Brian McFadden – West Memphis Life

From a solid and lengthy musical stint with Westlife, the tall Irishman ventures into the world of soul music. Does he have the enthusiasm to make this work for him? Read our conversation with him at the Boisdale Soul Music Awards Evening in London’s Docklands, to find out…

Supplied By PR

First question, Brian – are you looking forward to appearing here tonight at The Awards?

Yeah!! I’m excited about it! It’s the first performance of my new material apart from the Cornbury Festival slot – of course, you guys were up there…it’s a little strange because tonight it’s not my own band, but there again a pretty incredible house band for the event…

First gig I ever did I had an Australian drummer, a Swedish bass player..I thought, if this works I’m on my way!

(Laughs) So there! You can play with anyone! As long as they’re good

So tonight is the Awards and you have a nice prestige slot to display your soul songs, a lot of star performers and industry people around.. do you ever get stage nerves?

(Firmly) No, I never have..never have. It’s just one of those things, I’ve been blessed with a calm nature. OK, there’s a little bit of pressure maybe, to do my very best. That I don’t forget the lyrics or anything like that. I’ve only performed the song once and this was the soundcheck, so..that’s probably the only thing that would cross my mind. But I don’t really get nervous. I think I’ve always had the confidence that I do know what I am capable of. And I’m not really bothered whether everybody likes it, by which I mean if people enjoy it that’s really great and if they don’t , they don’t. I’ve been doing this for twenty years now, I’m pretty confident about what I’m doing.

Absolutely! No comedian thinks that every joke they do is going to get the biggest laugh, it’s the momentum of a performance going well that they seek..and an audience knows whether you’re enjoying it

Yes, I do enjoy it – the only problem is, we’re here very bloody early and probably we won’t be on stage til after ten, and they’re already handing out drinks! That’s always the worst part. So you’re trying to take it easy and pace yourself properly. You don’t want to be getting to ten o’clock and (slurs speech) “ Hello…ma’am..”

I had a bandleader who loved a drink, so I used to do the setlists and never stop between he had no chance to reach for his glass! After the break, he’d caught up on the bevvys…did Westlife ever include any soul-style material?

Well, we started to write our own music, therefore yes a few songs had a little bit of that in the composition, especially any song that Mark was involved in where we wrote together. He was indeed very influenced by soul and roots R&B. So that tinge was there but there again we had to keep within the lines of what Westlife is, you know? We had our own sound and sometimes a funk direction, but by and large we kept it overall to what we are known for.

We’ve done some pieces on Shane Filan who ‘solo’ retains the overall Westlife ambience BUT with this Otis album you have a quantum leap in sound, albeit into an area you already love deeply…propelled by love

That’s absolutely right! The thing about it is. I’ve made a lot of different records, even a pop-dance record for Australia..which was electro-pop before it was big..all the American stars went from contemporary r&b to electro Eurotrash pop singers!

I’ve done a whole album of Irish songs. But what I’ve always wanted to do was a soul record. Now it’s a little strange but what actually brought soul music to the Irish people was the film The Commitments. Before that, there were no radio stations playing soul. No MTV back then.

Yes, some of the younger Irish guys I have played with had never heard of Al Green until the film featured Take Me To The River…

Yes and even though it was blue-eyed soul, you could say, it did really get to me..I have wanted to make a record like The Commitments for a long long time. There’s some important elements to it. The way I have made records in the past has involved the use of programme streams and all that kind of stuff. However you need a great band to make a record like this album, you can’t get any old players on it.

You need the grain of the horns…

You gotta have THE best horn players aboard! And the drummer who’s playing tonight with us is maybe the best live drummer I have ever worked with. For the record we got in the same room, we split everybody up and some of the tracks are just one take! It’s not often you get that…

And recording, you can layer the freshness out of the songs, sometimes

Quite, we didn’t want that, we wanted it all to sound as live as possible. To sound like it had been made at the same time that Otis Redding made his records.

That sparky sound

Absolutely! There’s no posh on this. Everything is really raw.

Is the record entirely based upon Otis Redding or have you added anything else?

Everything has a connection to Otis Redding. His songs or his versions. He did a live duet with Aretha Franklin, so that’s what me and Mica Paris have teamed up to do.

So there’s a few different things in there..originally I was going to use all different soul artists’ songs as inspiration. When I was listening though to the more unusual things Otis had touched on..

Ah! (produces written notes of songs, artists and source albums) – I’ve done some homework on some of those very things…

Oh! He did Day Tripper?

Yes, live..

(Enthusiastic) Direct Me!! That’s one I’ singing tonight!

