Off the Record – Brian McFadden Interview

The Temperamental Pencil caught up with Brian McFadden ahead of his Soul Jam Tour to South Africa in November. They spoke about where his love for Soul music came from, the Soul Jam Tour and why he’d want to be a Beagle. Oh, and invisibility.


Soul Jam Tour. I like the sound of that. Reminds me of bacon. Sue me. It’s damn cool whichever way you look at it.

Brian McFadden is embarking on a soul tour – live performances of all his favourite soul songs, as well as releasing an Otis Redding tribute album – Otis. There will also be some of Westlife’s hits thrown into the mix on the tour, with a bit of a soul twist, I reckon.

I’ve heard two of his tracks on that album, and I must say, damn. The guy can sing. He does Otis justice. Which, in my opinion, is hard to do. Otis had it. Brian has it.

He brings rich, textured vocal tones to the recordings. Since his Westlife days, (which were ridiculously huge, including multi-platinum records and hits and screaming groups of teenage, and not-so-teenage, fans ala the Beatles craze), he’s obviously been doing some soul-searching.

Clearly, he’s found what he was looking for. The sound, and his voice, say as much. You can hear it. Brian McFadden knows what he wants, and he went and got it for himself. I dig.

He’ll be touring SA in November with his Soul Jam, with one evening in Centurion (Platteland) and two evenings in Cape Town, at the Spier Wine Estate. A nine-piece band is accompanying him, and that is as appealing as a Guinness on St. Paddy’s.

We had a chat with him during a quick round of Golf and spoke about where his love for Soul music came from, the Soul Jam Tour and why he’d want to be a Beagle. Oh, and invisibility.

Grab tickets here: www.webtickets.co.za

I’ve got mine.

The Temperamental Pencil:

First off, congratulations on the Soul Jam Tour! I love the angle of a soul tour. Is this going back to your roots? Did you grow up listening to Soul? At home on the vinyl?

Brian McFadden:

Well, when I grew up – I’ll tell you how I started with soul – there weren’t many songs we had access to growing up – most of the top stations were just general radio stations, there were playing Nirvana and Guns ‘n Roses and stuff like that, we didn’t really have any soul music on the radio, but you’d hear bits of it in movies and stuff like that.

So, when that Commitments movie came out, that was our first introduction to Soul music. So, factoring that in, we started listening to Otis Redding and Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett and people like that. Ever since that movie came out I’ve wanted to do a soul album like that. I have to say, even when they said they were making the Commitments musical, on the West End, I was contacted and was asked to audition to play the lead in it. They ultimately said no, they didn’t want anyone well-known to play the lead. They wanted somebody unknown, so I decided, well I’ll make my own one then – a Soul album.

Pencil: ‘Direct me’ and ‘Angel’ sound amazing and I’m really looking forward to Otis…That duet with Mica Paris is stunning. It’s always ballsy going after Otis and Aretha but you guys owned it. Your vocal tones are rich and textured as all hell, and you must really be looking forward to launching the album?

BM: I am, but most of all, I’m looking forward to performing it live. It’s a nine-piece band coming with me, all the live brass and backing vocals – I’m just so excited to be getting on stage and feeling that behind me. Doing the album is one thing, performing with a four- or five-piece band is great, but when you’re performing with a nine-piece band and you’ve got all that sound coming through you, it’s the most incredible feeling ever.

That’s the part I’m most looking forward to, and to be honest with you, the reason I did the album in the first place was so that I could tour with this band and do this soul music. So, it wasn’t just about the album, it was about getting out and doing live shows.

Pencil: Amazing, I’m sure it’ll have an amazing, huge sound with lots of depth to it, you’re also playing at some stunning venues here in SA…

BM: Yeah, I get to do my three shows there and then I get to go to Sun City and play in the Gary Player Invitational and sing at that do on the Saturday night as well, so I’m going to have a nice ten days or twelve days in South Africa and looking very forward to it. Every time I’ve played it, I’ve had the absolute best weekend. I absolutely love it, such a great place to go for a party and have some fun. So, yeah, I’ll get my shows done and then go and play some golf with Gary and sing on the Saturday. I’ve already been to South Africa this year, I was back in February for a week for a holiday. Just me and my girlfriend, just the two of us, we had a great time.

Pencil: Would you say he’s your favourite soul artist – the one that resonates the most with you as a person and your vocal style? Is it Otis?

BM: Oh definitely, yeah. 100%. Originally, when I was going to do this album, it wasn’t just going to be a tribute to Otis, it was going to be all of my favourite soul artists. As I was going through the songs, I just kept coming back to Otis. I had a selection of songs and out of all of them, eight of them were by Otis Redding, so I was like, you know what, I’m just going to do Otis. He’s the man.

Pencil: I’ve heard some Ray Charles may be in the mix, along with Otis of course, but any other artists you’re willing to tell us who else you’ll be covering?

BM: Well, on the album, it’s just Otis, but in the live show, to be honest with you, we’re starting rehearsals very soon and we’re just going to go with it, we’re just going to go with the flow and jam out as many songs as we can and just feel out what’s going to be best for the live shows…

Pencil: So just see organically what comes out then?

