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Going Solo: Shane Filan, Songwriting And Life Post-Westlife

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 Written by Katie Territt

When Westlife split up in 2012, they left behind 14 number one singles, seven number one albums and over 44 million records sales. As is inevitable with any parting of ways someone was bound to go it alone, and who better than the voice behind the boyband, Shane Filan?

Filan recently premiered his debut solo single, Everything To Me, and is confident that the song is the right one to launch a new chapter in his career. 

“The record company has been great,” he said. “They've been so supportive and encouraging me to write music. We just kept coming back to that song. It's got a different sound to Westlife, it’s an up-tempo, feel-good, summery song, so they were like, ‘we'd love to go with it’. I'm really happy with it. It's a good song, it's a bit different and I think it's caught people’s attention a bit, which is good.”

The single is just the start of what is to come from Filan, with his forthcoming album set to send him into yet more uncharted territory. 

“The whole album is quite up-tempo, it's quite folky,” he said. “Soulful, kind of even a country vibe to the whole thing, which are my favourite types of music. I wanted to be different, I didn't want to be like anyone else. I don't think there are any other solo artists in the world right now doing this kind of style of music, so it's something that I wanted to go for and just see how it went.

“It just felt like the most natural stuff to write. Every time I went into the studio, whoever I was writing with, we kept going for this vibe and it just felt like really feel-good music. I want people to feel good when they hear my music.”

The album’s release will mark the end of a long songwriting and recording process, with sessions split between London and Nashville, but one that Filan was able to navigate without any pressure.

“The album's actually done, it's completely finished, it's just the final mixes it's going through now,” he said. “I've spent the last six to seven months of my life literally locked in the studio writing songs and hoping they're good enough. It's great when you get encouragement from the record label. They've been really positive and given me no pressure towards delivering dates or things like that.

“It was more just go and see how you get on. The fact that they let me go in and try and write as well, it's something I never got a chance to do before so I've found this sound now. I've got my own sound and my own songs and I just feel like I'm in a really good place. I feel positive and I'm looking forward to the future.”

After 14 years with Westlife Filan is enjoying the challenge of working with new people, while maintaining an air of familiarity around him. Everything To Me was written with Nick Atkinson, who has also contributed to tracks by Gabrielle Aplin, while Filan is also still working with Louis Walsh.

“It's nice to have a fresh start, obviously,” he said. “I have very excited people around me, encouraging me. I'm still working with Louis, which is great. He's probably my number one fan and my number one campaigner. He believes in me more than anybody, he really does encourage me. He's got a great team of people around me, I'm just looked after very well.

“I feel like I've got an amazing team around me in every aspect. On the songs, I worked with some fantastic new people, young up and coming songwriters. I also worked with Steve Mac and Wayne Hector who I have a massive history with from Westlife. I'm really proud of the final product, I think people are going to be surprised when they hear some of the songs on the album. But if you like Everything To Me, you're gonna love the album. There are better songs to come, trust me.”

Working on his solo album has been a complete change for Filan, and very different from the boyband world that he’d become used to. In particular, the writing process yielded an opportunity to inject a more personal edge into the songs in a manner quite separate from Westlife.

“Every day it's strange,” he said. “The writing process was completely alien to me as I'd never really done it at all. Every week I'd be writing a good song and that would give me confidence. I found the process quite relaxing, quite therapeutic.

“It came easy to me, I was quite surprised how good the songs were. It was actually the lyrics I found the easiest. It was just like writing letters about my life. About my wife, Gillian, and my family, and just good stuff in my life. The whole album is literally about the positive stuff I've taken out of the experiences of the last few years in particular.”

Filan refused to take the obvious route while working on his solo music, but with a change of sound comes the inevitable concern that it might just be too different for some fans.

“I think it's something you can't think about too much,” he said. “I think you've got to do songs you think are mainstream, you think are good. Some fans might not like it, but all I'm getting so far is positive feedback. I think it had to be different from Westlife. I could've done a solo album very easily with Westlife songs, that kind of music. But that's what Westlife were, that's what we were as a band. It's our legacy and we'll have that forever, but for me, I had to something different, I had to do something that would catch people’s attention.

“I'm older now. I just want to do songs that suit me, that suit my voice and songs that I'll enjoy playing live. The live shows will be different, it will be all about musicians and us on stage just having a laugh and singing songs. I want to do stuff that keeps me entertained all the time. I think that's why the album is so up-tempo, there's maybe 13-14 songs on the album and 10 of them are up-tempo. No sitting on stools, and there's no key changes either which might shock everybody.”

After 10 sell-out tours with Westlife, Filan is keen to back on the road with his new show and is set to announce plans for a run of solo dates in the near future. He will retreat from the arenas frequented by his old band and debut his latest work in venues more suitable for an evening “having a laugh and singing songs”.

“We're putting some plans in place for a tour at the moment,” he said. “We should hopefully be announcing something maybe in the next month or so. We're looking at the first quarter of next year, doing a short tour. I don't know where, but probably the UK and Ireland first, maybe theatres and small venues.

“At the moment that's the rough plan, but I'll be announcing something on that very soon. I'm starting this as a person on my own, it's new to me being solo, and so I need to find myself as a performer as well. Obviously with Westlife we never got to play smaller venues. Hopefully one day I'll get to play arenas again, but I'm very, very glad to be starting off in smaller venues, getting closer to the fans and having that intimate gig feeling.”

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