Shane Filan: 'I'll be honest, I'm fed up with the questions about a Westlife reunion'
Shane Filan lets out a laugh. I haven't said anything funny - nor has he. Instead, I have merely spoken the truth. It's just over three years since Westlife called it a day, the boys signing off on a decade-and-a-half at the top with a couple of farewell concerts at Croke Park.
Ireland's biggest boy band was done. Finished. Kaput. Three short years, and already, everyone is asking former lead singer Filan, on the eve of his second solo album release, about a possible reunion. Ah, lads. Bit early, isn't it? He must be fed up with those sort of questions.
"Yeah, do you know what actually? I'll be honest with you, I am fed up with them," says Filan (36), chuckling, "because I get asked all the time with every interview.
"Look, I know you have to ask it, and it's the same answer. At the moment there is absolutely zero plans of that happening. There's no talk about it, there's no rumours about it, there's no nothing about it - only people speculating.
"When you're in a band as big as Westlife, you're always gonna be asked 'will it ever happen again?', and the honest truth is, I genuinely don't know. Right now, it's not happening and that's all I can tell you."
There. Are we done with this reunion nonsense yet? At least wait a decade, please. The question that the Sligo man used to regularly fend off in his Westlife days was whether or not he'd release a solo record. But, you know, he was in Westlife.
The band sold 45 million records worldwide. So why the heck would Shane Filan walk away from that? He didn't want to - he didn't need to, but all good things must come to an end.
The only thing more surprising than Westlife announcing their split back in 2011, was the revelation that Filan had been harbouring a secret from both his band mates and their fans.
The property company that he had established with his brother went into receivership, and Filan was €23m in debt. In June 2012, he moved his family to the UK and filed for bankruptcy.
Circumstances had changed. Filan, for the sake of his wife Gillian and their three small children, decided to focus his sights on a successful solo career. Because, this time, he needed to.
"I think deep down, I always thought I'd love to continue to sing, but I just never really had to plan [for a solo career] in my head.
"I still would have done it, but I mightn't have done it as quick. It also gave me the confidence to go and do it, because it was very, very serious.
"I had a family to look after, that was my main job, and the thing I'm best at is singing so that was my obvious choice to try and do that, and thank God it's going well."
Indeed, it's been "a good couple of years" for Filan. "I'm definitely in a happier place," he explains, "I think Gillian and the kids are happier, so I'm happier. I've talked to the moon and back about all the financial stuff. It's a part of my life that is gone now.
"I've talked about it, I've done a book about it - I've done everything that I can do to explain it.
"I feel it's happened, and it's made me a stronger person. It's made me, I think, a better person, and I realise what's important in life.
"You kind of look forward. I don't look back anymore. Would I change the past? I wouldn't change anything about my life, because then your life would have a different kind of road you'd be taking now, and I don't know where I'd be. You take the good with the bad. Life's not perfect and you just try and do your best."
Filan's first album, You and Me, didn't exactly break sales records. Nonetheless, it was a top-ten hit, proving a comfortable start to a career in which the affable singer has his sights set on the long haul.
"I was chuffed with it, man. It's not the kind of bubble that is Westlife. You don't know what to expect…you don't have that brand behind you anymore, and you've to start again and create your own sound and create your own individuality too, which is even harder."
There's no room for error, and it'll take time for Filan to find his feet, but Right Here (which features a duet with former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle) is the album he wanted to make.
He talks a lot about improving his craft and carefully building up a first-rate catalogue of pop tunes. He's not in this game "for the laugh".
For Right Here, Filan attended a song-writing camp in Denmark. Scoff all you like - he doesn't care for critics. He does what he thinks is right for his career. Oh, and his manager, Louis Walsh, kinda gets the final say.
"We chat every day," says Filan. "He's amazing, you know, he's my manager but he's also like a mentor, he fights my corner. He'll always put me in the right place and get me with the right people, which is important because you need somebody to do all that.
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"You need somebody that has been around and knows all the ropes and knows where not to go, where to go and what people to work with and he looks after me.
"We've a very honest relationship, which is important. He'll still ring me up and give out to me when he's not happy!"
Incidentally, Shane Filan never did have a plan B. He might have once shown a keen interest in show-jumping as a kid, but Filan was always determined to make it as a pop star. The dreams all came true, he says, and now, he sets himself a more realistic set of goals.
"It's great to have that [success] and look back at that. To a certain degree, I've done it all with the band. I've done the arenas, the stadiums, all the number ones, all that kind of stuff, now I just wanna sing and have success. To what level? As long as I can look after my family - that's my level."
Who knows, his kids might one day follow in their old man's footsteps. After all, Shane's daughter Nicole has already expressed a desire to star in school musicals.
"Louis has already said it about Nicole," says Filan, laughing. "'She's like a little LeAnn Rimes', he'll say to me, 'I'll manage you, Nicole'. She's only 10, man! It's a bit early now to be thinking about careers…"
Right Here is released today