With 44 million record sales, sold-out tours and 14 chart-topping singles on his CV, it would have been easy for Shane Filan to put his feet up and relax after the whirlwind of Westlife. But music’s in his blood.
Four years after the hugely successful act disbanded, Shane’s onto his second solo album and his second tour – and he couldn’t be happier.
“Coming out of Westlife isn’t easy,” he said in his distinctive Irish lilt. “People know my face, know my name from Westlife. And in a way you have to start again to a certain degree. But you have to just go for it. Four years later I’m still here, on my second album, it’s going in the right direction.”
Going down another career route wasn’t an option for the Irish singer, whose voice is inextricably linked with hit tracks including Flying Without Wings, Uptown Girl and You Raise Me Up.
“Don’t get me wrong, every time I see a Tom Cruise movie I want to be in it. But singing is like breathing to me, it’s something I don’t even have to think about. I love it and I love that it’s my job,” he explained.
“People like my voice and when I went solo I wanted to give them the best possible album. That’s my job, but the success is not up to me, that’s up to the fans.”
As part of his Right Now tour, which follows the release of the album of the same name in October, Shane’s heading back to the North East, a region he’s played countless times with Westlife. And he’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in the crowd.
“I’m really looking forward to it. The last time I toured with my first album I played Newcastle City Hall and it was a great concert,” he said. “North East crowds always get excited, so it’s great to come back there.
“I have such a loyal fan base, they’ve stuck with me in Westlife, through the first couple of albums. You get to know certain faces and names, the fans grow up with you and without them there’s no point. There’s a couple I know in Newcastle who will be there.”
The fans’ unwavering loyalty to the singer is reciprocated, and he says it’s their support that allows him to do his dream job.
Singing is like breathing to me, it’s something I don’t even have to think aboutShane Filan
“I’m grateful more now than ever,” he said. “When we were in Westlife we appreciated it was massive, it was dream stuff, incredible.
“All the No 1s, all the things we did that no other band have done. We will have those records forever and no one can touch them unless they beat us, but that hasn’t happened yet.
“It’s mad, you don’t realise how big it is playing Croke Park in Dublin, playing five nights at the O2 in London, those things aren’t normal.
“I remember our first tour being really crazy. We’d had all these No 1s already which wasn’t normal for a band. We did 10 London dates and the crowds were so loud and incredible. We were young kids and loving it.”
Speaking about how they succeeded in a field where so many have failed, he said: “We had a great team and we were 5/4 kids who got on very well and loved what we were doing.
“At the beginning we listened to people around us who knew what they were doing, like Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell. Everyone around us was at the top of their game and we were spoilt for choice with hit songs. You can have good songs, but hit songs are hard to find.
“We also came around at the right time and went for it. We worked hard and stayed focused.”
Despite the unrivalled success of Westlife, Shane says he still gets nervous and is never complacent about record releases.
“You definitely still get nervous. You spend months working on a record that you like but at the end of the day it’s whether everyone else likes it that matters.
“Then when fans do love it, it’s a great sigh of relief. I always want to make the best album I possibly can.”
Though he may have had to get used to singing on stage without the lads, the music is always with him.
“It was odd at the beginning, being away from the Westlife machine, but I’m a lot more confident now. It’s my second solo tour and I’ve found my own confidence,” he said. “It’s still singing, that doesn’t change, whether I’m with Westlife or on my own.
“A third of the set list is Westlife songs. I’m lucky to have a back catalogue like that that people want to hear. I know that 99 per cent of the audience will be Westlife fans and I want people to go away saying ‘that was a great concert.’
“Songs like Uptown Girl and You Raise Me Up go down amazingly well. But I’m spoilt for choice.
“That’s the hardest thing about choosing the set list. I know which songs from my albums to pick, but the Westlife songs are people’s memories and you don’t want them to go away saying ‘I wish he’d sung that.”
Although the band don’t live in each other’s pockets anymore, Shane says they will always be part of his life.
“We don’t speak every week, but we spent half our lives together. I know them better than my brothers, so when we do bump into each other it’s great, we reminisce and talk about what we’re doing now.”
People he does see more often now is his close-knit family and the singer says he’s loving being able to juggle work with raising his three children. He said: “I don’t set too many targets. I’ve had an amazing career already so I can’t be picky and choosy. I just want to build upon the success I have now. I want to keep singing and touring. I’m happy at this level. I get to spend more time with my kids who are 6, 7 and 10.
“I did the school run today and yesterday and it’s great to be able to do that. No amount of success is worth missing out on your child’s life for. I have a very happy work / life balance.”
•Shane Filan plays Newcastle City Hall on March 25. For tickets, which are priced from £32.50, visit www.shanefilan.com.
•We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for the Newcastle date of Shane’s tour. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: in which band did Shane shoot to fame?
B) Backstreet Boys
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk. Closing date: February 11.