When two become one as Boyzlife’s Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden sing Boyzone and Westlife songbook at York Barbican

INTERVIEWS done for the day, or so they thought as Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy headed off to The Belfry for a fundraising Parkinson’s Disease golf day, representing Ireland on the morrow.

5pm, Tuesday, no response was forthcoming to CharlesHutchPress’s prearranged phone-call to the Boyzlife boyz.

Messages and phone number left; PR company contacted. No problem, Team Boyzlife would be in touch, and sure enough, at 5.30pm, the interview that had slipped off the bottom of the page was back on, Brian and Keith talking ten to the dozen, voices often overlapping as they travelled towards Sutton Coldfield for the Four Nations tournament.

Apologies for the confusion, they said, offering their explanation, as Team Boyzlife clicked into gear, as they would at The Belfry. “Put the two of us together on the golf course and we become one professional golfer,” jokes Brian.

Likewise, two into one will go on Sunday night at York Barbican in the show where Boyzone and Westlife become one as “the Nineties boyband superstars bring you all of the hits of both bands in one evening”.

Brian, 41, and Keith, 47, first took the Boyzlife show on the road in February and March 2020, selling 35,000 tickets. “But we couldn’t finish the tour because of the first Covid lockdown,” says Brian. “We got through 22 of the 40 shows, and 18 months later we’ve started up again [playing King George’s Hall, Blackburn on October 6].

“For us, it was a break we’d never had before. My fiancée Danielle and I ended up having a baby girl [Ruby, born in May 2021] and starting a family again, and Boyzlife got to write our first original album, which comes out next year. The first single is The One and the second one is ready to go too. We’ve all been fighting which one should go first, so maybe around Christmas for the release.”

Boyzlife have released one album already, July 2020’s Strings Attached, following in the footsteps of the late Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison in being teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). One difference, Brian and Keith could provide new vocals to nine songs cherry-picked from the catalogue of 18 number one singles shared between Westlife and Boyzone.

“In actual fact,” says Keith, “it was Brian recording his last solo album [February 2019’s Otis] in a tribute to Otis Redding that led to our album. Some of the producers and engineers on that album had been working with the RPO, and they suggested, ‘why don’t you do an album with the RPO too?’.

“The two of us wanted to write an original album but we realised we needed a closing of the past and those Boyzone and Westlife songs are made for an orchestra. We were very lucky to work with them and very pleased with the results.

“Now, within the live show, we have a special section where we’ve recorded songs with the orchestra and we sing them to playbacks. We’ve done that many times in our careers, but never to the accompaniment of 84 musicians in an orchestra with two idiots out front.”

Brian has released five solo albums since leaving Westlife in March 2004, while Keith has completed Boyzone’s Thank You And Goodnight farewell tour, but how and when did they first work together? “I’ll be completely honest with you. It was kind of just getting into a room with a lot of the show being autobiographical and singing only six or seven songs,” recalls Brian.

“We’d never sung together, never worked together, and we picked the easiest songs to sing. Now, when we’re doing the set list, it comes down to tempo and what songs will go together well, and we have to leave out about seven or eight songs, but we still have options as to what to include.

“But we always have to do the biggest-selling songs, like No Matter What, and whenever we sing that song we can’t help but think of Stephen Gately puckering up to sing it.”

So many choices: World Of Our Own; Mandy; Queen Of My Heart; Picture Of You; Words; No Matter What; Uptown Girl; Flying Without Wings; You Raise Me Up; Going Gets Tough; Swear It Again; Father And Son; Love Me For A Reason and My Love.

“But between us we only had six songs that were uptempo!” says Brian. Why? “I guess, if ain’t broke, why fix it? The proof is in the pudding; all those number ones. Everyone else was making up-tempo records when we were the two bands with slow songs.”

Westlife became well known for singing songs sitting down, in the tradition of fellow Irishman Val Doonican in his rocking chair. “That was my nickname from day one. I was ‘Val’ because I wore a red sweater!” admits Brian.

