Westlife: We track down manband’s new video shoot… in Africa04/10/2011 04:19
By Jennifer Dunkerley in South Africa
IT’S 6am and the sun is rising over the stunning South African landscape.
In the pre-dawn light, the sight is incredible.
Baboons peer inquisitively at us, a zebra roams lazily across the plain and looming into view in front of us is the unmistakeable sight and sound of…. Westlife.
The manband can’t believe their luck to be here in this glorious wilderness to shoot a video for their new single Lighthouse.
They’re so thrilled they invited the Daily Star to exclusively catch all the behind-the-scenes action.
The breath-taking backdrop is the Cradle of Humankind heritage site in Gauteng, an hour north of Johannesburg. But the lads chose it because they were literally just passing.
“We were in South Africa anyway as part of our Africa and Asia tour so we thought: ‘Why not film the new video here too?’” says Nicky Byrne, 32.
Bandmate Mark Feehily, 31, explains: “Record companies aren’t spending the millions they used to on videos. “We wouldn’t want to do a rubbish video in a studio. And why should we when we can have a million-dollar backdrop like this for free?”
The Irish hunks, who have had a whopping 14 UK No 1 singles in 14 years, are not fazed by their environment, even though it contains some of the deadliest creatures on Earth.
“We have a medic here carrying a pack of anti-venom for snakes and spiders and other first aid,” adds Mark. “We’ve even got a helicopter on standby in Jo’burg that can get here in under seven minutes should we have any emergencies.”
But the cheeky lads are clearly not worried about the dangers. While Shane Filan, 32, films his solo alongside a picturesque river, Mark and Kian Egan spot a wooden canoe and gleefully decide to test-drive it.
“Come and do your interview on here,” they beckon. But I refuse, frightened by the talk of crocodiles – and it’s just as well.
Just seconds later the boat drifts into the back of Shane’s shot and we hear a completely different type of wildlife – an angry director bellowing at the lads to get out of the way. Mark steers back to shore and tells us: “As soon as I got in I regretted it. Water started leaking in.”
He confesses it’s not the first prank that’s misfired. “We’ve already delayed the shoot by an hour,” he admits. “Our van got lost after we stole the keys and the driver couldn’t follow the one in front.”
But the jokes show just how happy and relaxed Westlife are. “We love it here,” says Kian, 31. “We love coming back, the people are lovely, the weather’s lovely. Just look around. It couldn’t be more perfect.”
However, he reveals that not all the lads have enjoyed every second.
“We don’t have any phobias but Nicky had to scramble on his hands and knees over a bridge and he wasn’t too happy about that,” he laughs.
Nicky adds: “I don’t care about bugs or heights but I was just too close to this river. I thought if I fall down now that’s not too sensible so I crawled across. But Mark just hopped over in one – he didn’t care.”
Aside from the landscape and its animals, there’s another reason the lads love coming to South Africa.
“We did a gig in Pretoria yesterday for around 15,000 people and the crowd were great,” says Nicky.
“Playing to African crowds is so different. They have different favourite songs from the one back home. Mandy is a massive hit here, more than any other.”
He continues: “The last video we filmed here was When You’re Looking Like That back in 2000 so it’s great to be back.”
Westlife can’t wait for next month’s release of Lighthouse, which was penned especially for them by Take That main man turned X Factor judge Gary Barlow, 40.
Mark reveals: “Gary wrote it with John Shanks and they also wrote Patience for Take That, so we’re con-fident we have a great song.”
But isn’t Gary a rival? “Some people might think he’s the competition,” says Nicky. “But we don’t see it like that at all. It’s kind of cool he’s written for us.”
Mark agrees: “I love the idea of Gary writing for us and throwing all the rules out the window.”
The lads will follow their single with a new greatest hits album. They say there’s a good reason why they’ve lasted so long.
“We’ve always realised how lucky we are,” says Shane, 32. “We’ve never taken it for granted.
“Many bands split and then try to come back with a reunion, but apart from Take That it just hasn’t worked for anyone.”
“Some people don’t realise what they’ve got till it’s gone.
“We just never let it get away.”
Westlife’s new single Lighthouse is available on November 14 and their album, The Greatest Hits, is out on November 21.