Westlife reveal story behind "very different" new album: Pondering another split and emailing Ed Sheeran

16 October 2021, 16:36 | Updated: 19 October 2021, 00:45

Westlife interview: Shane and Nicky discuss new album Wild Dreams

By Tom Eames

Westlife are back with a brand new album, and judging from its first single 'Starlight' it promises to be one of their best yet.

The Irish boys announced their new album Wild Dreams yesterday (October 14), ahead of its release next month.

Westlife's Shane Filan and Nicky Byrne caught up with Smooth's Jenni Falconer about the new LP, and the strange circumstances that saw the album being made apart from each other.

The pair also revealed some of the album's themes, as well as their excitement ahead of their long-awaited 2022 tour.

Speaking about their new music, Nicky told Jenni: "Well, this album has been very, very different to any album we’ve ever done. And I think that goes without saying for everybody in the world at the moment, with the way the pandemic has affected everybody, every market, everything.

Westlife - Starlight (Official Lyric Video)

"With us, this album wasn’t planned. It came quicker than expected because the tour was postponed, and then it was postponed again. We were keeping in regular contact on Zooms and stuff, and we were going, 'What show could we do? Do we just almost break up again, and come back when the world is open again? What do we do?'.

"And then we just decided, 'We could do an album from home. It is possible.' I think there were a few eyebrows raised, going, 'Well, how is that possible? You need engineers. You need producers. We need to be together. How in the hell would we do that?'

"And then it became a reality where, actually, radio presenters were broadcasting from home. TV presenters were broadcasting— business meetings and multinationals were in their houses, doing Zooms. Why can’t we? So we did it.

"We started looking into songwriting, Mark and Shane did a lot of songwriting together, and then they opened it up, and started to song-write with producers who had worked on many Westlife albums, but lived in LA or New York or London. But it was all on Zoom.

"And then I was doing my own songwriting with some Irish bands – Picture This and a few others. A few lads from Kodaline helped us out on some songs.

Read more: Westlife's 10 best songs ever, ranked

"I was emailing Ed Sheeran during lockdown, and we were talking about what we were doing. I was doing gardening, and he was doing this. He had written a couple of songs, and sent them our way as well. It weirdly brought people together.

"I recorded a lot of the album in my sitting room downstairs. The challenges that that brings – we keep joking about the Wi-Fi dropping out; the dog barking; the kids coming home from school; the delivery man hitting the doorbell; whatever was going on in everybody’s world, it happened to everybody.

Westlife are back
Westlife are back. Picture: Westlife/East West

"It was crazy, but it was fun. So what it did for us was, we actually really got our creative juices flowing even more. It thrust us into a whole, new world. We always dipped in and out of it."

Shane continued: "The good thing about us getting involved in the songwriting this time, in a big way, was… A lot of it was done away from it all. Nobody really kind of knew. We didn’t have to bring it to anybody, because nobody knew.

"It wasn’t going into a studio in London, where you’re there with the best producer in the world, going, 'Let’s write a song.' We were doing it kind of collectively and creatively away from it all. And it was lovely, because then we had all these ideas and all these songs, and brought it to different people.

"It was kind of like there was no pressure on us to do it, because nobody knew it was happening. And then, obviously, once we started doing the final vocals and stuff, the album just really came together.

"We made so many songs, and we were so picky and choosy because this was not just Westlife – this was coming from the band now. This was very personal. So we had to be very picky. The album is brilliant, and we’re very, very proud of it."

Westlife are back with a new album
Westlife are back with a new album. Picture: Westlife/East West

On the sound of the album, Nicky said: "I think they’re a little autobiographical of where we all are in our lives, and particularly with COVID.

'Alone Together' is a song that Shane and Mark wrote with Rami, who wrote 'When You’re Looking Like That' for us. That, in itself was where we all were during the pandemic. I wrote a song called 'Alive', which is a very positive [song].

"Shane, unfortunately, has lost his mum and dad quite recently, six months apart, so there’s a song called 'Always With Me', which Shane did with Steve from Kodaline. There’s a song called 'Magic' on there, which is a really huge, cabaret, fun, a happy tune. So it’s got a bit of everything, and we’re really pleased with it."

Wild Dreams is released on November 26.