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Where Are They Now? : Westlife

It’s been 6 years since one of the biggest boybands in the world disbanded, but what ever happened to these five Irish heart throbs that took the world by storm? Formed in Dublin in 1998 and originally signed by Simon Cowell in the UK, and Clive Davis in the US, the group consisted of Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan and Brian McFadden (who was a member until his departure in 2004). Westlife were managed by Louis Walsh, who many might recognize as a judge on the show X Factor UK. Westlife has amassed over a billion views on Youtube, and they are the Guiness Book of World Record holders for having it’s first seven consecutive number one singles and top selling album group in the 21st Century in the UK. Westlife’s achievements didn’t stop their, they sold over 55 million records worldwide, a massive total that included studio albums, singles and compilation albums. They achieved 14 number one singles in the UK, 26 top ten singles, and have been listed number 34 as one of the biggest selling singles artists and the 16th biggest selling groups in British music history. Despite their success globally, Westlife surprisingly never managed to break into the U.S. market achieving only one hit single in 2000, the song “Swear It Again”. Strange seeing as the 2000’s was a year where boybands were booming with the likes of *NSYNC, Backstreetboys, O-Town and 98 Degrees.

Kian Egan, Markus Feehily and Shane Filan, along with friends Derrick Lacey, Graham Keighron and Michael Garrett were all part of a six member pop group called Six As One, who later changed their name to IOYOU in 1997. They were managed by Mary McDonagh and released a single called “Together Girl Forever”. It was Boyzone’s manager Louis Walsh who discovered the group after Filan’s mother contacted him, but they failed to score a record deal with BMG and Simon Cowell. As harsh as it was Cowell told Walsh “You are going to have to fire at least three of them. They have great voices, but they are the ugliest band I have ever seen in my life.” It was then Lacey, Keighron and Garrett were dropped from the group and auditions were then held in Dublin where Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden were recruited. On July 3rd 1998 a new group was formed and they called themselves Westside, but due to the name already being taken they changed it to Westlife. Byrne had said in a interview he wanted the group to be called West High, but it was never agreed upon. Boyzone member Ronan Keating was brought in to co-manage the group, and Westlife released their first EP “Swear It Again”.

The boys went on to record and release 10 smash hit studio albums including “Westlife”, “Coast To Coast”, “World Of Our Own”, “Turnaround”, “Allow Us To Be Frank”, “Face To Face”, “The Love Album”, “Back Home”, “Where We Are”, and “Gravity”. All of which peaked at number 1 or spawned a series of number 1 singles. Westlife continued without Bryan for a further eight years, but decided to call it quits in 2012, after releasing a statement which revealed they all wanted a break and the chance to look at new ventures. But what happened to our beloved Irish crooners? I found out…

Nicky Byrne: Believe it or not Byrne used to be a semi-professional footballer before his time in Westlife, and never used to get the lead vocal slots during his time in the band. Immediately after Westlife parted ways in 2012, Byrne turned to a stint in the “Strictly Come Dancing” ballroom. He placed sixth overall in the competition. The 39-year-old has also carved himself out a decent television career in Ireland. First hosting reality TV show “Football’s Next Star”, and then there was his talent show “The Hit”. For the past several years, he’s also delivered Ireland’s telephone vote results during the live broadcast on the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2016, he actually headed to the competition himself to compete with new single ‘Sunlight’, but sadly failed to make the finals. Nicky married his teenage sweetheart Georgina Ahern, whom he met when they were about 12 years old. The couple have twin sons, Jay and Rocco, and daughter, Gia.

Kian Egan: Throughout his time in Westlife, Egan actually used a year to co-manage a new girl group called Wonderland, but that ultimately didn’t take off. So instead of trying to break new artists into the industry after Westlife, he took up residence in a big red chair for “The Voice of Ireland”. He was a coach on the series for five years, but has still yet to win with one of his contestants. Over in the UK, Egan’s career was given a boost after he won the 13th series of “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” in 2013. This gave him a renewed life in the music industry and lead him to release his solo debut album “Home” in 2014, which went Top 10. He married English actress and singer Jodie Albert in 2008 and became a father of two.

Mark Feehily: Mark went silent after Westlife disbanded but he told Digital Spy that he “relished the opportunity to do things at his own pace for the first time in his career”. Fans were astounded when he was pictured working in a coffee and crepes van at various festivals, but Markus is proud of his catering business. He split from his fiance Kevin McDaid in 2012, the 34-year-old piled on the pounds, and announced he was entering a French detox and weightloss camp in 2014. In 2015, Markus premiered his debut single “Love Is A Drug”, which sounded nothing like a Westlife record, and the singer-songwriter found himself winning over a new found audience. Later in 2015, Markus released his debut album entitled “Fire”, which peaked at number 25 in the UK. He then did his own nationwide tour of the UK in 2016.

Shane Filan: He was the lead singer of Westlife so there’s no surprise after the group disbanded he was the center of a record label bidding war. The singer kept Louis Walsh on as his manager and eventually signed a new deal with Universal Music. He had his fair share of ups and downs and just days before Westlife’s final gig he was declared bankrupt, after a property venture he had entered into with his brother took a hitting in the Irish property crash. But Louis sorted him out with a new solo deal and world tour, so after writing a load of new songs in Nashville, Filan released his solo debut album “You And Me” in 2013. The record reached number 6 in the UK, while peaking at number 3 placing in Ireland. In 2015 returned with a second album called “Right Here” and featured a duet with Nadine Coyle (from Girls Aloud) and peaked at number 11 on the UK charts. He has since released a third album called “Love Always”. He has also He’s also released an autobiography “My Side of Life” which is a revealing look into his roller coaster ride of a life.

Brian McFadden: McFadden left the group 8 years before the band called it quits, departing the group in 2004. He signed a solo deal with Sony BMG and immediately released a hit single in “Real To Me”. He teamed up with songwriter Guy Chambers for his album “Irish Son”, which peaked at number 24 on the UK charts and number 6 in Ireland. He followed with three more albums including “Set In Stone”, “Wall Of Soundz” and “The Irish Connection”. He did a lot of work on TV also, serving as a judge on “Australia’s Got Talent” between 2010-2012, to hosting ITV cooking show “Who’s Doing The Dishes?” and more recently on “The Jump”. His second single “Almost Here” was a duet with Delta Goodrem, who found fame with the Aussie TV soap opera “Neighbours” and also had a extensive Australian music career, with whom he would go on to have a long relationship with. These days McFadden tours with Boyzone star Keith Duffy under the name BoyzLife. McFadden was previously married to former Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona, with who he has two children, he went on to date Goodrem before the couple split in 2011. In 2012 he married Vogue Williams, before they separated in 2015.



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Written by Neill Frazer

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