WestLife: The Story of Westlife - Part 1

Since signing with RCA Westlife have gone on to become one of the biggest UK bands in pop. They are worth an awful lot- both financially and in the hearts of their dedicated and wonderful fans.
The fates brought them together to form Westlife!

In December 1998 Westlife won the Smash Hits 'Best New Tour Act' following the footsteps of previous winners Boyzone, Backstreet Boys and Five. The new Princes of Pop have since gone on to earn themselves a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by achieving five consecutive Number 1 hits (including the highly coveted Christmas and Millennium Number 1) with their first five singles.

Westlife's highly anticipated self-titled debut album charted at Number 2, reached Platinum status within the first two weeks and to date is certified Triple Platinum. At the MTV Europe Music Awards they received two nominations for Best Breakthrough Act and Best UK & Ireland Act. Westlife later went on to win the prestigious Record Of The Year in December 1999 with the single 'Flying Without Wings'.

Reflecting on that year Kian Egan says "It's been a tremendous time for us. Winning the Smash Hits award was a great start to our career and then to achieve a Number 1 with our first single was amazing - I will never forget that. Getting our second Number 1's were like reliving that moment and then what better way to end 1999 than getting the prize for Record Of The Year. I think another proud moment was holding our album in my hands for the first time".

The Westlife story first began two years ago in Sligo, a sleepy town two hours West of Dublin. Sligo was originally best known as the birth and resting place of Ireland's most famous wordsmith, William Butler Yeats. However, now Sligo is also hailed as the birthplace of Westlife by millions of fans worldwide. The three Sligo lads, Shane Filan, Kian Egan and Mark Feehily were even honoured by the Lord Mayor and presented the key to the town.

Three fifths of Westlife conceived the idea of getting together as a band
after the chemistry felt right. "The three of us were appearing in local theatre productions and during the interval we would come on and do pop covers" explains Shane. "We had such a positive response we decided to put on some gigs and cut a couple of hundred CDs, which the local record store agreed to sell for us. It wasn't much, but it was a start."

Then came their big break, in the form of a local TV news show, which featured the lads singing at a children's hospital. Unbeknown to them Louis Walsh was watching and was excited by what he saw - but frustrated because he had no way contacting the lads.

"Fortunately for us Shane's mum was calling Louis' office to ask him to manage us at the same time he was trying to track us down" says Kian. "And when she finally got to talk to him, Louis offered to try us out as the support act when the Backstreet Boys played in Dublin."

Their performance was an unprecedented success - which caught the interest of Ronan Keating who was in the audience - but there was just one problem. "We knew the band wasn't fully right" states Mark. "The three of us wanted to take it on to the next level but we knew we needed more vocals in the group, so with Louis on board we set up auditions for an additional two members."

Nicky Byrne had just returned to his family home in Dublin around the time of the auditions after a two year spell as an apprentice with Leeds United and was working with his father staging karaoke nights.

"I've always loved singing and any excuse to get on stage and sing - I was there" laughs Nicky. "When I heard about the auditions I went along with everything crossed and sang my heart out."

As did his friend Bryan McFadden a fellow Dubliner, who was already making his name for himself in the city as a singer. "We were already mates and I remember saying to Nicky at the audition 'may the best man win' and 'make sure you call me if you get it'" recalls Bryan. "We were both so keen to be a part of the band."

WestLife: The Story of Westlife - Part 2

Continuing the story of the world's greatest boy band- Westlife as they get their new members.....
The girls meet Westlife! "there was no contest" says Shane. "Nicky and Bryan were the first two to audition and as soon as we saw them we knew we had found our missing men. We've been together since July but it feels like we've been friends all our lives."

With all five members of Westlife in place this confirmed for Ronan Keating that he wanted to co-manage the band with his own manager Louis Walsh.

"I'd heard the buzz on Westlife before I'd even met them but nothing prepared me for just how good they are. As soon as I heard their raw vocal talent I knew I had to be involved," says Ronan. "Westlife are set to follow Boyzone, U2 and The Corrs as the next big Irish act on the international scene."

By the time the band came to showcase for record companies all of the major labels flew out to Ireland and a bidding war began for Westlife. "We were flooded with offers - I've never known anything like it" remembers Louis. "But RCA were our favourite from the start because of their fantastic history breaking great male pop acts like Take That and Five."

Westlife recorded their debut album with esteemed international producers Max Martin, Pete Waterman and Steve Mac and Wayne Hector. Together they have created an album packed with 17 solid tracks which has so far yielded three Number 1 singles with 'Swear It Again', 'If I Let You Go' and 'Flying Without Wings'. Each track on the album stands alone with no 'fillers'. Beautiful heart felt ballads like 'We Are One', 'I Don't Want To Fight' and 'Flying Without Wings' showcase Westlife's angelic vocals reaching fans both young and old, male and female.

Mark says: "it's been a great experience recording with the producers we have worked with. They have helped us to make an album that we are proud to have our names to. It's been a great learning experience for us and they have even given us the inspiration to perhaps produce our own material in the future."

As co-manager Ronan Keating has also been a great mentor for Westlife. His role as advisor has helped Westlife on every level from personal dilemmas to an A&R input to feedback on their live performances.

Nicky says: "Ronan has been in the business for 6 years and having him there for us is a great bonus. He has a lot of empathy and has helped to guide us in the right direction".

As each day goes by Westlife only seem to grow bigger and bigger. International domination is next on the agenda for a band that have what it takes to be the world's biggest pop band.

18.11.2000, INTERNET (BMG)

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