Kian Egan: ‘It’s a relief to be out of Westlife’
by Fabulous Mag
He’s gone from being in one of the world’s biggest boy bands to flying solo. And in his first interview since Westlife split, Kian Egan reveals he’s reinventing himself as a TV star
By Eimear O’Hagan, photography by Mark Hayman
Just a few months have passed since Westlife sung their final key change and ditched the infamous bar stools for good.
And so we were expecting Kian Egan to be in a reflective mood, maybe even in mourning for his 14-year music career. After 50 million album sales, surely it must be tricky adjusting to life after one of the most successful boy bands of all time?
Apparently not. Arriving at the Fabulous shoot, straight from his new presenting slot on This Morning, Kian, 32, is buzzing with excitement about the future. Despite being dismissed as little more than a backing singer to lead vocalists Shane Filan, 33, and Mark Feehily, 32, it’s Kian who’s hit the ground running when it comes to solo success.
With a new TV career, he’s also relishing having more time to spend with his wife, ex-Hollyoaks star Jodi Albert, 29, and their 10-month-old son Koa. It’s no wonder there’s a twinkle in his eye.
So, Westlife are no more! Why did the band decide to split this year?
Did things get tricky for you guys towards the end?
You joined the band as a teenager – that’s a huge part of your life devoted to the band.
Is it true that tensions in the band led to the split?
Have you any regrets about calling it a day when you did?
How did you feel the morning after your last gig at Dublin’s Croke Park?
The news broke about Shane’s bankruptcy during that final tour. What was your reaction when you found out about his problems?
What’s life like now post-Westlife?
How is fatherhood?
As well as This Morning, you’ve signed as a judge on Ireland’s The Voice. Is TV where you want to be?
You’re joining Holly Willoughby on the new series of Surprise Surprise, too. What’s it like being part of such an iconic show?
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Very diverse! Should Westlife’s manager Louis Walsh still be on the X Factor panel? Isn’t it time for a new judge?
Who are you backing this year?
What do you predict the other Westlife boys will end up doing?
Finally, will Westlife ever reunite?
● Kian is presenting Surprise Surprise on ITV1, Sundays, 7pm.
Tell us what you think on Twitter #FabMagKian
Kian wears: jacket, Alexander McQueen at Harvey Nichols
‘I’ve never known fear like I’ve felt on Strictly’: Nicky Byrne says singing to millions in Westlife was a cinch compared to dancing on TV
When Nicky Byrne was feeling miserable as sin following a verbal kicking from the BBC1 Strictly Come Dancing judges for an illegal lift during a waltz in his very first dance of the competition, dear old Sir Bruce Forsyth — bless him — went to seek him out backstage.
‘He was so encouraging,’ says Nicky, who’s more used to rapturous applause as one quarter of Westlife, one of the most successful boy bands in pop history. ‘He said: “Don’t let it get you down. It’s a journey. It’ll be fine — just work hard.” ’
Which Nicky did, practising all the hours God sends with Venezuelan partner Karen Hauer to perfect his cha cha cha for the following week’s show. ‘Nobody understands how nervous you are, going into that first night in front of ten or 11 million people,’ he says. ‘You’re being judged and you’re trying to remember steps in your head.
‘When we finished the waltz, I thought we did OK. I didn’t fall over or forget the routine. Then we stood there and got absolutely hammered.’
Craig Revel Horwood made such a fuss of the illegal lift you’d have thought they’d vandalised Strictly’s spray-tanning booth. They received a disappointing 17 points.
‘There was a part of me that thought: “This is week one. The judges are going to go hard.” OK, we did put an illegal lift in there and had we known it was as bad as it was going to be we wouldn’t have.
‘Anyway, I was raring to go with the cha cha cha to show what I could do. It’s a bit more me. There’s a lot of hip movement involved and a chance to have fun. The final rehearsal went great. I thought: “If I do that tonight I’m happy.” We were all set to go.’
But his cha cha cha was a disaster. Nicky and Karen hadn’t taken account of the noise of the applause. ‘The song starts with eight beats, during which I was supposed to do three big moves. But the crowd started clapping and I couldn’t hear the beats of the music. Not only that, but I was waiting for the clapping to stop.
‘I missed six of the eight beats, which is equivalent to missing the opening verse of a song and didn’t get to do the big moves at the start. The judges don’t see the rehearsals so they didn’t know they had been there and the people at home didn’t either.
‘To everyone bar me it looked like I’d fluffed it. I was chasing my tail after that. I managed to get in a few moves but my heart was pounding. When we got to the judges, I didn’t mind being criticised. I couldn’t even say I was saddened. I was really, really p***ed off.
