It seems unlikely that someone who has sold more than 45 million records worldwide and enjoyed 14 No 1 singles would talk about finding his own sound and getting comfortable on stage, just as a new artist would. But that's exactly how Shane Filan, the former lead vocalist of Westlife, feels.
"Westlife was an amazing success for years, and now I have to kind of start all over again [as a solo artist] and build it up," says Filan, still with the boyish look at age 34.
"Even though I was in Westlife, it doesn't [automatically] mean my songs are good. You still have to work really hard to try to convince people that you're good on your own."
The Irish boy band was formed in 1998 with Filan and Mark Feehily as lead singers, along with Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan and Brian McFadden. They found immediate success, gaining millions of fans around the world with love ballads like Flying Without Wings and Swear It Again. After 14 years together, the group disbanded in 2012, which Filan describes as "a fairy-tale story with a fairy-tale end".
The singer took a year off to clear his head and figure out what he wanted to do, and it always came back to music. So he went back into the studio. What resulted was his first solo album, You and Me.
With his new career, he faced a new set of challenges; in particular, figuring a sound that's distinguishable from Westlife's, but not too different. He also put his hand to songwriting. The first song he wrote for the album eventually became the first single, Everything to Me.
"Every day was an adjustment. Everything was different: interviews, travelling, TV performances. That was probably the biggest adjustment - learning to be on stage on your own, getting used to that," Filan says. "Before, you always knew there were other people to do a speech [or share vocals with]. Now I have to do all of that. So it's probably more work, and I need to be more focused, but I like that challenge."
He's also enjoying more control of what's happening on stage. Now he can start and stop whenever he wants, talk and joke with the crowd.
"It's different when you're in the phenomenon that was Westlife. Everything was just expected because it was so big. Now I'm building this up again from something that's nothing. It's amazing."
But Filan, who will be playing his first solo show in Hong Kong in September, assures fans there are plenty of Westlife songs in his show, albeit performed with his own twist.
Asked about the current breed of boy bands, he says: "I think pop music is very much more alive now than it's ever been, especially for boy bands. One Direction has great pop songs … Every time anybody talks about great boy bands like Backstreet Boys, Take That, Westlife, we all had great songs. We individually had our moments of hit songs and that's what it's all about. If you have great songs, you'll be successful."