Look at the tour itinerary and you will see the tour dates are divided into clusters between October 6 and December 14. “That’s the difference with the earlier days,” says Keith. “We’re better able to balance our music and family life.

“We both had children when we were young; I have a 21-year-old daughter, Mia, and 25-year-old son, Jay, [Brian has two teenage daughters, Molly and Lilly, with ex-wife Kerry Katona] but Boyzone didn’t get a lot of time off or holiday time.

“We just had to keep cracking on, going to wherever we were having hits, because we were so successful, but now we have a proper balance where we’ll do two or three shows, have some time off, then do some more shows.”

Boyzlife play York Barbican on October 17, 7.30pm, and Hull City Hall on November 5, 7.30pm. Box office: York, at yorkbarbican.co.uk; Hull, hulltheatres.co.uk.

Did you know?

MUSICIAN, singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, drummer and television presenter Keith Duffy’s full name is Keith Peter Thomas Francis John Duffy.

Putting the sole into soul, Paul Carrack takes on lockdown isolation in a One On One situation for September’s DIY album

“The sound of the record is warm, I think, and engaging, and nourishing,” says Paul Carrack of his new album, One On One. Picture: Nico Wills Cornbury

SHEFFIELD voice of soul Paul Carrack will play York Barbican on February 17 on next year’s Good & Ready tour on the back of releasing his 18th solo studio album next month.

Created in his home studio base “when lockdown cast its unwelcome shadow on the music business”, One On One will be out on September 17 on his own label, Carrack-UK.

This will be his first album since These Days in 2018, a year when he performed at York Barbican on February 16.

Singer, songwriter, keyboard player and guitarist Carrack, 70, has run his record label and touring operation for more than 20 years, equipping him with a do-it-yourself mentality to cope with the need to adapt to pandemic restrictions.

Paul Carrack playing York Barbican in the pre-Covid live years in February 2018. Picture: Simon Bartle

He not only wrote, played and recorded the album, but this time, answering to his muse and trusting his instincts, he even mixed it too. From the voice of Mike + The Mechanics’ The Living Years, you could almost call One On One the result of his live-in years.

Aside from cameos from the likes of a long-time friend and collaborator, ex-Pretenders guitarist Robbie McIntosh, and former James Brown sideman Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, he often worked on his own, effectively a one-man band on a defiantly live-sounding album, where only one song existed in demo form beforehand. Carrack conjured the rest during lockdown, the mood set by the opening track, the tour title-inspiring Good & Ready.

“The sound of the record is warm, I think, and engaging, and nourishing,” he says. “There’s two ballads on there, but the rest of it is surprisingly upbeat. I think that’s maybe because we were mid-tour when the touring was shut down, but I was still in a kind of ‘live’ mode.”

The “decidedly funky” A Long Way To Go is boosted by a stellar horn section, arranged by Carrack’s long-time neighbour, but new friend, Dave Arch.

The album artwork for One On One, out on September 17

“I gave Dave the midi part that I’d written, and he transcribed it, and voiced it properly,” says Carrack. “You can’t beat real horns. So, we had Steve Beighton, of course, who’s been in my band for 20 years and tours with me all the time.

“We got the legendary ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, of James Brown and Van Morrison fame, Dennis Rollins on trombone, and Andy Greenwood on trumpet. So, we recorded the horns in [the studio] here, and they sound great. And backing vocals by Michelle John, who I met working in Eric Clapton’s band. She’s absolutely unbelievable.”

Moments from Carrack’s personal life inform One On One. I Miss You So, for example, emerged from not being able to visit his daughter, after she gave birth to his new granddaughter early in 2020.

It is never a case, however, of Carrack capitalising on a situation for a tune. “I hardly ever have a plan about writing a song,” he says. “I come in here, I sit at the keyboard, or the guitar, get something going, start some lines off the top of my head. And without trying to sound too pretentious, things come out.”