BM: Yeah, absolutely, I’m also excited to do a couple of my old solo songs and make that fit with this sound, with the nine-piece band, and some Westlife songs, yeah, a couple of Westlife songs and try and make that fit in as well. It’s going to be interesting to get a soul band and get their take on some of the Westlife songs…

Pencil: If you could choose three dinner companions, alive or dead, who would they be?

BM: Kurt Cobain, Tiger Woods, and who else…. aaaah, Kevin Costner…

Pencil: What was that movie…The Bodyguard?

BM: Yeah, but Tin Cup…Tin Cup is my favourite!

Pencil: Where do you, when the times comes, want to retire to?

BM: I would love to retire to South Africa if I’m honest with you, I’ve already said that a lot of my life, when I quiet down and settle down, I think South Africa is just amazing, especially in Cape Town. I’d love a little house on the cliffs there, overlooking that beach, wake up to that every morning, play golf every day, drink wine…

Pencil: Perfect, we’ve got some good wine for sure

BM: Yeah, yeah you do. I’ll tell you one thing, there won’t be much of it left once we get over…

Pencil: Hahahaha

Pencil: First song you learnt to play and sing together? Did you start on a guitar or piano?

BM: No, I was singing for a long time before I got to guitar. My mum bought me a guitar for my 14th birthday and I think it may have been Wonderwall…I just kind of copied him as he was playing and that’s kind of how I got started off with instruments. I’ve never had lessons on any instruments, just kind of done it by ear.

Pencil: Will we be seeing more Boyzlife?

BM: Well, right now I’m focussing on my solo album and Keith is going back to Boyzone – they’re doing their 25-year anniversary tour. So, we’re both focussing on that – we’re still doing some shows together at the moment, we do some corporate work together – but when it comes to albums and touring, at the moment, we’re focussing on those two things, but I’m sure we’ll be doing something again down the line.

Pencil: Which artists are you listening to lately and loving?

BM: No, none of them. I haven’t got an artist that I’m listening to that has released an album after 2005…of all the music I’m listening to. At the moment, I’ve got Johnny Cash, John Denver, Otis Redding…people like that. Nothing new. I haven’t found anything new in the last ten years that I really like…can you hang on one second? You may hear something – hopefully you figure it out…

(silence…then a swoosh and a thwack)

Pencil: You okay there?

BM: Yeah, that was me hitting my golf ball, hahaha, I had to hit my drive…and I just absolutely ripped it! Down the middle of the Par 4, love it!

Pencil: I hate to say I had anything to do with it but yeah….

BM: Haha, yeah must be the inspiration you’re giving haha

Pencil: Did you moon the crowd during you’re the last Westlife show here? My girlfriend says you did?

BM: More than likely, yeah, hahaha…

Pencil: Can we expect more of the same this time around?

BM: I’m a little bit more reserved and a bit more grown up now, but probably, hahaha

Pencil: Awesome that there’s some local flavour coming up on the album with Zolani from Freshlyground. Can you reveal what you covered?

BM: Yeah, we haven’t met yet, because we recorded the song in two different studios. Zolani was in South Africa and I was in England…but now that I’m coming down, I think we’re going to get into the studio and do it together. I mean, it sounds great, but I always feel you’re missing a little bit of the vibe if you’re not in the room together, so we’re going to get into the studio together when I’m down there

Pencil: Can you say what the song is?

BM: I’ve Been Loving You (Too Long)’

Pencil: Ah, incredible, that’s a top track…

Pencil: Three words to describe yourself?

BM: Soulful, carefree and…fun.

Pencil: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be?

BM: Probably a dog, only because I like dogs and I’ve had dogs that are better friends than people…

Pencil: Ah, I’m so happy you’ve said that…

BM: Yeah, I’ve had dogs my whole life, absolutely love them.

Pencil: What kind of dog would you be?

BM: Probably a Beagle, haha, big ears…

Pencil: Hahahaha…

Pencil: If you could have any superpower, what would that be?

BM: Probably invisibility, yeah, just so you could be a dirty perv, haha

Pencil: Hahahaha, perfect…are you still in touch with the other Westlife guys? Do you chat?

BM: No, no we’re not, we haven’t spoken in a long time. Not in a bad way, it’s not like we don’t get on, we’re just not in contact anymore, we haven’t been in contact in probably ten years…

Pencil: Okay, the last question and then I’ll leave you for your irons…do you have any advice for aspiring artists? You’ve been doing this for a very long time and had an extremely successful career so far…

BM: Well, I think the most important thing for a singer is to get out there and do live, wherever you can, wherever you can sing if you get the opportunity to get up on stage and sing, do it, no matter who is watching.  

It’s a different world now – you don’t need record companies or any of that, with social media and the internet, you can have a very successful career without even having a record deal, so the most important thing is to keep recording, keep making music and keep performing live as much as you can.

Pencil: That’s it from my side Brian, thanks so much. You on the 5 iron now?

BM: No, unfortunately, I’m in the bunker now, haha.

Pencil: I’ll take the blame for that one, sorry! Thanks for the time and we’re looking very forward to having you in South Africa again

BM: Yeah, great, thanks buddy, see you all soon!


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