Shane Filan is best known for the massive success that he enjoyed as a member of Westlife, but now he is striking out on his own as a solo artist - and he has a collection of tracks that is unlike anything that he has released before.
We caught up with him to chat about his debut single Everything To Me, the upcoming album and throwing himself into the song-writing process.
- You are about to release your debut solo single Everything To Me, so what can fans expect from this new track?
I think that they can expect something that is a little different to the music that I have released in the past.It is a track about faith and love and having a healthy family and a healthy marriage; these are the things that are important to me.
It does have a more folky sound to it, and it is something that perhaps people would not be expecting.
- I imagine that people will have a certain idea of what a single from you would sound like - this is completely different to anything people will be expecting. How big a challenge has it been moving away from Westlife and finding a sound of your own?
I had to find a sound really, not just a song; I obviously had to find lots of songs. This was a year ago, and I was just literally thinking what kind of sound will I have? Who will I be like? What will it be like? I didn’t want to be like anyone really - of course it is hard to find that individual sound. I think that is just happened naturally.
Capitol Records were very keen for me to write and see how I got on; I think that is what defined my sound. The first session I had was with two young up-and-coming writers, Nick Atkinson and Tom Wilding, and I went into a session a bit nervous because I hadn’t written that many songs before.
However, I had a laugh and enjoyed it, and we started off with the up-tempo sound; I think that happened because we wanted to do something different to Westlife and see how it sounded.
The first song was Everything To Me, funnily enough, it was written in the first session for the whole album. It was ironic that is ended up being the first single, but it just happened naturally, and I think that is why the sound is different.
- So how have you found the whole song-writing experience - as you say it is something that is reasonably new to you?
It has been fantastic. The record label was just like ‘we want you to keep writing and keep going, and we will just see how it goes.’ The next week I did two-week really good songs back to back; one of them might actually be my next single.
So I got off to a really good start, and I felt comfortable with the song-writing process. It wasn’t like I had to go and write a song for Westlife, I had to just go and write a song; good or bad I just had to go and write a song that I felt was right on that day, and that I would enjoy singing.
I think that is why it came together easier because it was just about trying to write some music and trying to find a sound. So I found it quite relaxing; especially after a couple of weeks and having gained some confidence.
Every session I was just like pen out, and we started singing and writing songs. It was really really good fun.
- How have you found the reaction to the new track so far?
The reaction has been amazing; it has surprised me to be honest. Everybody seems to like it - whether they are just telling me that, I don’t know (laughs).
People do seem to be talking honestly to me saying that it is a good up-tempo summery song; and that is exactly what it is. I am surprised at the amount of radio stations that are playing it; we got added to Magic play list and Radio 2 - stuff that would have been hard to get even for Westlife.
The fact that my song is getting that I just feel so chuffed and so happy about it. Even though it is early days I do find myself feeling quite comfortable, and I am smiling all the time. It is so interesting to talk about my own songs as it is just something that is so different in my life. It is great.
- The track is produced by Martin Terefe - he has worked with the likes of James Morrison and Train - so how did that collaboration come about?
That was amazing, that was another boost of confidence. That was about three months into the writing process, and I had done about twenty songs, but I had about six or seven really good songs that the label were really happy with.
They play Martin four or five songs, including Everything To Me, and had him in for a meeting; they didn’t even tell me that they were trying to get him to work with me.
But he loved the music, and he said that he knew exactly where it should go, and he wanted to do the whole album. They rang me all excited saying that they had just met with Marin Terefe, and that he wanted to work with me.
I loved Train and James Morrison, and Jason Mraz are also great - he has won Grammy’s; he is just amazing. I think that it was great to have that person to give me a confidence boost when I needed it; the fact that he wanted to do it was another confidence boost, and I thought ‘these songs must be good if all these people are liking it’.
It just gave me another spur on to keep going, and I just kept writing and working hard in every session; I was doing three or four sessions a week, every week. I was talking about similar stuff, but I just felt that I had more to say.
Even if I was saying something that was similar to a song two weeks ago, it was different because it was a different melody and a different musical approach to that type of lyric.
Every time I went into a session it was like a blank canvas, and I didn’t know what was going to come out at the end of it; that was very different from when we were in Westlife.
We did a lot of cover versions, so we would just go in and sing the song. Most of the songs we covered were famous songs, and so you would have that version in your head; this time I didn’t have any version only the version that we were doing that day.
That was very interesting because I didn’t know if it was good or not, and I felt like there was any pressure on because I didn’t feel like it was something that I had to do.
The record company said ‘if you don’t get the songs; we will get the songs from other writers’ and I was just like ‘ok cool'. But then we didn't look for any songs from anybody because they were so happy with the songs that I was delivering back to them.
- Martin is a very experienced producer so how did you find working with him? And what kind of producer is he?
Everything that you do is live in the room, and so he records live musicians in front of you. We would focus on a particular song each day, and the musicians would hear the song, write down their notes, and that he would be like ‘let’s sing it, Shane, get up to the mic’.
The boys would get out their instruments, and we would sing the song; that was amazing because I had never done that before either.
We worked with amazing producers in the past such as Steve Mac, but it wasn’t like Steve Mac as it was a live session; Steve Mac does it live, but he does it separately, or whatever. Martin just liked to capture the atmosphere of the first time that you play it, and then you add to if afterwards.
It was just like a jamming session everyday. It is amazing when you hear your songs being played to you by these fantastic musicians; I just couldn’t get enough of it.
But then I did get to other producers as well; Martin did nine or ten tracks, but I also did some with Steve Mac and Wayne Hector as well. I got to write with them as well.
