We don’t know whether it’s the luck of the Irish or not but Brian McFadden is one lucky sod – his brand new single ‘Just Say So’ debuted at No.1 on the ARIA singles chart last weekend, selling more than 20,000 copies in the process. The new season of Australia’s Got Talent on Channel 7, on which he appears alongside Dannii Minogue and good mate Kyle Sandilands, has also been impressing in the ratings. He’s engaged to be married to the lovely Delta Goodrem. And today sees the release of his new album ‘Wall Of Soundz’. We sat down for a natter with Brian on the eve of his album’s release and started by congratulating him on his No.1 single.
“Thankyou very much. It’s stupid,” he jokes, “To be honest with you, my goal after the last record was that if we could break a top ten single, we’d be onto a winner. And when it went in at number one, I was like, ‘you’ve got to be f***in’ shitting me’. I thought it was a joke. And for it then to be the fastest selling song of the year was just incredible. We didn’t even get a gold single on the last album. The album went gold, but none of the singles did. It’s just weird – it’s still surreal.”
The singer, however, makes it pretty clear as to what he thinks has made ‘Just Say So’ his most successful Aussie solo single to date.
“I just think it’s down to the song. The great thing about digital now is that you can get instant feedback, so Youtube, Twitter, Myspace… I don’t know if they know I’m reading them, but I am and they’re saying things like ‘never really liked Brian McFadden, but this is a great song.’ And that for a musician is exactly what you want to hear. I don’t care if people like me because I’m going out with Delta or like me because I’m on Australia’s Got Talent or like anything because I was in Westlife. When someone says ‘I didn’t really like him, but that’s a great song’… You know you’ve touched someone,” he enthuses.
‘Wall Of Soundz’ takes Brian in a completely different musical direction. He had originally planned to make a new album that continued his style of guitar-driven pop/rock, “production-wise, closer to maybe Rob Thomas / The Script.” But gone are the guitars and the ballads – in their place, dance beats, vocoders and plenty of synthesizers. But as Brian tells us, that’s not the only difference fans will notice.
“A lot of my old songs, they were all autobiographical. Songs like ‘Like Only A Woman Can’ and especially my first record. And this one’s not. This is just a pop record – I just made pop music. So anyone can relate to it in their own sense and they don’t necessarily have to know about me to know about the song.”
‘Wall Of Soundz’ sees Brian team up with producer Robert Conley, who’s previously worked with the likes of Darren Hayes and Axle Whitehead. Robert has a great ear for a killer pop song. But the duo didn’t come together to work on new material for Brian. He tells us that it was another aspiring pop star who prompted the duo’s foray into dance/pop.
“Funny story, actually. There’s was a dancer on the first or second ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ – his name is Rhys. Incredible dancer. And they were trying to put together an album. So they basically put me and Rob together to produce and write for this Rhys guy. I’d just finished writing Delta’s record, so I was in a down time and I wasn’t really ready to make another record yet. So while I was hanging around doing nothing, I thought I might as well write for some other people. So we went in to the studio, but Rhys never showed up. We’d done the first day and we’d written this song about the Wizard of Oz, which was quite a fun tune. Very quirky and very electro.
“And the second day, we were ready to do more, so we went in but he never showed up. So we wrote a song called ‘Take A Bite’ and I loved it. I thought ‘this is very different’ – it was all electro and all. And it was the first time I’d produced anything without using guitar or piano – it was just all keys. We just decided that it was kind of a cool vibe and we just just started to make some more songs. We thought maybe we’ll make four or five of these and give them to someone else. We were actually thinking that ‘Take A Bite’ could be for Rhys. We thought ‘when he comes back in, we’ll give him this song’,” he says.
Rhys never did come back into the studio.
“The funny thing was that we then cancelled him. Because we’d done three or four more days and he then asked to come back in and we were like, ‘you know what? We’re gonna stick to what we’re doing together’. He was a great kid and I was delighted for him, but they kinda screwed that project up when they did a cover song from Germany or something.”
Rhys recorded ‘Hot Summer’, a cover of German girl group Monrose’s 2007 hit. It became Channel 10’s summer theme, but the single proper failed to set the charts on fire, despite a decent video.
“Because they got the Channel 10 theme, they thought, ‘well that has to be the single’ and we were like, ‘there’s more to it than just getting that. At the end of the day, if you’re going to make music, the music still has to be good’.
“It’s called ‘Click Your Heels’ – I’d love to get that song. I actually did a version as well – it’s quite funny, the whole things is basically him and he’s supposed to be Dorothy in it. And the lyrics were like ‘The Lion, the Scarecrow – they’re so scared, The Tinman loves me but I don’t care, ‘Cause I like witches, they don’t play fair, Hi ho!”
