- 23 Oct 18
Following the release of their upcoming tour schedule including a date at Croke Park, Dublin on Friday 5th July, Westlife held a press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel where they spoke about the upcoming Twenty Tour, the story behind their long-awaited reunion and "Westlife 2.0".
After months of speculation, ever since Westlife announced they would be touring for the first time in seven years fans have been in meltdown. Which is understandable seeing as this will be the first time the group will play together since their farewell gig in Croke Park on the 23rd June 2012. Though the boys have signed a new music deal with Virgin EMI, Westlife have an extensive back catalogue of hits including 14 No. 1s, all of which they will play on The Twenty Tour which will kick off in Belfast in May.
Speaking at a press conference, Kian Egan, Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, and Nicky Byrne spoke about what the future holds for the boy (or man?) band.
"I think we are [nervous], we haven't toured for seven years," Nicky explained. "Next summer is a big one for us for many reasons. It's twenty years since we started. When we first started to speak about coming back it wasn't just touring. It was about coming back and trying to make a statement. It's about becoming a band again rather than cashing in and going on tour having a great time. It's about what Westlife 2.0 - which was discussed in many meetings in my house in secret - can do. It's about being back. The tour is going to be great, we know that, but being Westlife again is the most exciting part".
When asked about filling Croke park once again since their farewell concert Shane said, "It's not normal to do some of the stuff that we've done and we're very proud of that. Obviously being from Ireland, playing Croke Park is the pinnacle of our career and we've been lucky enough to play four times. This will be our fifth time to play it. We used to look at bands years ago like U2 playing so we don't take it lightly at all and I think on Thursday morning [when The Twenty Tour Tickets go onsale], the main thing we'll be thinking about will be Croke Park. It will set up a lot for us going forward in terms of what we're going to achieve next year".
Mark went on to speak about the monumental nature of the venue. "Croke Park is a historical venue, national stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in Europe I think. For us growing up, Croke Park was this huge place and not many people got to play it. The last time we played was probably the best night of all of our lives. So to be starting off on that level, coming back and announcing Croke Park is a huge deal, for our families, friends, everyone we talk to, and us more than anyone".
So how did the reunion actually come about?
"It was weird," Kian recounts. "Myself and Shane had a chat one night, then we left it for quite a few months. It was almost a 'will we talk about it again' kind of thing. And then we had a chat on the phone then everyone was having little text messages and chats here and there. We managed to get everybody together at Nicky's house and discussed the idea of really doing it and that led us to here. it's probably been about a year and a half in talks".
Nicky explained, "I think we feel more at ease now. We all went off and did our own thing. We had to get out of the Westlife bubble because we didn't know anything else. We all released a solo album. We all presented. We all travelled around the world. Everybody did little bits. Those things stuck to us in many ways because we were able to see life outside the bubble and stand on our own two feet".
"Then we realized it was better to be back in the bubble," Kian joked.
Whether or not ex-band mate Brian McFadden would be joining the reunion dominated much of the talk surrounding Westlife's return. Eventually, it became apparent that he would not be part of the reunion which the band members described as the only natural course the band could have taken since McFadden left the group 15 years ago.
"I think everyone was talking about that. The only people who weren't talking about it was us," Shane said. "It's a hard one to describe because we don't have any ill-will towards Brian. The way we look at it is, we finished the band as a four-piece, we were together for maybe eight years after Brian left - a lot longer than we were with Brian". Nicky went on to say that, "the dynamics in Westlife changed because they had to. Five become four. In many ways, we had to stand up to the plate, vocally and in terms of personality. Time moves on and it would strange to put Brian back into the band now".
In terms of new music, the band said they have been recording new songs and looking forward to Westlife 2.0's future:
"We're putting Croke Park on sale based on what we did in the past. But what we do in the future is super important to us, and the music is the future for us," Shane said.
The band recounted that Stephen Macken, who produced hits for the band such as "Flying without Wings", and "Swear it Again", was working with Ed Sheeran before the band had even begun to think of a reunion. During a recording session when Sheeran expressed his want to "write a Westlife-ey style song" little did he think the band would reform and take it on as part of their new material. Now it is set to be one of the band's new releases.
"Really there were only two people who were going to get Westlife back together, and that was Steve Macken and Ed Sheeran and we're in that position now," Nicky said.
Teasing about their new music, the band expressed their excitement for people to listen to their new tracks, which they promised will be both familiar yet in keeping with the current times.
"It sounds exactly like Westlife and exactly like 2018," Mark explained.
"We are so excited for people to hear it when it does come. It's exactly where Westlife need to be musically, it's very current. It feels like a sound we've been looking for for a very long time," Shane continued.
"The best thing we can say about it is that you're going to see Westlife 2.0" said Kian. "We have a legacy behind us and we want to keep growing that".
So when can we expect this new output?
"We'd love to have an album ready for next year," Mark said. "But Westlife 2.0 is about doing it right. At the rate we've been going so far I think it will be ready then. We're hitting the ground running and we're really excited by the few songs we've done".
Tickets for The Twenty Tour go on sale on Thursday 25th October at 9am from Ticketmaster.