Take That slagged us off in Belfast: Big mistake
Westlife are back with a new single and album and are playing Belfast's Odyssey Arena next February. Showbiz correspondent Maureen Coleman chats to Nicky Byrne about their run-in with Take That, fatherhood - and reveals what it was that made the boys cry.
Westlife are ready to take on comeback kings Take That to prove they are still the princes of pop, Nicky Bryne said last night.
According to the father-of-two, the return of the Manchester four-piece has spurred Westlife on and shown them that there are still plenty of years left to keep making music.
And he had words of warning for Gary Barlow, who made fun of Westlife's dancing skills while Take That were performing on stage at the Odyssey Arena last week: "If you want to slag us off, just don't do it in Belfast".
"Up to two years ago, before Take That came back, we were being called the grand-daddys of pop, so we're delighted that we're not the oldest boy band on the go now," he laughed.
"And it's great for us because it means that we have a good 10 years left as well.
"The success of their album Beautiful World surprised everyone, especially Take That, but we're not frightened of them. Without them, we mightn't be here, they were the band that started it all off.
"They're like old boxing champs getting back in the ring again and if they want to fight us, that's fine. There's plenty of room for all of us.
"We heard Gary Barlow had a go at us in Belfast last week, saying we couldn't dance, but his comments didn't go down to well with the crowd.
"We laughed about that afterwards. I mean if Take That want to slag Westlife of, go ahead and do it in Dublin or Manchester or wherever, just don't do it in Belfast. We've very loyal fans there."
Nicky also welcomed the Spice Girls' reunion but said he didn't think this should give the go-ahead to other bands to get back together.
"I think it's great for pop music that bands like Take That and the Spice Girls are getting back together. For too long, it's been all about guitar music and R 'n B, so it's nice to see some pop slipping back into the charts.
"Bands like Boyzone could get back together again, but I think you really needed to have been at the top of your game first time round to make a successful comeback. Those who weren't, shouldn't really bother."
Next month Westlife release their ninth album, Back Home, preceded by the single Home, a cover of the Michael Buble song.
Already receiving much airplay and proving a big hit with the fans, Home looks set to give the record-breaking Irish band their 15th number one single.
Nicky said the band had gone back to their pop roots with the new album, giving it a modern, fresh twist, and that he was "extremely proud" of the end product.
But he expressed disappointment that the Spice Girls had allegedly put back their album date release by a week to avoid coinciding with the release of Back Home.
"The girls claim they were always planning to release their Greatest Hits after us but we were told it was originally going to be the same day," he said.
"The media loves a good chart battle, but I think it would have been good to have two pop heavyweights going head to head.
"It wouldn't have worried us at all."
The new album, Nicky says, is "a great pop one" with tunes reminiscent of such Westlife classics as Flying Without Wings and Swear It Again.
"Because of the success of the Love album it was suggested that we should do a Westlife Goes to The Movies one," he said.
"While it wasn't a bad idea and we could see how marketable this was, we decided that it was time to do some fresh material.
"It's not about the money, we don't need to pick up any cheques. We wanted to do something we could be really proud of. When we're at our best, we're a great pop band.
"We really needed to look at ourselves and what we were doing. People get fed up with covers, so we agreed that we really needed to go back and make a great pop album. But we also needed to move with the times."
A host of top producers were brought in including Steve Mac, Quiz Larossi, Jorgen Elofsson and Maratone and Back Home came to life in a Swedish studio.
Although most of the songs are new, Nicky admits there are three covers on it, including new single Home, as well as an old country song I'm Already There.
Nicky, who was missing his wife Georgina and six-month old twin sons Rocco and Jay at the time, was able to relate to the song and fell in love with it the minute he heard it.
"I was the first one to arrive at the studio and the producer played this song for me," he said.
"It was all about a father being away from his kid and it just really touched me. I thought he'd written the track, but he told me it was by an American country band called Lonestar.
"I called Louis Walsh and asked him if he had heard it. He said he had. I thought it was a fantastic song. Some of the best pop songs have been country songs, like I Will Always Love You.
"When I got home I played it on the laptop for Georgina. She cried, I cried. Then the next day Shane (Filan) told me he'd listened to it and cried too. We're all very in touch with our emotions!"
Becoming a father has turned Nicky's life upside down - but he wouldn't have it any other way.
The twins were born eight weeks premature and after a tough few weeks spent in an intensive care unit in a Dublin hospital, the bouncing baby boys are now doing very well.
Nicky said: "It's just the most amazing feeling. I don't know what I'd do without them now," he said.
"They're at that stage now when they're giggling and able to recognise me. They know Georgina well because she's with them all the time.
"But it's been tough too. No-one can prepare you for the sleep deprivation. They're starting to settle a bit more now. They're sleeping right through now to maybe 5am, 6am, 7am, when they wake for their next feed.
"Before that they were up at 11pm for a feed and then 3am as well. There's no break for Georgina at all, because when I'm feeding one, she's feeding the other.
"But we wouldn't have it any other way."
And the blond Dubliner said they had received great support from both their families, including his father-in-law, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
"We've nothing against nannies, but we decided we didn't want one for ourselves. We didn't want to leave them with a stranger.
"Were very lucky in that we've got wonderful families who have been a great help.
"Bertie loves being a grand-dad, he's very hands-on. We all had a family holiday in Kerry and it was great to have so much help around. Every time we go out, we have to think of everything in twos, two buggies, two nappies, two car seats.
"I have so much respect for people who have triplets. I don't know how they do it."
Nicky, a former footballer who played with Leeds United, said he had already taken the boys abroad.
"We took them to Portugal a few months ago and they've been to Sweden and London so they're already little travellers picking up their air miles," he said.
"When we got married in France we thought a baby would be the icing on the cake but we never imagined twins.
"And it's lovely to have two little boys as well. Maybe they'll turn out to be footballers. Who knows?"