‘I was just thinking, “How could that have happened?” It was nobody’s fault. Inside you feel like you’ve let yourself down. That really stung me.’
Thankfully, last Saturday’s quickstep went off without a hitch. The theme for the week was Hollywood and Nicky impressed the judges with his fancy footwork dressed as Jim Carrey from Nineties movie The Mask. When they received 27 points, Nicky was cock-a-hoop.
‘I had a good week. I wasn’t so nervous,’ he says. ‘Maybe it’s because I was playing a character and had a mask on. I was somebody else.’
Nicky, you see, is not entirely comfortable in the spotlight. For 14 years, he was ‘the bloke on the stool at the end’ (his words) in Westlife.
Fifteen months ago, he and fellow band members Shane Filan, Mark Feehily and Kian Egan took the decision to call it a day after selling more than 45 million records with 14 No 1 hits and 26 top ten singles. They performed their last concert in Dublin in June.
‘Outside the Westlife family, nobody really knows who you are,’ he says. ‘You’re one of four guys who sing ballads and wear black shirts. I saw Strictly as a chance for people to get to know the real me.’
In turn, he has been enjoying the chance to get to know the other competitors in what’s been called the best Strictly line-up ever. ‘I feel for Jerry,’ he says of model Jerry Hall, who was voted off last week.
‘We saw a side of her lots of people don’t see. She’s so funny. Her one-liners are priceless. The camaraderie backstage is really good. Everybody gets on, everybody buzzes, everybody’s nervous as hell and everybody’s tired.’
He adds: ‘Some people get good marks and some don’t. I’ve been near the bottom of the scoreboard for two weeks, so I know how disheartening it is when everybody else is being clapped and getting high scores.
‘It’s weird because this week Michael Vaughan [the former England cricketer] didn’t have a good week. He was in the dance off and [Olympian] Victoria Pendleton was deeply upset.
‘Richard Arnold [the ITV Breakfast presenter who ended up in the first dance-off of the series] said to me: “When you’re in that dance-off, it’s just horrible.” But we’re all going to have to face it. Thankfully, last week I had a good week. I knew I had more in me, which last Saturday showed. I can build on that. But it was a relief.’ He chuckles. ‘So, I’m still in it, but I’ve got an awful lot of work to do.’
He says the biggest thing about leaving Westlife is he feels out there on his own and exposed. ‘That goes for sitting on the couch and being interviewed. In Westlife, there’s four of you. Four different views.
‘Someone may be grumpy that day. Someone may be jokey. You support each other. When you’re on your own, you’ve got to be funny, interesting, intriguing. It’s not easy. It’s certainly taking me time to be the real Nicky Byrne.’
The real Nicky Byrne is actually thoroughly nice. During his ‘bloke on the stool’ days, he was always the warm, funny one with an easy line in banter.
Enjoying an early career as a professional footballer with Leeds United, Nicky was only 19 when The X Factor’s Louis Walsh approached him to join his new boy band, Westlife.
Nobody could have guessed how huge the band would become. Nor that Nicky would be a man with children of his own by the time Westlife decided their boy band days were over.
Today, Nicky is 34 and married to his childhood sweetheart Georgina, the daughter of former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. They have five-year-old twins, Jay and Rocco. He says of Westlife’s split: ‘There was no major row that forced our hand so we could have done more years, but you have to know when the fire inside the band has burned a little bit.
‘The line you always give is: “We’ll know when the time is right, when the fans don’t want us any more and the market has gone.” Funnily enough, the fans did still want us.’
So why call it a day? ‘The only times I was still really enjoying were the live shows,’ he says.
‘The discussions with the record company, decisions about the videos, the songs, were all becoming fraught. All of us knew the machine was starting to falter.
‘You can only put yourself through that for so long. There’d been plenty of discussions about whether it was time to leave or not. Some people felt yes, some weren’t sure and some felt no.’
What about him? ‘I knew it was time to move on and throw myself into something new. At that time, we were out of contract so everyone was a free agent. The label was banging on the door to offer us a new deal — with good money.
‘We’d been offered these before but we just couldn’t see ourselves signing another three or five-year deal and completing it. It had got to the point where we felt: “Oh, it’s another album, another tour, another X-Factor performance.” It was too easy. We needed to go away.’
Tough decision, though?
‘Yeah, I can remember the exact moment. My heart was sinking and I was thinking, “This is it.” You’re scared in a way, but we knew it was the right thing to knock it on the head. So we took a deep breath and said: “Let’s do it.”