OK, we’re on the same page

(Shaking hands) It’s a single!..hmm, Johnny Jenkins?

Blues guy, Otis was a backing singer for him…Voodoo In You has an awesome spooky drum build..

Did you change any keys?

Love Man I took down. For live, anyway. I used to have this problem whenever I did Mustang Sally. On my first solo tour. A great song to get the crowd going. I sing it very raspy. With four shows in a to bring it down a semi-tone

Check out Buddy Guy’s Mustang Sally. You’ll find it’s likely to your taste.

I’ll have a listen

What title have you got for your album?

Otis (displays the vinyl edition sleeve)

We had thought of some titles for you – Stax Cuts…Memphisticated, West Memphis Life! (Laughs) what can you say? Hey have you heard Cigarettes And Coffee?

Oh yeah!

And the band plays the **** out of that, too….Dan McCormick helped pick the band, he did the same sort of thing for Imelda May, y’know. I’d never worked with soul musicians, all my band players were from pop and rock. I know some great drummers, but this is a real specific niche, this music.

I was friends with a guy called Robert Palmer and he used to hang around with the guys from Little Feat and The Meters, cos they…

THE Robert Palmer?

Yes, wrote Addicted To Love and when Tina recorded it, that paid for his drive in Switzerland…but they knew it all and he HAD to be in a room with people who ‘get it’ to attain the sound he needed

Oh I can’t wait to get out playing this..see, I thought the album would take a couple of weeks BUT middle of the second day, we were done, that was it!

Where did you record it?

Castleford. Up near Leeds. A great studio.

What are your hopes for this record? Would you like people to hear you and enjoy it maybe not knowing who the hell you are?

Well..I’ve kind of got past that thing of trying to make new fans..or trying to please all fans all the time..I’ve made the record that I truly wanted to make and most importantly it’s a record that I will really enjoy going out on the road and performing to audiences.

Well you can carry on doing what you can do very well OR go through a new door and freshen your world

Yes and singing the same songs for twenty years can make you want to move along, y’know? Now I can be away from backing tracks and with the live group, for me that is so exciting.

I think that as long as you have the voice for this AND look after your voice, you’ve probably made a good decision…won’t be long before you’re writing your own stuff

(Emphatically) Yes, for my next album – Memphisticated! (Laughs) I already know what my next album will be, it’ll be a Northern Soul one

Don’t do Tainted Love! It’s a cliché!

You know what, I want to do an original soul album – take the elements and create new songs.

With Northern Soul and its very busy drumming, the simpler you make the lyrics, the better the dynamic

Otis made every inflection even on a very basic lyric a part of the song’s impact very clever

The other guy to explore is Arthur Alexander – sweet tunes and relatable words. Thanks for talking to us, Brian

Thank you, guys – are you staying around for the Awards?

We are promised at an album launch across town BUT can we come and see you here and review a full show for you?

Let’s fix that up, it would be great to have you along!

Pete & Glenn Sargeant



(Thank you to Hush PR team and Boisdale crew and Mr McFadden)

Brian McFadden Photo Credit: Supplied By PR

You can listen to Brian McFadden’s duet of ‘Angel’ with Mica Paris in this article.

Brian McFadden releases his new solo album, ‘Otis’, a tribute to Otis Reading on Friday 2nd November 2018.

Brian will be returning to The Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom to perform the album in full backed by a full nine-piece band at a four-night residency from Tuesday 6th November 2018 – Friday 9th November 2018. All tickets include a delicious three-course meal (except Lounge tickets) and start at 9.15pm except 9th November which starts at 9.45pm. 

Tickets can be booked here:

Following on from the residency, McFadden will then embark on a six-date ‘Soul Jam’ UK club tour in April 2019. 

Tickets for the ‘Soul Jam’ April 2019 UK Tour can be purchased here:

For more information visit his official website here:

A full list of dates, venues, and ticket links can be found below:



Tuesday 6th November 2018 – 9.15pm, The Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom

Wednesday 7th November 2018 – 9.15pm, The Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom

Thursday 8th November 2018 – 9.15pm, The Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom

Friday 9th November 2018 – 9.45pm, The Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom



Monday 8th April 2019 – Oran Mor, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Tuesday 9th April 2019 – The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, United Kingdom

Wednesday 10th April 2019 – The Cavern Club, Liverpool, United Kingdom

Thursday 11th April 2019 – The Jam House, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Saturday 13th April 2019 – The Concorde Club, Eastleigh, United Kingdom

Sunday 14th April 2019 – The Stables, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom