The latest in a long line of photogenic young vocal groups, Ireland's Westlife is currently one of the U.K.'s most successful new pop acts. The quintet burst impressively onto the British scene as the first act to debut at number one with its first four singles, namely "Swear It Again," "If I Let You Go," "Flying Without Wings" and cover of ABBA's "I Have A Dream." They've inspired mob scenes on tour in Europe, Asia and Australia, and with Arista's domestic release of the band's self-titled debut album (already a multi-platinum smash in Britain, and a 12-times-platinum seller in Ireland), Westlife now seems poised for Stateside stardom.
Hailing from the small Irish town of Sligo, Westlife members Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan first performed together in a local stage production of Grease and singing cover tunes during intermissions. The group was eventually spotted on TV by Louis Walsh, manager of U.K. pop sensations Boyzone, who got them a gig opening for the Backstreet Boys in Dublin. Walsh eventually signed on as Westlife's co-manager with Boyzone member Ronan Keating. Auditions for the fledgling group attracted Dublin pals Nicky Byrne, who'd been pursuing a promising soccer career, and Bryan McFadden, who'd acted in an Irish TV series and was already carving out a niche as a singer. Though the auditions were initially intended to recruit a fourth Westlife member, the group liked Byrne and McFadden so much that both were hired.
Having already conquered most of the civilized pop world, Westlife now has its sights set firmly on the U.S. "America is totally a priority for us," says Byrne. "We've worked our socks off in England and the rest of Europe, but America is really where we want to break. . . . We want to be a worldwide success and so America is the place to do it."