Boyzone: Looking to the future with a renewed sense of purpose

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WHEN Irish boy band Boyzone burst onto the pop scene 20 years ago, few would have predicted the level of success they achieved and that two decades later they’d still be releasing records and selling out arenas.

Comprising Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch, Boyzone scored 18 top 10 hits including six UK number one singles: Words, A Different Beat, All That I Need, No Matter What, When the Going Gets Tough and You Needed Me.

In 2000, the group went their separate ways pursuing careers in such varied fields as music, acting and motorsport. Seven years later, the BBC reunited Boyzone for a one-off performance on its annual Children in Need show.

“The BBC got us back together to do a medley of three of our big hits,” says Keith. “After that performance, we decided that we’d had a really good time and we realised how much we’d missed each other.”

With new found vigour, Boyzone embarked on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland. After releasing a greatest hits album to coincide with the reunion, the group decided to head back to the studio to record an album of brand new material. But in October 2009, the tragic death of band member Stephen Gately left the band reeling.

“When we lost Stephen it threw us all over the place for quite a long time,” says Keith.

“We couldn’t deal with our lives on our own and we felt there was a bit of peace when we were together.

“The void that Stephen left wasn’t as big when we were together,” he says.“Stephen was kind of in the room once the four of us were together.”

After long discussions between the surviving members, the band decided to finish recording the album, giving it the name Brother as tribute to Stephen. On releasing the album, Boyzone toured as a four-piece, dedicating it to their bandmate.

“It was really difficult,” says Keith. “It had quite an adverse effect on us.

“The grieving process hadn’t finished and we were all very much emotionally drained by the end of the tour.

“I ended up in a dark place where I didn’t really know what to do next,” he says. I was suffering with nightmares and I ended up having to take a few months off to re-gather my thoughts, to figure out what had happened and to work out how to move forward. We moved forward. We dealt with our demons,” he adds.

The group took time out from touring and recording after the Brother tour finished. They used 2012 to regroup and figure out what to do next.

“2012 was a very quiet year for us and we decided this year that a new studio album with a new dynamic would be a good idea,” says Keith.

“Now that we had come to a good place, at peace with everything, it might be an idea to see how we sound as a four-piece.”

Boyzone recorded the album BZ20 which was released last month. The record celebrates 20 years since the group were originally formed. Returning to the studio without Stephen was difficult for the group, but the experience helped the band to move forward with fond memories of the past and a renewed sense of purpose.

Boyzone will be at Leeds First Direct Arena on December 9 as part of their 20th anniversary tour. Tickets on www.firstdirectarena.com