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.