Nicky interview in the Daily Record

11/11/2011 00:58

Westlife star Nicky Byrne insists decision to call it quits after 14 years ISN’T a publicity stunt

Rick Fulton

THE Beatles’ record of 17 number one singles looks safe now that Westlife are to split. And the Irish crooners think that’s a good thing.

After notching up 14 number ones in their 14 years together, the band last month announced that they were calling it a day.

So the unmentionable – for a boy band to surpass The Beatles – won’t happen, just yet.

Nicky Byrne, 33, said: “In a funny way, that’s probably right. To outdo The Beatles is crazy.

“It would have been interesting if we had, and a lot of people would have been hammering us.

“The Beatles really should hold on to that record forever.

“Music is a whole different world from what it was in their day and has even changed since we started.

“We haven’t had a number one single since The Rose in 2006 but we can hold our heads up high with 14 number ones.”

They could, however, get closer. Their final single Lighthouse is released digitally on Sunday and is in the shops on Monday.

If it goes to number one, the song will take them one better than Cliff Richard, whoalso has 14. The most UK number ones by a solo artist is Elvis, with 21.

The Irish boy band have had an amazing 14 years.

Nicky, Kian Egan, 31, Mark Feehily, 31 and Shane Filan, 32, were brought together as Westlife back in 1998.

They have sold more than 44 million records, produced seven number one albums, and been awarded two Brits, an MTV Award, a World Music Award and four Records of The Year.

They also have the accolade of Biggest Arena Act of All Time in the UK, performing a record 25 concerts at Wembley Arena.

Of course, being a boy band, they have had their fair share of ridicule, especially when they started nudging closer to The Beatles’ record.

But since announcing the split, there has been an outpouring of affection, not only from fans but the entire music industry.

Nicky said: “The love we are getting has been incredible. It feels like when somebody dies and everyone says how great they are after the person has gone.

“We’ve been joking with people saying, ‘We wouldn’t have broken up if we’d realised you liked us so much’. We never knew you cared.”

A greatest hits album is to be released on November 21, with a farewell tour next year.

The band are adamant they will never reform and it really is the end. Manager and X Factor judge Louis Walsh is devastated.

But surely, with eight months in each other’s company left, they could change their minds?

Nicky said: “This isn’t a publicity stunt or a break. It gives freedom to everyone to do what we want, not to have commitment to anybody or the band.

“Not everyone at this point would say the same, which is why for me I say never say never.

“Down the road I’m sure I’ll see the lads again and remember the memories. And there’s always a chance we could do something.

“But for now there are no plans to do anything after next year’s farewell tour.”

Have the lads been touched by the good feeling that’s followed the announcement? Nicky, married to Georgina, the daughter of former Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and father of twin sons, said: “We know the reason for interest is because we aren’t going to be around anymore. We are big enough not to kid ourselves.

“Had we let it go another year or two, the love and support might not have been as strong.

“A weight has been lifted off our shoulders and we won’t be going back on next summer being our final shows.”

So why the split? Shane and Mark were always the singers in the band. Did they want the solo careers? There was also dissent about musical direction. Often labelled a boring ballad band, their ninth album Where We Are in 2009 to push them further but failed to reach number one.

Couldn’t they have gone off and done solo albums or whatever else they wanted to do? As it turns out, the band had been talking for a while about splitting.

They hoped quitting Syco, the label run by Simon Cowell, to which he signed them in 1998, would help.

They left at the beginning of this year but nothing changed.

Nicky said: “The cracks had formed and we were trying to patch things up when we left Syco, rather than quitting. We thought we would try and change everything to see if things improved and it wasn’t to be.

“It wasn’t one thing just a gradual progression. The amount of pressure to constantly do it at the right level was huge.

“There have been cracks internally for quite a while. Because we were releasing a greatest hits this year and re-negotiating our contract, it felt the right time.

“This was the moment where we manned up and said, ‘We’ve done what we can with Westlife’.”

Nicky and the rest of the band are still friends. And they thought letting people know now would mean everyone could say goodbye properly.

Nicky said: “We can go out on a massive, massive high. That’s how we all want remember it.”

Westlife began in Sligo when Kian, Mark and Shane, along with three other lads, formed a boyband.

They came to the attention of Louis, who was managing Boyzone, and he tried signing them to Syco.

Cowell demanded the three other boys were sacked and Nicky and Brian McFadden were found during auditions in Dublin.

Louis made Boyzone singer Ronan Keating co-manager of Westlife and their debut single Swear It Again was an instant success.

They went on to have a further six number ones, making them the only act in UK history to have their first seven singles go to the top spot.

Even Brian quitting the band in 2004 failed to stop the juggernaut.

No wonder Louis is heartbroken by the split, which Nicky admits the X Factor judge didn’t want.

Nicky said: “He thought the idea of the split would go away when we told him. He finds it hard to talk about it.

“He hopes it’ll be a long break but we’ve had to keep enforcing it to him, it’s not. He’s devastated.”

Next year’s farewell tour, which includes three dates in Scotland, will also see the end of the stools that Westlife became famous for.

Nicky admitted: “There has to be a bit of a moment with the stools. It’s nice to be known for something.”



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