FLICKY HARRISON catches up with former Westlife singer Shane Filan

During his time with Westlife, singer Shane Filan, played for many famous faces including the Sultan of Brunei, but says that meeting the Pope was his special memory - and even more so for his mum.

Since the Irish boy band split in 2012, Shane has been carving a successful solo career and will be stopping off in Swindon as part of his Love Always tour, where he will be making more memories.

Shane said: "There are so many great memories of being on tour and performing over the years, it's hard to pick out specific ones but I think the one that stands out is performing for the Pope in Rome as we got to bring our parents, and my mum got to meet the Pope.''

It was the proud mum that got the ball rolling for Westlife by calling Louis Walsh about her son's music.

"Yeah my mum called Louis Walsh's office and he took her call because they were from the same area originally,'' said Shane, who grew up in Sligo northwest of Ireland, the youngest of seven children.

His parents ran a cafe and he attended a catholic school along with Kian Egan and Mark Feehily but they didn't form a school band.

"Not a band but we did do the school musical Grease when we were younger,'' said Shane, who was inspired by Michael Jackson when he was growing up. His voice today is compared to Michael Buble which he says is a major compliment. "He's definitely someone I look up to.''

Westlife sold more than 50 million records worldwide, had 14 number one singles in the UK and were the third act to have the most hit singles behind Elvis, Cliff Richard and The Beatles. But Shane is pretty grounded and fame has not bowled him over.

"To be honest I just get on with it. I don't get mobbed as such, but people are always very friendly and want to say hallo and I don't mind that at all.''

When the boys went their separate ways Shane headed for Nashville, the home of country music in the States, for inspiration, before embarking on his solo adventure.

"I went there to record for the first album. I had never been before and it was amazing as there is so much music around, and so many talented musicians everywhere you go. I loved it,'' he said.

The singer admits it was a bit strange at first stepping out alone on stage after being in a band for so many years, but says after four years it now feels like second nature. He still keeps in touch with the boys from Westlife.

He said: "We don't see each other all that often but I bumped in to Mark in Sligo a few weeks ago, and Kian and his wife came around for a BBQ at my house during the summer.''

These days Shane is still managed by Louis Walsh and says that he is great to work with.

"He is Mr positive,'' said Shane. "He has wanted to make an album like Love Always for a long time as he loves picking songs.''

But it wasn't all down to Louis which songs were included in the new album as the singer allowed his fans to have a say.

"Yeah, Eternal Flame was suggested by my fans. I just opened it up on twitter for ideas and its a song that I never would have thought of. There were some great suggestions, but not all could make the final album.''

Shane will be singing at Swindon's Wyvern Theatre on Sunday, October 8 and tickets are £30 to £52 from 01793 524481 or visit www.swindontheatres.co.uk - Flicky Harrison