Brian McFadden Interview - Album of the life of Brian

EMMA OUTTEN As part of his first major solo UK tour, Brian McFadden comes to the University of East Anglia in Norwich this month. The former Westlife singer spoke to Emma Outten about nightmares and Norwich City Football Club.

EMMA OUTTEN

You might assume Brian McFadden would be a touch nervous about his first major solo UK tour.

But ask him how he is bearing up under the stress and strain of it all and you get a good-natured: “I'm good, I'm good.”

Time was of the essence for my interview with him, as I was told at the outset that it was going to have to be cut short to just 10 minutes. It transpired that Brian was about to fly to New York that day, for a tantalising mix of business and pleasure.

Despite the curtailed conversation, Brian managed to be rather engaging during the allotted time slot.

The only thing he is nervous about for this ongoing tour is whether his voice will be up to the job. He admitted he has never sung a solo show for a solid hour-and-a-half before. To date, the gigs he has done have been short intimate sets showcasing around half a dozen songs.

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So what was he doing to get in training? The answer was a bit baffling: “Smoking.” That didn't sound like voice training – it sounded like a stress reduction exercise. He admitted: “It's making it worse.”

On Friday June 17 Brian brings his voice and his cigarettes to the UEA in Norwich. He said: “I am really looking forward to heading out on the road to visit some places I haven't been for ages and some I've never been to at all.” Norwich falls into the latter category, although at least his knowledge of the city did extend to Norwich Union and the Canaries!

It seems bittersweet to refer back to it now, but when we spoke, Norwich City had scored 10 points out of a possible 12 in the previous four matches. “Pretty impressive,” commented Brian. And, unsurprisingly as he is a son of Ireland, he referred to the manager Nigel Worthington as a “a good man... a good boy.”

In Norwich, Brian will be performing material from his debut solo album, Irish Son, and some familiar favourites, apparently.

All he would reveal is that he will be performing Flying Without Wings (another two he was resolutely keeping under his hat).

Brian had been one fifth of one of the biggest boy bands in the world, when he was in Westlife. Now he is a solo artist in his own right, which did he prefer: one-fifth or the one and only? “I think me on my own, rather than one-fifth,” concluded Brian.

Because Westlife were so huge, he went on to explain, there was big hype surrounding wherever he and the other four had gone. Now enjoying life as a solo artist, as it was a “little bit more low key”.

He also liked the fact that he can “sneak in and out of buildings” nowadays, whereas in Westlife his arrival anywhere would have been announced to great fanfare and at least 30 people would be waiting to greet him.

“Fun for a while…” mused Brian, but he quite likes the fact he can now arrive by car with just one other person at his side.

As well as changing his name (he is now known as Brian not Bryan), he has also undergone a dramatic image transformation the like of which I have not seen since Nigel Lawson went on a diet. And as for his hair, he has gone from blond to brown and bearded. A marked improvement if you ask me.

I wondered if he felt older than his 25 years, what with having sold 30 million records and having picked up a dozen UK number ones with Westlife.

There were two ways of looking at it, explained Brian: “In one way I do feel a lot older than 25…” Perhaps that's not surprisingly considering the life he has led for the past seven years.

But in another way Brian says he feels a lot younger, having gone straight from school into Westlife. He feels as though he's missed out on the “whole developing from boy to man” rite of passage.

After quitting Westlife in March 2004, his debut solo album, released in October 2004, produced the number one single, Real To Me – proof of solo success, surely.

“It was very exciting when Real To Me went to number one,” said Brian, particularly because it was the first time he had got to number one as a songwriter. “That was a big achievement for me.”

But Brian had feared that, having been in one of the biggest boy bands in the world, with the support of millions of fans, it was a just case of “a lot of Westlife fans supporting me”.

But when the song started reaching number one all around Europe in countries where Westlife had never reached number one, Brian starting thinking: “OK, maybe I could do this...”

“Westlife fans have grown up with us,” he said, but he added, “I think there is space in the new sound for everyone.”

And it is a new sound. After all, Brian said: “I have always been into guitar stuff, from Bryan Adams to Nirvana.”

Real To Me, for example, went to number one first in Ireland, then England. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all followed suit.

Then there was success in Germany, where it was number one for three months.

“Westlife never had a number one in Germany,” said Brian, with a note of pride in his voice. In fact, he could only recall them reaching 106!

I joked that maybe he will be adopted as the new David Hasselhoff, a firm favourite in Germany, although Brian drew the line at wearing red Baywatch-style Speedos and cultivating the Hasselhoff perm when he tours Europe following the UK.

Brian describes his solo album as largely autobiographical, “every song” he admits is “a true story”.

And when he talks about the album he speaks with all the fresh and infectious energy of someone making their very first record.

Irish Son is about growing up in Ireland and the Catholic Church, Real To Me is clearly about his – amicable – split from Westlife, and the latest single, Demons, is about insomnia and nightmares.

“I had these nightmares for about three years,” explained Brian, “where my family and friends are missing.”

Then, his family and friends were not so much missing, but they did not recognise him. In them, he is invisible to his mother, for example, and although his kids come over to him they then turn away. It all sounds rather horrific.

Had the nightmares stopped? “They stopped pretty much the time I wrote the song,” he said. “It was sort of a therapy session.” It sounded as though the same could be said for all the songs on the album.

Half of the album was written in collaboration with Guy Chambers (so very reminiscent of when Robbie Williams escaped the clutches of Take That, in that case) and the other half was with Paul Barry.

“Paul and I formed a strong writing relationship right away and I wrote Real To Me with Guy on our very first meeting,” said Brian. “We just clicked right away.”

Brian said that for the Irish Son single, he and Guy had a “three-hour discussion before we even wrote the song.” As for the other songs, he added: “We always had a deep chat.”

With just 10 minutes to play with, it was hardly the time to question Brian about his love life. He had wed former Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona in 2002 and they have two daughters, Molly and Lilly Sue, but the marriage broke up last October and Mrs McFadden has since reverted back to her maiden name.

Then, at the end of last year, the national tabloids started reporting that he was enjoying the fruits of romance after recording a duet with former Neighbours star Delta Goodrem. Delta had featured on his single Almost Here.

So what was the real story behind that song then?

“It just speaks for itself, when you listen to the words!” he said.

Another song on the album, Lose, Lose Situation, Brian laughingly says, is about, “How no matter how much you try you can never win with women”. So was he on a losing or a winning streak at the moment? “Definitely a winning streak!” was his teasing reply.

But he said of the song: “That was more a song for the lads”, along the lines of “listen lads, there's no point arguing with women, there's no point even trying... they always win, you always lose”.

But at the moment, this particular Irish son is winning. Next stop was his business/pleasure trip in New York. “Things are amazing,” he said, before he was about to go flying, with wings.t

t Brian McFadden plays Norwich UEA on Friday June 17; tickets £21.50 in advance (plus any applicable booking fees) – call the box office on 01603 508050 or visit www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk.

For more information, log on to www.brianmcfadden.com

 

 

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