Do you remember two Irish boy bands that had phenomenal success during there lengthy careers? Between them, they notched up over 75 million record sales and took the charts by storm with a combined 21 number one records. I am of course talking about Boyzone and Westlife.
I heard that Keith Duffy (Boyzone) and Brian McFadden (Westlife) had joined forces to create a duet who tour the country as BOYZLIFE and that they're embarking on an 11 date UK tour in December, taking in venues that they have never played before, guaranteeing an 'up close and personal experience' for anyone who is fortunate enough to get a ticket.
We were invited to chat with the guys in London ahead of the tour, read on to learn all about how they agree on the set list every night, possible special guest appearances and what's on their Christmas lists this year!
You're playing at 11 venues across the UK in December, are there any dates on the list that you're really excited about?
These are venues that we’ve never played before, they’re up close and personal type shows so we hope that they’ll be very memorable events for the fans. There are places that we love to play, Glasgow for example will always be one of the highlights, the fans there are just mad! Manchester, Birmingham, the further North you go, the crazier the night is! We’ve no idea why that is….. When you play a gig in London, it’s the same as most capital cities around the world, they’re so used to seeing bands all the time, it’s as if the people in the audience have this “impress me” attitude, the further North you go, the more excited people get and they love to have a good night. Looking back from both sides (Westlife and Boyzone) our most successful places have been Scotland and Belfast, absolutely crazy places!
It also depends on WHEN it is you’re playing, if it’s on a Monday or Tuesday night, the crowd tend to soak it all in, enjoy it and clap along, when you play at a weekend, people have had a few wines and it just turns into a bit of a wild night! On our first Boyzlife tour, we played a Saturday night in Leeds and I think it has to go down as THE craziest night ever, everyone was so drunk, one girl went into labour (she wasn’t drinking!) and someone in the second row puked all over the head of someone on the front row….. The cleaning bill the next day must have been astronomical!
You both come from bands that have very impressive back catalogues of work, how do you agree on the setlist? Is it a 50/50 split?
We try to keep it very even as people are either Westlife fans or Boyzone fans, we have 21 number one singles from both bands so a lot to choose from. We rehearsed a lot of these and we figure out which ones we do well as a duo, some just don’t work that well when Keith and I do it, we tried Westlife’s “If I Let You Go” and Boyzone’s “Baby Can I Hold You” and for some reason, they just don’t translate well for a duo, these are songs that need 5 people singing them or it just doesn’t sound right. I think we tend to choose songs that are quite lead vocal heavy.
Does that make it more difficult as you’re only choosing these types of songs?
It doesn’t, it’s quite ironic, back in the Boyzone days, I (Keith) never really did many of the lead vocals, I was more backing vocals and when you go out to play songs that are quite heavy on lead vocals, you end up feeling a bit of a spare part as there isn’t so much for you to do, I hated those songs back then but have come to love them now as they’re ones that are included in our setlist now. The same goes for me (Brian) with “Flying Without Wings”, the whole song is Shane and Mark singing, there isn’t much of a chorus or even backing vocals, I hated doing it especially when we performed it on the TV as 3 of us would literally be standing behind Shane and Mark and not opening our mouths for the entire time, nowadays, we can really get involved in the songs and make them our own, it’s refreshing!
I imagine from touring the world you've both got some pretty interesting stories, do you tend to tell any in-between songs?
We did for the first Boyzlife tour, I would say that it was very heavy on stories, we only did 8-9 songs per night on the first tour, we had video screens that would be beaming out early footage of Westlife, one example was where we did a duet with Mariah Carey in the early days and then I would spend time talking about how this actually came about….Mark Feehily approached Mariah Carey at a party and came back to us and told us that he’d asked her to duet with us, 4 weeks later, we were recording the song. We got a lot of feedback from fans saying that they love the stories but they wanted to hear more of the hits as the fans have been long time followers and they all turned up to hear the songs so we turned it around from doing one song followed by a story to one story followed by 3 songs to make sure that people felt like they got their money’s worth. Even then, we still had people coming up to us asking why we didn’t sing a certain song! For the 2017 Winter tour, we are going to do as many of the hits as we possibly can, they’re going to be LONG nights!
Keith - you're also an established actor featuring in many programs including Coronation Street where you were nominated for 'Sexiest Male' 2 years on the roll in 2010 & 2011, I've read many things about a possible return to 'the street', will you be heading back one day?