Paul Carrack playing at the Underneath The Stars Festival at Cinderhill Farm, Barnsley, last Friday

The ballad You’re Not Alone was released in February as the first single from the album, subsequently being picked as a BBC Radio 2 Record of The Week. “I think I was listening to a conversation on the radio, or something, and somebody said, ‘Well, if you think the world’s going mad, you’re not alone’. And I thought, ‘Yeah’,” recalls Carrack. “The sentiment is one of support really, for someone very close who was struggling with the anxiety of lockdown.”

The swinging Lighten Up Your Mood has another ‘Pee Wee’ horn arrangement and the slinky When Love Is Blind features Carrack’s son, Jack, on drums. Normally, he would have played on the whole album, had he not been living on the other side of town.

Shame On You, Shame On Me has shades of Carrack’s original 1960s’ heroes such as Ray Charles, while Set Me Free carries a simple message for our times. “Not trying to be political or anything, more a cry from the heart to get back to some kind of normal,” he says. “I’m lucky, I live in a nice place, I’ve got a great family, but we definitely miss being out on the road.”

One On One closes with Carrack’s latest re-make of a time-worn favourite, in the wake of The Young Rascals’ Groovin’, Jackie DeShannon’s When You Walk In The Room and Goffin & King’s When My Little Girl Is Smiling. This time, he enriches Charlie Rich’s country crossover hit of 1973, Behind Closed Doors.

Paul Carrack will play 27 dates on next year’s tour

The full track listing is: Good & Ready; A Long Way To Go; I Miss You So; You’re Not Alone; Lighten Up Your Mood; Precious Time; When Love Is Blind; Shame On You, Shame On Me; Set Me Free and Behind Closed Doors.

Now that doors are open once more for gigging, Carrack will play Rye Jazz Festival, Bexhill on Sea, on August 26, followed by three autumn shows that will kick off at Hull Bonus Arena on October 19.

Next year’s 27-date Good & Ready tour will feature three Yorkshire gigs: Hull City Hall on January 22, York Barbican on February 17 and a homecoming finale at Sheffield City Hall on March 19.

York tickets for the soulful vocal sound of Ace’s How Long, Squeeze’s Tempted and Mike + The Mechanics’ Over My Shoulder, Silent Running and The Living Years are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk. For Hull Bonus Arena, premier.ticketek.co.uk; Hull City Hall, hulltheatres.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Paul Carrack is good and ready for York Barbican gig in 2022 and summer album

Paul Carrack: new single, new tour and 2022 tour

SHEFFIELD soul stalwart Paul Carrack will play York Barbican on February 17 2022 on his 24-date Good And Ready Tour.

Further Yorkshire gigs are in next year’s diary for Hull City Hall on January 22 and a home-city finale on March 19.

Carrack, the golden voice of Ace’s How Long, Squeeze’s Tempted and Mike + The Mechanics’ The Living Years and Over My Shoulder, will release new single You’re Not Alone on Friday (19/2/2021) across all digital platforms via his independent label, Carrack-UK.

The live years before Covid: Paul Carrack at York Barbican in February 2018. Picture: Simon Bartle

His 18th studio set of a 50-year career, One On One, will follow in the summer, on a date yet to be confirmed for his first album since These Days in 2018, a year when he performed at York Barbican on February 16.

The single and album are the results of Carrack heading into his recording studio since the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020. He not only wrote, recorded and produced every song on One On One, but he also played all of the instruments, making his latest work the very definition of a solo record, made when he was very much alone.

Carrack, who will turn 70 on April 22, says of You’re Not Alone: “I’d say the song is self-explanatory, but the sentiment is one of unquestioning commitment and support. I very much hope I get the chance to perform this song live with my band when we get the green light to start touring again, which we all hope will be at some point this year.”

Tickets for his York Barbican show are on sale at £42.75 to £48.35 at yorkbarbican.co.uk; Hull tickets, hulltheatres.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

“I’d say the song is self-explanatory, but the sentiment is one of unquestioning commitment and support,” says Paul Carrack, introducing his new single, You’re Not Alone