Boyzone’s Shane Lynch on music, marriage and family life near Reigate
- Credit: EDR
Fresh from their 20th anniversary tour, Boyzone will be playing at Epsom Downs Racecourse this month – and for band member Shane Lynch it will be something of a homecoming gig as he lives just down the road near Reigate. Here, he talks to us about music, marriage and his happy family life in Surrey
When Boyzone performed their last single, Everything I Own, on Sport Relief in March, all eyes were on Shane Lynch’s impressive hipster beard. It even prompted a flurry of tweets, with one viewer wryly observing they hadn’t realised Brian Blessed had joined the band.
Shane, 37, was a bit dumbfounded by the public reaction. “Well, let’s face it, beards are nothing new,” he says, with his broad Irish lilt. “I’m head-to-toe covered in tattoos and that’s a more extreme thing than just growing a beard. But when we ended our tour last year, I told my wife that 2014 was going to be the year of my beard. She wasn’t crazy about the idea, but I just got cracking and I absolutely love it.
“Mind you, this beard-grooming stuff is hard work. Designer stubble was easy – I just ran a razor over it once a week. But now I’m taking it to a whole new level. That said, I’m loving the whole ‘man is man’ look, so it’s here to stay. And my band mates have beard envy. They can’t believe what I’ve done.”
It’s hard to believe they were that surprised, though, because Shane has been making waves ever since the band’s inception. With his moody, dark looks, multiple tattoos and body piercings, he never fitted the band’s clean-cut image. And throughout their early years he seemed intent on rebelling, culminating in an expletive-filled outburst at the 1999 MTV Europe Music Awards in Dublin. “Every time I spoke, I had no respect for myself or anyone else,” he later admitted in an interview. “I was a very angry individual.”
But those days are long gone. Nowadays, Shane is a born-again Christian, happily married to backing singer Sheena White, with whom he has two girls, Billie Rae, five, and Marley Mae, one. He has also carved out a successful niche away from the band. Yes, he’s followed the well-worn acting and reality TV route, but he’s also a successful businessman with vodka, perfume and men’s loungewear labels to his name.
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Today, however, as he chats to us from his home near Reigate, he is firmly in Boyzone mode as he prepares to join the lads for a concert at Epsom Downs Racecourse. “We played Epsom many years back and got soaked to the skin,” he laughs. “But the crowd was up for it and it was one of the best gigs ever, so I’m really looking forward to coming back. We’re still fine-tuning the set list, but the music will be a mixture of Boyzone classics, as well as new songs from our last two albums.”
At least he won’t have far to travel. Shane has lived in Surrey since 1996, when he moved out of Chelsea in search of fresh pastures. “Initially, I moved to Purley and lived there for four years. Then I came out towards Reigate. It’s a beautiful place to live. Even in winter, Surrey manages to retain a little bit of magic.”
But his roots are in North Dublin, where he worked for his dad as a car mechanic after being expelled from school. Life changed overnight, however, when, in 1993, a mate suggested he form a boy band. This wasn’t as outlandish at it seemed. All three of Shane’s sisters were in successful girl bands, so Shane raided their contacts book and dropped a line to Louis Walsh, Ireland’s most successful entertainment manager.
“Louis, who was managing Johnny Logan at the time, loved the idea, so we held auditions in Dublin and in walked Ronan Keating, Stephen Gately, Keith Duffy and Mikey Graham,” says Shane.
Boyzone went on to become one of the most popular pop acts of the Nineties and Noughties, and at the peak of their success scored a total of 16 consecutive top five singles, performing with the likes of Pavarotti, Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey.
But their fame was to prove a mixed blessing. “I remember fans nearly knocking in our car windows and jumping under the wheels of our tour bus to stop it moving. When I was catapulted into that world at 18, I didn’t know what to expect. I wish we had been guided more professionally.”
When it came to the usual rock excesses, however, Shane maintains they remained remarkably level-headed. They were too busy to party, he says, and drugs were never part of the equation. “Thankfully, we boys were very much into our beer. Besides, we had to get to bed because there was always a plane to catch the next morning.”
Nevertheless, the pressures of fame began to take their toll. “I hated all the derogatory comments that being in a boy band attracted and, as time went on, I got down on the world, and became angry and violent,” he continues. “I had a £1m house, a Mercedes, a Porsche – everything money could buy – but I wasn’t happy. Even when I was standing on stage in front of 20,000 people, I felt acutely lonely. It was the weirdest feeling. I loved the four guys in the band, but I lost respect for myself.”
His lowest point was to come in 2000 when Ronan revealed he was quitting the band to pursue a solo career. As he was the lead singer, this effectively meant the end of Boyzone. Without the non-stop touring, Shane found himself with too much time on his hands and became moody and withdrawn. His marriage to Easther Bennett, the lead singer in the girl band Eternal, was the most obvious casualty, ending in 2002.
But he began to turn his life around when he shared his inner torment with close friend, Ben Ofoedu, lead singer of Phatz and Small [and fiancé of Vanessa Feltz]. “I was a really miserable guy, but Ben was on top of the world and loved life,” he says. “So I asked him, ‘Why are you like this? What makes you tick?’ And he started talking about the joy and fulfilment his faith brought him. So I went to a Bible class and it grabbed me like nothing had ever done before.”
Shane also found love again when he met his future wife, Sheena. But after three years of dating, he was frightened to commit, perhaps scarred by memories of his first marriage break-up. So, in 2006, he ended the relationship and headed for Fiji to take part in the reality TV show, Celebrity Love Island. After five weeks, however, he came to his senses and quit. “I just thought, ‘What am I doing? I’m out here trying to find what I have right at home.’” So six months later, he and Sheena got hitched and he is now a devoted dad.
When Boyzone reformed in 2007, it proved to be the icing on the cake, though their triumph was short-lived because two years later Stephen Gately’s untimely death in Majorca hit them for six. Shane says deciding whether to continue with the band was a tough decision, but eventually they headed back to the studio to record the Brother album, featuring vocals that had already been laid down by Stephen.
They have no regrets about the record, but, in hindsight, he thinks the accompanying tour in 2011 was a step too far. “We weren’t emotionally stable enough at that stage and we missed him so much. But we constantly reminisce about him because he was great fun. Stephen did some fantastic performances... most of them in the dressing room!”
As for Shane, well, he’s quietly carving out his own niche. “I leave most of the talking to the other fellas,” he says with a casual shrug. “If I’m asked a question, I’m glad to answer it, but the rules of engagement were set in stone from the beginning and it’s hard to break out of them. No matter what we do on the outside, we always fall into the same old routine when we get back together.”
Don’t laugh, but perhaps his beard is a mark of his growing confidence. “When you’re in a boy band, it’s hard to know when it’s acceptable to step out of that realm – especially with the visuals,” he adds. “But I’m not a teenager any more. So let me do what I do.”
My Favourite Surrey...
Restaurant: Jai Ho, an Indian restaurant at the Coppingham Arms in Horley. I could eat buckets of their deep-fried cauliflower starter coated in chilli sauce!
Shop: Makro in Purley. They sell live lobsters and I’m a big lobster fan. They also sell every tool you’ll need to cook them.
View: The Devil’s Punchbowl near Hindhead. I worked in Guildford for a while and often passed this stunning natural amphitheatre.
Place to relax: The Valet, a traditional gentleman’s barbers in Addiscombe. Since growing my beard, I’ve had the most amazing facials there.
Place to visit: Reigate’s Priory Park, where I take my girls. We like to roam the forest and feed the ducks on the beautiful lake.
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