‘Louis was crushed. One of his biggest strengths was always keeping us together. There was no big fallout. There were arguments, but that’s life.
‘We felt the quality of our singles was slipping. Our problem was that there was no Gary Barlow figure in the band and, towards the end, we weren’t necessarily the priority for other songwriters any more. That just happens.
‘Louis assured us we’d be fine and were just going through a phase. When he knew how we were feeling wasn’t going away, he said: “Let’s take a break for a year.” But we knew it was time to call it a day.’
The decision was made in summer 2011 when Westlife were part-way through their 11th major tour. Nicky had arranged to fly from Switzerland to meet his family for a holiday in Portugal. ‘I was on my own, and when you’re alone there’s a lot of time to think about it. I knew the timing was right for all of us.’
When they broke the news to Simon Cowell, who had steered them with Louis through their 14 years, he shook their hands.
‘He told us it had been a great time and for us to hold our heads high. He said: “If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”
‘It’s no more than you’d expect from Simon. If I did need guidance or advice, he’s at the end of a phone call.’
Westlife promised fans a farewell album and tour, which ended in an emotional concert in Dublin in June. Nicky says: ‘We all cried — us, our wives, the crew. It was a lifestyle for us all. My fear was waking up the next morning and thinking: “Oh no, it’s over.” But I never got down. It had been a fantastic ride and it was time to get into something else. I’d given everything I had to the band.’
Now he has ambitions to be a TV or radio presenter. ‘I’m the sort of person who has to get up in the morning and work. We all enjoy family time, but you still need to have a function.
‘I look at Dermot O’Leary and think: “That’s where I see myself going.” But, for now I’m knee-deep in Strictly.’
When producers approached Nicky to take part, he says he was encouraged by Georgina. There was, though, one proviso: the twins were starting school in Dublin so Nicky, a devoted father, wanted to share this precious time.
So he rehearses in a studio in Dublin from Monday to Thursday, then travels to London for the show on a Friday, where his wife and sons join him after school. Last week, they watched him on TV sporting Jim Carrey’s Mask make-up. ‘They were very excited my scores were higher,’ he says.
I wonder what they made of his first-week hammering? ‘Jay said: “Why did you lift her when you weren’t allowed to lift her, Daddy?” But hey, what’s gone’s gone.’ Indeed.
Strictly is on BBC1 at 6.30pm tomorrow.
The first episode of Surprise, Surprise was broadcast on Sunday on ITV 1 and Kian did such an amazing job co-presenting, very proud of him! He also tweeted that he started filming The Voice Of Ireland so loads of exciting things coming.
Kian co-presenting Surprise, Surprise – ITV1 [21.October.2012]
Credit/Source: ITV1 / youtube.com/TheWestliferin
One more week full of support for Nicky and Karen as they got through yeeh! Are you ready for more votes next week? I’m sure you all are, ha! Congrats to Nicky and Karen, they were incredible – so proud here!
Strictly Come Dancing Live – BBC One [20.October.2012] – Week 3
Strictly Come Dancing Results – BBC One [21.October.2012] – Week 3
Nicky Byrne has admitted that seeing his sister-in-law Cecelia Ahern with a newborn has made himself and his wife Georgina broody again.
The 33-year-old said he’d “absolutely love” to have another child in the next few years and introduce a little sister or brother to his twins Rocco and Jay.
And the household’s been a little quiet of late with their sons just having started primary school.
“We’ve put the boys in separate classes which we thought could be a bit strange, but it’s worked out great and they’ve relished it so far.”
The father-of-two married his other half in 2003.
“Down the road, Georgina and I would definitely want another child, it’d be a great addition to the family,” said Byrne.
“Cecelia’s baby Sonny is so cute and he’s been great for the boys.” The singer is currently competing on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and insisted that he’d never have considered taking part on the show if it meant being away from home for rehearsals.
“I wouldn’t have done the show if I couldn’t train in Dublin. I met the guys from Strictly before the final Westlife tour and said that I’d have to be in Ireland for rehearsal sessions.
“In fairness to them, they looked at it and came back to say it was fine.
“So I train here and it’s great. I get to see Georgina in the morning and bring the kids to school.
“I’ve been back and forth for 14 years and funnily enough in the later years of Westlife I had a lot more time at home, as busy as it all was. So I didn’t want to go back to that. I didn’t want my children starting school and me being over in England.
“I really thought: ‘OK, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll take the hit and do something else.’
“I’m so glad it has worked out and was able to be achieved because it is such a buzz to be on a programme like this one.”
Byrne will take to the dancefloor once again tonight for the third live show of Strictly Come Dancing at 6.30pm.