The hook was, ‘Well click your heels three times, ‘Cause there ain’t no place like home.’
It has that kind of Lou Bega feel to it.
“So that was the start to me and Rob Conley. We just started making this record which was not supposed to be a Brian McFadden album. It was supposed to be ‘Wall Of Soundz’ – our production company. And we were originally going to have all those songs sung by other people. But we could never tour it, because you’re never going to be able to drag these singers around. So then we decided that I would sing it. And everything we’ve done since we recorded this album, even when I’m writing and trying to produce some tracks for some other people, they’re all sounding like this. They’re all electro, they’re all uptempo. And the thoughts of writing a ballad… I just can’t think of it anymore!? It’s like unless a song has a tempo and feels like a radio song now, I just can’t do it.”
Brian’s album features another high profile collaboration, besides his hit single ‘Just Say So’ (on which he’s enlisted the star power of Kevin Rudolf). His dear lady future wife Delta Goodrem appears on the track ‘Mistakes’, the most un-‘Wall Of Soundz’ track on the album. We asked him if it was difficult to convince her to add her vocals to his record.
“Well I was thinking, ‘I wonder who we could get – Vanessa Amorosi or…? Is Tina Cousins available or…’,” he jokes. “I didn’t think she’d actually want to do it. Especially because of the style of this record – and especially now that her new record is going very back to her roots. She’s gone very back to the piano-based and big melodies thing and has steered away from that whole pop thing. But when she sang it, everyone agreed that while it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the songs, it’s a hit. It sounds like a hit.”
Despite Brian’s burgeoning success in the Australian market, he says it’s highly unlikely that fans in his homeland will get the record any time soon, with another market proving a little more tempting.
“I’m going to go to America. I’m in negotiations at the moment with two companies about getting a deal, so I think that’s going to be the next step, straight after AGT,” he says, adding that he’s not easily forgotten in the UK and Ireland where his personal life is consistently splashed across the tabloids.
“They still talk about me every day and you know, I’m not really in such a hurry to get back to England and Ireland because you go back there and it’s just misery. Every journalist just wants to tear you down and people don’t want to talk about your music – they just want to talk about bad stuff. Just the thought of going back… I know the first TV interview I’ll do, they’ll want to talk about my ex wife, they’ll want to talk about my kids… I know the first five questions, I’ll be sat there miserable trying to answer all these questions. It takes the fun out of it. I do this because I enjoy it.
“Thoughts of going to America and having the same kind of reception as you have here – where they don’t really want to know about your personal life. They’re more interested about your music and that you’re just a singer. That’s what I love about Australia. Yes, you’ve got a bit of interest, but it’s for good things. They like to talk about Delta, they like to talk about personal things, but good things. They don’t want ask any bad questions about your personal life. It’s nice to have that,” he says.
Brian’s been a very busy man in the past couple of weeks, not only promoting his new single and album to anyone who’ll listen, but also doing plenty of press for Channel 7’s ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, where he sits alongside Dannii Minogue and Kyle Sandilands. We ask him how he’s enjoying his time on judging panel.
“I feel… I’m not ungrateful, but I feel bad because there’s so many great people out there who are dying to get these kinds of jobs. I don’t really want to do TV. I feel so bad. It was Kyle who said, ‘Come on, we’ll have some fun’ and I was like ‘okay’. If anyone saw me, they’d be like ‘you f***ing ungrateful sod – I would chop off my left arm for that job’. But you know what, it’s great fun. And working with Kyle and Dannii is great – and that’s the main reason I do it, to be honest. If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t have done it.”
We wrap up the interview by briefly asking him about his time in Irish boyband Westlife – and ask him if he misses the camaraderie of being in a band.
“I do – I actually do. That’s the one thing I do miss. It’s quite lonely. I came up here yesterday on the flight and I just travelled up by myself. Sitting on the plane, no-one to talk to. In the old days, it would be the five of us. The one thing I miss about a band is sharing it. Getting a number one single this week was great and I was delighted and happy with my friends, but in the old days you’d get a number one with the five of us and it was a big team effort. And it’s nice to share things in life with someone. You go through life with success by yourself, but there can be no point in having it unless you’re sharing it with someone.”
And with his new production partner Rob Conley by his side for the ‘Wall Of Soundz’ project, he is finally sharing the spoils.
“Well, yeah – that was great for both of us – it’s his first number one as well, so it was very exciting!”
Brian McFadden’s No.1 single ‘Just Say So’ is available digitally now.
His brand new album ‘Wall Of Soundz’ is in-store today.
Catch Brian on Australia’s Got Talent, 7:30pm Tuesdays on the 7 Network.