WHEN ex-Westlife star Shane Filan was last in Southend for his first solo tour it was in the wake of something of a tough time.
After 14 years in Westlife and their forty-four million sales, just when he should have been set up for life, he found himself bankrupt and staring at a bleak future in 2014.
A bad Irish property investment left him hugely exposed financially and he was making his first scary steps as a solo artist, on the road, alone.
But two years on, he’s back with a new album, a new tour and Shane – who along with Feehily and McFadden, was the lead singer in Westlife – is in fine form.
When we chat his Irish burr is unmistakeable and he’s clearly happy to be going back on tour.
“Southend had a great atmosphere last time around – and it’s a great venue,” he tells me, chuckling his way through the conversation.
“I actually brought my daughter with me to Southend – we had a bit of a daddy/daughter time. She was on stage for part on the show – on a couch in the middle of the acoustic section.
“Touring is best part – getting out there, seeing fans, performing. It’s just fun.”
Does he feel in a different place emotionally this time around? “It’s good to be past all that. Touring last time around it was a lot more mentally hard. I suppose I was more scared. What with everything that was going on for us personally as a family, and it was my first time alone. But now we’re past all that.
“I just focus on the future – I don’t like to look to the past – everything happens for a reason, I really believe that.”
His new album, Right Here, released back in October is a slower-paced effort than his upbeat first one. What inspired the change in tempo?
“The first album was such a success, but there were people wanting more ballads and I suppose you always try and fix things, try and get better so I did want to get more ballads on there this time around and my voice is best suited to singing ballads. This album is more me vocally.”
Shane has been married for more than ten years to wife Gillian, and is a dad-of-three. Does his miss family-life while he’s on the road?
“My family are the most important thing in the world. I have to work, I have to provide but I try and juggle it as best I can. I commute as much as I can, if I get a day off I fly back home, do the school runs.
“The most important thing I am is a dad, I don’t go more than a week without seeing them. They come on the tour with me, and I go back as much as possible.”
When I ask if his children, Nicole, Patrick and Shane, enjoy being on tour, and on the tour bus with their dad, I’m greeted with genuine mirth from Shane.
“Oh the tour bus is the most important thing in their world,” he exclaims. “They don’t care about set lists, the songs, the album…It’s all about it the bus!”
“It’s a double decker and it’s pretty cool for me – so for them it’s just so exciting. They can’t wait.”
And while it’s an inevitable question (yep, he is asked it in every interview he does he confesses wryly) it has to be asked. So, will Westlife – who had twenty-eight platinum discs, fourteen chart-topping singles – ever reunite?
“I just don’t know. I don’t like to give fans false hope and say we might, in years to come. But you can’t tell the future and there is a chance we may years down the line. We stopped because we just were not enjoying it anymore.
“But we’ve got only fond memories, when we meet up – which we do now and again – they’re happy memories.”
When we spoke Shane was enjoying putting the finishing touches to his set list.
“It’ll be a lot of fun. If you liked the first tour, you’ll love this one. The set list is really strong. And they’ll be some of the Westlife hits. I don’t want to just perform ten tracks off a new album that people will only just have heard. I want to give people their memories.
“There’s nothing like being on stage and the whole audience singing along with you – it’s such a buzz. It’s actually choosing which Westlife songs that’s the hardest part.”
For a man who has survived in the showbiz world for as long as Shane has, he is remarkably modest and down-to-earth. Does ever just think, wow?
“It’s been more than half of my life. I’m 36 now and I’ve been in the industry 20 years and whether you liked Westlife or not, we achieved a lot together.
“Westlife fulfilled all of our dreams 1,000 times over.”
So what is there left for him to achieve?
“That one great song. The one that you’re known for. I suppose that’s what we all want.”
Right Here is at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, on Thursday, 10 March at 7.30pm. Tickets from £32.50. To book, go to southendtheatres.org.uk
First published in the Echo newspaper on February 12, 2016