I’m not gonna lie, I still can’t believe that Westlife are not together anymore. It feels like they are on a break that is a bit longer than it normally used to be and that they will be back together on that stage.
It’s already been one year since the lads announced their decision to take their separate ways. I will never forget that day but I don’t want to make us all feel down so I also want to say that everything feels very very exciting for each of the lads individually.
We are already enjoying Kian and Nicky on our TV screens on a weekly basis and Mark and Shane will both release solo albums. I’m very proud of them four and love them all both as a band as well as individuals.
Let’s all keep supporting them through each of their projects and keep spreading the word about them four!! Keep sharing the love and backing Kian, Mark, Nicky and Shane all the way. <3 :')
Love you forever lads,
YEY!!! Great news everyone as it was announced today on Strictly Come Dancing that Nicky and Karen got through and will compete again next week. Well done to them both and go everyone who voted for them! Keep supporting Nicky and Karen on Strictly Come Dancing with your votes and spreading the word.
Here is a video of Nicky and Karen that includes their Cha Cha Cha dance, introduction video, scores and little chat.
Strictly Come Dancing Live – BBC One [13.October.2012] – Week 2
Credit/Source: BBC One / youtube.com/wildguitarn2k
By EOIN MURPHY
A week after his savaging on Strictly Come Dancing, Nicky Byrne is bent on redemption.
They don’t come much bigger than Nicky Byrne. With Westlife he has sold over 50 million albums, filled Croke Park four times and pocketed a personal fortune believed to be in excess of €10m. He is married to the daughter of one of the country’s most notorious politicians and his sons, Jay and Rocco, are rivalled only by Jedward as Ireland’s most famous twins.
But for all that, for the past decade Nicky has lived in a showbiz bubble, insulated from public scrutiny and acerbic comment – until last weekend. After performing a waltz on Strictly Come Dancing with his American partner, Karen Hauer, Nicky received something that his ego hasn’t experienced in over a decade – an utter bruising.
‘We had the waltz down to a tee last week in Dublin,’ he says. ‘Then I walked in for a run-through and I forgot it all as soon as I got on the floor. It’s very intimidating being on the Strictly set but Craig [judge Craig Revel Horwood] deemed the routine “poor” and the lift “illegal” and gave us a bit of a savaging.
‘I thought I went into it correctly and I got slated. I took all their comments on board. Obviously, they were very harsh for the first week. And we did an illegal lift and as a result we are right down at the bottom and, I suppose, rightly so. From then on, I decided I wasn’t going to give them a second chance to savage me like that again.’
The problem, Nicky complains, is that the judges and the general public don’t know the real him. To the 10 million BBC viewers, he is just one quarter of an ageing boyband.
‘Not everybody knows the cheeky performer that is Nicky Byrne,’ he laments. ‘The Westlife fans and the people who came to the live shows know that character. And I suppose, when I stepped out of the band and agreed to sign up to a show like Strictly, it was a chance for me to let all these people know who I really am. Because when we did shows, we sat on stools and we sang ballads. And I wasn’t the lead singer and, to the average person who wasn’t a Westlife fan, I was just some guy who was sitting at the end.
‘That never bothered me but mentally I had to make a decision that if I was out on my own, I had to change that perception for a lot of people and that it would take work. As famous as Westlife the brand name is, it only got me into the competition but it doesn’t allow for the personality.’
Nicky hopes last night’s performance of the cha-cha will redeem him. He spent all week in a dance studio in Dublin’s inner city, secretly practising the high-octane routine to LMFAO’s I’m Sexy And I Know It. I meet him just after lunchtime on Thursday and got a sneak preview of his number. Wearing loose-fitting grey tracksuit pants and a sweat-soaked navy and silver T-shirt, he bursts into a routine so fast and complex it would give Michael Flatley a run for his money. Afterwards, gasping for breath, Nicky flashes his trademark smile and asks: ‘What do you think?’
I have to say I’m impressed. After 14 years following Westlife, the most dancing I have ever seen him do is a glorified version of musical chairs with the band’s ever-present four stools.
‘The cha-cha is such a different dance,’ he says. ‘It is full of personality and that really suits me. I need to get that across to the public. If they get to know me, hopefully they will vote for me. It is a fast dance and there are over 100 more things that we have had to incorporate into the set this week. But there is also the chance to smile and be funny and sexy and hopefully, I can nail it on the night.’
Nailing it on the night was never a problem for Nicky the team player. Now, he admits he is consumed with fear.
‘The biggest fear I get is at the start, just before I go on, when I hear Tess and Bruce introduce us,’ he says. ‘That is the moment when I get that awful knot in my stomach. They play the opening video sequence and then that realisation that you have to go out on your own and perform hits you.
‘It’s like what I imagine it is like just before you go into a boxing match. You can’t show that fear when you go out on stage because you have to put on a show. My biggest fear now is that I will go completely blank and forget everything I have prepared. For the first time, I understand the sort of stress and pressure that Louis is under week in, week out – to be constantly told you are great or you are s***, to be scrutinised for every little thing you do or say. In Westlife, all four of us dealt with it. Now it is just me. It’s tough.’
For Nicky’s partner, 30-year-old Karen, the battle is merging the pop star with the dancer.
‘He is naturally a great performer and I want to keep the Westlife spirit that he has,’ she says. ‘But I need to mix that with the ballroom steps. The most difficult thing was to get him to smile. He has this Westlife pout, this look where he squints his eyes and looks longingly at the camera. That doesn’t work with dancing. It is this smooth criminal kind of look. We need to get him out of that and into the smiling ballroom dancer. If he can nail that, it will really help him.’
He has had plenty of support from home. It was his 34th birthday this week and all of Westlife wished him luck. Shane Filan will take his family to the studio next weekend to offer moral support. Kian and Mark are holding out in case Nicky makes it to the final. But the cornerstone for the former professional footballer is, as always, his family. Georgina is always at his side, scrutinising videos of the day’s rehearsals at home and cheering him on at weekends. It was she who convinced him to take part.
How does Georgina feel about him sweating and grinding with Karen?
‘She has been fine. She was the first person to push me towards it,’ he says smiling. ‘If you can do that show and that dancing and be half decent at it, the exposure can only be a good thing. She has been great. I go home and show her some of the moves on the phone and she gives me her feedback. She comes over every weekend to support me. Jay and Rocco are delighted. I am home every week and then they fly in after school on the Friday.
‘They are glued to the show – when I made the illegal lift, they called me on it. Jay said, “Why did you lift her when you weren’t allowed lift her?”
‘Don’t get me wrong, I was happy in Westlife. I was probably the one who didn’t want it to end – it just became inevitable. But I am very happy at the moment, waking up at home and being able to rehearse in Dublin. My head is in the right place and I am busy and I still have a buzz from the TV side of things. The pressure of live television has replaced the adrenaline rush of the concerts. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has done Strictly and said they regretted it.’
The aspect of the show he is least comfortable with is the wardrobe. Having been dubbed Glitterballs by Georgina on Twitter, Nicky has railed against the frippery – and told the producers he won’t wear spray tan.
‘I really have trouble with the fake tan, the heels and the sequins,’ he said. ‘I keep putting this block up about being dressed within an inch of my life. I have managed to ward them off with the fake tan and I have managed to keep the sequins to a minimum.
‘But as soon as you do the dress rehearsal on the Friday, you go back into the stylist’s room and take off your kit. Then an hour later, the wardrobe girls knock on the dressing room door to let you know that the powers that be want more sequins. You don’t want to go out there looking like a panto dame and I am doing my best to resist but it is Strictly and you have to look the part to a point.’
Nicky, still sweating profusely, breaks off to take a sip of water. He has been off alcohol for six weeks and has taken up kick-boxing for aerobic fitness. He is trimmer than I have ever seen him. Georgina, a fitness trainer by profession, looks after his diet.
He says: ‘Food and fitness Georgina knows really well, so she helps me with all that. But I also have my own trainer, Pádraig Murphy at Involve fitness in Blackrock. He is a former Irish kickboxing champion so I do the pads with him. I will only spar with him because anyone else would kick the s*** out of me.
‘I have never trained as hard for anything in my life. I had to because it is so intense. I knocked the drink on the head as well. I wasn’t a big drinker anyway but I gave it up while I was training. I had a few beers after the show last Saturday but I really needed them after those comments. If you work hard you can play hard. I gave it up for about six weeks coming into the show and I feel now that I am in the best shape of my life.’
Karen returns with a fresh towel and leads Nicky back to the dance studio. Before he disappears, he again flashes his trademark smile and thanks me for making the effort to interview him. If the British public see only half of his natural charm, then he is in with a shot of waltzing away with the title.
AMAZING news from Mark everyone! He confirmed on his Twitter page that he has started working on a solo album!! Words are not good enough to describe how excited I am, I had tears reading his tweet *WHOOP*!! With his unique voice and songwriting skills it can only be something incredible. BEST LUCK creating it Marky, we are all here and will be supporting you all the way.
Note: If you love Mark remember you can check mine and Nat’s fansite for him – Mark-Feehily.Net.