I can’t confirm or unconfirm! The reality is that they’ve been in touch a couple of times asking me to see if I would be available to make a return, I was on the show on and off for ten years, during this time, the character became very very popular. What was funny is the character was only ever meant to be in the show for 3 episodes, I think the original storyline was along the lines of me being done for attempted rape, I actually changed the performance of the character myself and on those 3 episodes, I came across as more endearing than aggressive and I did that purposely to get a longer ride out of the experience. I turned the nasty, drunk character into someone that was a real charmer and ultimately, it kept me on the show for 10 years. I always said that I would love to go back, I made some great friends there and learned a whole new trade on that show, I learned how to feel alive again and pursue a career outside of Boyzone which I badly needed at the time and I’d love to bring the character back into the show, even if it was for just one episode just to give the audience a bit of a kick. When I walk down the street, more people recognise me for the time I spent in Corrie than they do for being a member of Boyzone! So the character obviously made a real impact on them!
Brian - You've been involved in TV too but mainly from a presenting point of view (and a judge on both Australia's Got Talent and Australian Idol), if you could choose to join any TV show, which would it be and why?
Peaky Blinders…..I just love the grittiness of that show. I only ever imagine me playing a part on a show that’s already been done, I don’t think I could ever go into a show as a new character. I was approached by Coronation Street to play the role that Shane Ward is playing now, at the time, I was in London and I was busy with Boyzlife and the idea of moving to Manchester full time was a big move and I had never acted before either so it just wasn’t the right time or place. If I was to get into acting, it would have to be something I was really passionate about, not just do it for the sake of it. I might be up for playing the part of Keith Duffy in the movie about the life of Keith Duffy but people at home just wouldn’t believe that he was actually THAT good looking! (Keith interjected saying that he takes this as a complement as when people say things like this, it normally means that they’re just jealous of you – further comments flew from one to the other, The Elephant Man was bought into the argument and I had to step in to break it up)
As Christmas will be just around the corner from the tour, are you planning on any guest appearances from other members of Boyzone or Westlife?
We don’t plan them as they never work if you do plan them! We played Birmingham before and who should be waiting for us backstage before the show but Shane Lynch, he joined us for a few songs and it was great, pure ‘off the cuff’ kind of stuff and it worked well. I dare say that Ronan and Mikey might try to catch a show so I’m sure someone will make an appearance!
You were both very young when you hit the headlines with your respective bands, knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer to your younger selves?
Brian - I’d tell him to sell his house, get every penny you can and put it all on Leicester to win the Premiership! If I’d done that, we wouldn’t be here chatting to you, we’d be in Barbados!
Keith – Remember your roots, keep your feet on the ground, enjoy every moment because it all comes and goes far too quickly! I think me and Brian have been blessed and have the opportunity now to go back and enjoy the audience, without them, it wouldn’t be a show. Treat people the way that you like to be treated because the people you meet on your way up are the same people you meet on the way down and you’ll never know when you might need a favour!
Have you been good boys this year? What's on your Christmas list?
If we weren’t good boys, we’re not going to tell you about it and as you don’t know anything about us being bad, I think we’ve got away with it!
Brian – I think I’m ready for some new golf clubs, my game has improved a lot and I think I need some new sticks.
Keith – A new bicycle, a hybrid or something I don’t have to pedal!
An electric bike?
If I were thinking about getting one of them, I might as well get a moped….
Before we parted company, we decided it was only fair to put Brian & Keith through our high pressured quickfire question round, as there were two of them, we alternated the questions, here's how we got on;
Coffee or Tea? (Brian) Coffee
Coca Cola or Pepsi? (Keith) Coca Cola
Take That or The Spice Girls? (Brian) Take That
Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead? (Keith) Game of Thrones
CD or Vinyl? (Brian) CD
Camping or Glamping? (Keith) Camping
Car or Motorbike? (Brian) Car
Shower or Bath? (Keith) Shower
Noel Fielding or Mary Berry? (Brian) Noel Fielding
Digestive or Hob Nob? (Keith) Hob Nob
Tattoos or Piercings? (Brian) Tattoos
God or Google? (Keith) God....no Google....no God.....(etc)
We thanked the guys for their time and wished them every success for the future.
If you’re looking for an ideal night out just before Christmas, why not get the girls together and head down to a show, you’ll have a great night, drink a few wines, just don’t go into labour or puke over someone in the front row!
Tickets are on sale HERE for all 11 dates of the December tour.