Westlife member Shane Filan says Malaysia has long been a significant place for the band.
The Irish quartet – consisting of Filan, 43, Nicky Byrne, 44, Kian Egan, 42 and Mark Feehily, also 42 – last visited the country in August 2019 for its Twenty Tour.
The guys will be returning for the Wild Dreams Tour set to take place at Axiata Arena, in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 23 and 24.
During an exclusive virtual interview, Filan delightfully shares his excitement coming to Malaysia after three years.
“Malaysia has always been a very important country to us right from the beginning of Westlife.
"Every time we think of Malaysia, we think of so many happy memories which is why we’re very excited to be back.
“The last time we were there for our 2019 tour, the two nights we did in the arena (Malawati Indoor Stadium, Shah Alam) were completely sold out. It was such an incredible atmosphere,” he says.
Westlife’s Wild Dreams Tour was originally scheduled for 22 shows in Europe in mid 2020 but due to the pandemic it was shelved until July of 2022.
The band toured multiple cities in Britain and Ireland in the following months. Its Asian leg began in Indonesia on Sep 24, 2022 and will end in Bangkok on Feb 28.
For the upcoming two-night gig in KL, Filan reveals that Westlife has added a few “surprise songs” to its setlist specially for Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries.
“They’re old-school but really famous songs,” he teases of the surprise tracks.
“There’s one song we will be singing for the first time in 20 years. It’s an up-tempo song people will definitely love.”
Filan also says he’s looking forward to trying some of Malaysia’s traditional cuisines when Westlife visits later this month.
“I think I’m going to be more adventurous with my food. I like dishes with a little bit of spice and chicken in them.
“I’ve tried rendang and chicken curry before – and I’m definitely trying them again – but I haven’t tried nasi lemak yet. I’ll be eating that when I come to KL,” he shares.
An everlasting bond
Westlife first came to formation in 1998, with the original lineup including Brian McFadden who later left in 2004.
The group achieved global success with multiple hit songs such as My Love, If I Let You Go and Flying Without Wings.
During its reign, Westlife became Britain’s top-selling group of the 21st century after shifting 55 million records worldwide.
It’s the only group to have its first seven singles top the British chart and achieve 14 No.1 singles, trailing behind Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
In 2012, fans around the globe were left devastated after Westlife disbanded due to concerns about its direction.
The members also found the separation from their families increasingly unbearable.
Although all four of them went on to focus on their respective solo careers during that period, Filan admits that he often reminisced about Westlife’s glory days.
“I remember coming to Malaysia and going up to Genting Highlands in a helicopter. We were like 19 years old then and launching our first album (Westlife).
“There were so many fans there. The love and support we had was incredible, and we really felt like superstars.
“That whole feeling never went away. It’s something you’re blessed with and can’t take for granted,” he says.
In October 2018, Westlife made buzz on social media after officially announcing its comeback – promising a world tour and a new album in 2019.
Despite having not seen one another for several years , Filan shares, the reunion felt “natural and exciting” as the members always kept in contact.
“Behind the scenes, Westlife are really good friends. We like and get along well with one another.
“Of course, there are times when things get hard but, deep down, we all love being in Westlife – it’s the biggest thing the four of us have in common.
“We love the band, our music and also our fans. It’s the reason we’re together now,” he explains.
The Beautiful In White singer adds that reuniting with Westlife has also made him realise the impact the band has on its fans.
“Our first few concerts since the reunion were a very emotional experience. We’ve never realised how special Westlife is to so many people all over the world. It’s something we only got to know after reuniting again,” he shares.
Capturing the right sound
It goes without saying that the music scene today has changed drastically from how it used to be in the early 2000s when Westlife first started out.
After spending seven years apart, Filan says, finding the right sound was a crucial first step in getting Westlife back on track.
“We needed to capture a sound that’s not only nostalgic for fans but current as well.
“It was very important for us as a band to have an impactful first song because that’s the track that will set the tone for our first album after the reunion and for our band for the next few years,” he elaborates.
Speaking about Westlife’s comeback, Filan explains that the group spent lots of time coming up with a melody that best defines the band.
“The melody is the most important thing because it’s what gets people’s attention. The lyrics are also important, but a great melody is the most important factor for a great song because it’s the thing that you keep singing in your head,” he says.
Westlife dropped its highly anticipated comeback single, Hello My Love, on Jan 10, 2019.
Despite a seven-year hiatus, the track achieved global success.
Following its release, Hello My Love peaked at No.1 on the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for two weeks – making it Westlife’s first time to do so since the 2005 track, You Raise Me Up.
The song topped iTunes charts in 15 countries and placed in the Top 100 in more than 50 countries.
On QQ Music – the biggest music streaming platform in China – Hello My Love hit No.1 in the New Songs and International categories, proving the hold Westlife has on fans.
Filan credits the group’s success to two things: Working with talented people and hard work.
“You’ve got to work really hard to maintain success. Whenever Westlife puts our minds to something, we will work really hard to make it happen.
“We’re very passionate about what we do, and we’ve got an incredible team of people working with us too.
“I think it’s really important to have great people around you if you want to see your dreams come true,” he says.
Hello My Love is the lead single of Spectrum – Westlife’s first album since the reunion and 11th studio album overall.
Among the people who worked on this album were Westlife’s executive producer Steve Mac – who penned some of the band’s biggest hits like Flying Without Wings and Swear It Again – Ed Sheeran, James Bay and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder.
“Steve told us that Ed was a fan of Westlife. We were really big fans of Ed too, so it was really cool to have him work on this album with us. He’s a great pop star, a great musician and a great songwriter,” Filan shares.
All about family
Two years after the release of Spectrum, Westlife returned with another album, Wild Dreams, in 2021.
The album reached No.2 on the Irish, Scottish and British Album Charts and is certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) – with 100,000 units sold in Britain.
Speaking about the latest album, Filan says: “The name of the album came from the title of a song we were working on at the time.
“We were looking for a word that could describe what was happening in the world – and the pandemic was like a bad, wild dream.
“When we were writing this song, Wild Dreams, we thought it would be a good name for our album since it captures what’s happening in the world at that moment.”
The Irish singer explains that the latest album is one that’s close to the hearts of all the members as everyone was heavily involved in making it.
In fact, Filan wrote seven out of the 11 tracks on the album.
“We wrote our songs on Zoom, WhatsApp, and all these different platforms because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
When asked about his favourite song from Wild Dreams, Filan says it is Lifeline, a track he wrote about his wife Gillian Walsh.
“Lifeline is about having somebody in your life who will always be there for you no matter what. I think everybody in life needs someone they can rely on, trust and who can be there for them when they’re down.
“It’s a song that everyone can relate to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about a lover. It can be about your mum, dad or even your dog,” says Filan who has been married for 20 years and has three children.
On the topic of loved ones, the Uptown Girl singer reveals that “family” has become and will continue to be a central theme not only in Westlife’s music but also in the way Westlife defines itself today.
“We love the fact that our children can now enjoy Westlife. All our children are very excited to see their dads onstage and watch our videos.
“I remember when I told my kids I met the Queen, the Pope and Barack Obama, they couldn’t believe it. I had to show them a video of me shaking hands with the Queen on YouTube, and only then they were like, ‘Wow, you’re so cool!’
"I think we feel cooler in the band now because our kids think we’re cool. That’s what Westlife means to us now.
“It’s about family and we want to share that with our fans and create new memories in the future,” he concludes.
Westlife’s Wild Dreams Tour shows will be held on Feb 23 and 24, at 8.30pm at Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil, KL. Tickets are priced from RM294 to RM884 (subject to RM4 processing fee) and available from Excitix.