I am really glad that I got to work with them again as I have had a really great relationship with Steve and Wayne for years, after working with them through Westlife.
I hadn’t worked with Steve in a few years, and I really wanted to go back in with him and see if we could come up with something; we came up with a couple of great songs and one of them is definitely a single. He has helped me to become the singer that I am, and he has driven me to be better than I can be.
He has always pushed and pushed me, and you need someone who can get the best out of you. It’s great to have both sets of producers working with you as it gives your album another angle. I think I would be too keen on having just a single producer for a whole album.
- There is a debut album on the horizon so how did Everything To Me introduce us to the rest of the record? Are we going to see the album follow a similar sound?
It is definitely a similar sound. There are three to four ballads on the album, and the rest are up-tempo; so that is different straight away. The sound is more folky, country and has a more live feel to it.
Everything To Me is similar to the other up-tempo songs on the album, but there is no other song like Everything To Me on the album; if that makes any sense? It is very feel good and optimistic music both lyrically and musically.
It is totally different to Westlife but it is the music that felt most natural to me - I don’t know why, maybe I have always wanted to do this kind of music.
- You have clearly had a great experience writing and recording this album but how did you find stepping into the studio for a first time as a solo artist?
It was weird; everything I do everyday is different and weird, and I am getting use to it one day at a time. What I do feel is that I am enjoying every day, and I am smiling every day, and I love talking about my songs and about the future and what it holds.
I don’t know what the future is going to hold, but it is still exciting, for some reason (laughs). Things are starting to go in the right direction. But every day is new, and I am just taking it one step at a time, and we will see where it goes. Hopefully, I will be chatting to you again in a year, and I will have some good news for you about something (laughs).
- You have signed with Capitol Records for your solo work so what attracted you to this label? And how has the label been throughout this whole process?
They have been amazing. When I finished Westlife, we had - Louie Walsh is still managing me - I was lucky to have options from different labels such as Sony and Universal.
When we met Capitol and Nick Raphael, I just believed in them the most, and it looked like they believed in me the most.
We walked out of the meeting, and Louis said ‘that is who you are signing with, these are the people we need to be with’ and I was like ‘ok’.
He said ‘I don’t care what anybody else offers you, we are going to be signing with Capitol Records’. The decision was already made, but we didn’t’ tell them for a few more meetings (laughs) - we didn’t want them to get too lackadaisical.
The more that we met with them the more they showed how much they wanted me. Even the writing thing was a shock; I didn’t think that they would want me to write, and Louis didn’t either. I definitely got thrown in the deep end, but I learnt to swim quite quickly.
- How great has Louis been as you have made the transition from band member to solo artist?
He has been incredible; he has been so incredible. Louis is my number-one fan; he says as much himself. He believes in me so much. He knows I am the type of person that will work so hard and will do whatever it takes to do well in life; I have always been the type of person that gives it 110%.
He is like that as well, and he is very protective of me. No matter what happened, I would sign with Capitol Records - those are the kinds of decisions that I need someone to tell me.
I need to feel comfortable, obviously, but I need someone to tell me when I am wrong and when I am right; he is that type of manager. He has put a whole team behind me; I have the best people around me now when it comes to day to day people. It is a small team, but it is a very positive team, and they are the best at what they do.
Louis was the first part of the jigsaw that I needed, and he was very excited about doing it. Once we had that initial conversation it was like ‘let’s do this’ and he just took it from there.
He is so funny as he is just trying to promote me any place that he can. He is great, and I can’t say anything but good things about him.
- Obviously, you are a dab hand at the whole promotion thing after your years in Westlife, but is there are new excitement to getting out there and doing everything all over a again?
Without a doubt, it is very exciting. It is very fresh and it is very new, and I am getting to talk about songs where I totally know every single line and why it was written, where it was written and every little story that goes with it.
Every song on the album is special to me because they each have their own little story, and it is nice to be able to talk about that. With Westlife, we would talk more about our success and what is coming next. Now I don’t know where I am going next, but it is exciting.
I am getting to talk about things that are more important to me know than ever. No matter which way I look at this it is like starting over again, even if there is a fan base there already from Westlife.
But they are not going to buy my music unless it is really good; and I want them to really love my music and not to just buy it because I use to be in Westlife.
There are lots of people who come out of boybands and don’t do well, so I have that added pressure as well. I try and just focus on the positive stuff and one song at a time and hopefully people will like the album. But I am loving every single day so far.
The fact that I don’t know what chart position I am going to go in at is very exciting - it is nerve-wracking as well - but it is exciting. I know that I have a good album to come, so if people love this, then they are going to absolutely love the album to come.
- Finally, what is next for you going through the rest of this year? Are we going to see you play any live shows?
Probably not too many live shows, I will be doing the odd radio thing where I might do an outdoor festival or the odd few songs here and there. But I won’t be doing any actual dates or concerts until next year. We all agreed that we needed to get people to hear the music, and you have got to get people to hear a few singles.
If you are going to go out and play shows then you need to do it properly, and you need to go out there when people know your album and not before that. I think it is important to wait until it is right. I will definitely start in small venues as I want to find my feet as a performer; the first shows that Westlife did was ten dates at Wembley, which was just crazy.
We didn’t have a clue what we were doing because it was so big. But I know now that even if I could do big venues I would prefer to start smaller - if I am meant to go bigger than I will do that. But I need to find out who I am as a performer first, and I am really looking forward to that challenge.
Shane Filan - Everything To Me is out now.
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