in it so I sold it. It was pretty cool to have it for a while. I’ve been through the cars. Me, Nicky and Brian went out and bought Ferraris one day. I bought a black 550 Maranello. We were only 23. It was one of the best days of my life.
What plans have you got for after the band split up?
I’d like to keep singing – whether that’s small or big. To stop singing for a living would break my heart. I’m not rushing into anything. Hopefully I’ll have something sorted out when the tour finishes.
Single Lighthouse and the Greatest Hits collection are both out now.
Shane Filan (far right) reveals why the band decided to break up