Having sold a squillion albums and racked up oodles of No.1s in their 11 years of existence, Westlife are back with new album Where We Are and new single What About Now. We caught up with the Life’s Kian Egan to talk about their new sound, Stephen Gately’s death, his new foray into pop management and how no matter how hard he tries, he’ll probably never get a lead vocal in Westlife…
You’ve had a year off from Westlife – what have you been up to?
“Myself and Louis Walsh have put a girlband together who’ll have an album coming out next year which my wife is in. Personally my dad died but I also got married too, so it’s been a rollercoaster year and hasn’t really felt like a year off…”
Your new single is a cover of Daughtry’s What About Now – why did you choose that?
“As a band we wanted to shake things up musically and then Simon Cowell brought us the Daughtry track and said we should find something original that sounded like that. But we didn’t find anything as powerful and as it had never been released in the UK, we didn’t technically see it as a cover.”
You’ve worked with Simon for a long time now – is he as hard to please as he seems?
“He certainly has a very strong taste of what he likes and what he doesn’t, but with this album I feel like he’s opened the doors wider with the style of music he wants for Westlife. We just did a photoshoot for the new album and he came along and rejected it, so he knows what he wants and for us this time around it’s something different.”
You’ve said that this album is a new sound for Westlife, but you’ve always done uptempo songs as well as ballads – so is it really a new direction?
“The sound is fresher and more modern but it’s still essentially Westlife. In the past our ballads have been very 80s-esque – Lionel Richie-style songs – but this album is far more current. We’re now competing with acts like Leona Lewis and Jordin Sparks, working with writers and producers they’ve worked with and I think we’ve created a new sound in terms of male vocal boybands.”
Are you going to get a lead vocal on this album?
“No. We did try stuff with myself and Nicky and we’re all over the backing vocals, but when you’re in a band with voices like Shane and Mark it’s difficult. When I hear my vocals compared with theirs they’re not as strong, so I have to take a step back and think what’s best for the band.”
You’re not going down the Take That route then of giving everyone a go?
“No – we didn’t want to put a crappy song on this album just to let me sing on it!”
You were on the X Factor recently – what do you think of the acts this year?
“I don’t think there’s a Leona Lewis this year. Everyone’s talking about John and Edward so the show’s reached new heights but for different reasons.”
As Westlife were close to Boyzone, has Stephen Gately’s death had an impact on the band?
“It’s had a big effect on anyone who knew Stephen – he was a lovely guy who didn’t deserve to go so soon. And of course, we understood what Boyzone were saying at the funeral when they spoke about the unity of five guys on the road – it hit us hard. But if you’re talking effect, it’s made us want to really go for it as a band and for me personally it’s made me assess what’s important to me and to try not to be pissed off for no reason…”
So after Westlife, will you be going into pop management?
“I’m already in it – I’m in the meetings with the record companies right now and I’m loving it. It’s an amazing opportunity for my wife too – she was in a girl band before I met her and she’s an amazing singer.”
You can be the new Posh and Becks…
“Oh god no!”
Perhaps a Christmas single?
Westlife’s new album Where We Are is out on November 30th.