They were one of the biggest bands in the country at the start of the twenty-first century, supplying their teenage fanbase with a plethora of hits from All Rise and Fly By to Guilty and Breathe Easy. In their heyday they could command collaborations with the likes of Elton John and Stevie Wonder but a brief hiatus in 2005 stretched into an eight-year break only punctuated by an appearance at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball and a turn representing the UK at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. Now they’re back as a mature man band with a fresh sound, new album and, to kickstart proceedings, an appearance on ITV2’s The Big Reunion – a nine-part nostalgic trip down memory lane.
In celebration of their career renaissance, RadioTimes.com caught up with Lee Ryan, Antony Costa, Duncan James and Simon Webbe for a lively chat about One Direction, Bonnie Tyler, Sean from 5ive, bouncy castles, wardrobes, fairies, Blue: The Musical and much, much more…
Hi Blue. It’s been a while - you’re looking well…
Lee Ryan: It’s important for blokes to look after themselves. We do make sure as a band we look presentable because that’s the way we are. When we walked into rehearsals for The Big Reunion I saw a lot of the other bands go, “Wow, you look well mate.”
That was nice of them. You’ve been reunited as a band for a while now – why did you decide to do the show?
Antony Costa: It’s all bands that we grew up with – the Liberty X’s, the Atomic Kittens. When we were approached we sat down as a band and decided it’s a really good platform to show people that Blue are back. We just thought The Big Reunion is such a brilliant show to be a part of that it would be a great way to come back.
Duncan James: A lot of people were saying it’s not fair because we’re already reunited but we used to work with these bands. We did lots of shows for years and years and then we all disbanded and you think that’s a moment in time that will never come back again. Bringing us back with the groups we used to do gigs with was nice for us.
Lee: We got such a great write-up as well – that was the loveliest thing. We were worried about how the press were going to react to us but we were so overwhelmed by all the great comments, especially from all the different magazines and newspapers.
Are you getting "the buzz" all over again?
Lee: It has catapulted us a little bit – we feel it, we’re all excited.
We’ve spent the last few weeks learning of the epic fallouts suffered by 5ive, 911, The Honeyz – to name just a few – were you at each other’s throats back in the day?
Simon Webbe: To us that is definitely weird. I was speaking to Sean [from 5ive] and he said, “What, you don’t fight? You don’t argue? We just fight and push each other down the stairs.”
That all sounds rather dramatic…
Lee: Sean’s a very eccentric character but once you get to know him he’s actually a really funny bloke. He comes across as very intense but I’m sticking up for him here because he’s one of those people who when you first meet you think he’s mental but when you actually get to know him he’s brilliant.
Simon: He reminds you of yourself, doesn’t he?
Lee: I’m more hyper – I’m a bunny rabbit!
So, you’ve never fallen out?
Duncan: We’ve never come to punches or blows.
Simon: There’s silence and cold shoulders…
Duncan: It goes silent, but then somebody, normally Antony, will say a joke and we’re all back laughing again – or Lee will fart!
Glad we’re not stuck on the tour bus with you, Lee. No public meltdowns or scandals either – what’s the secret to your success?
Simon: We had a guy called Johnny Buckland who was our tour manager – he used to tour manage Bros, E17 and All Saints – and he gave us some valuable advice: “Enjoy it and don’t believe your own bulls***ting.” That means you keep your sanity because as soon as you start believing everything you see in the papers and all of a sudden it stops, then what do you do? Who are you?
Antony: When you’re catapulted straight away and everyone’s saying you’re amazing – I never liked all that. I’d rather someone said, “Boys, you could have done better today.”
Simon: You have a lot of “yes” people around you…
Lee: Remember that game we used to play? Who could tell the worst joke and who would laugh.
Duncan: You’d get a group of people around you and make something up and everyone would go “Hahaha”.
Lee: And we’d laugh even more because we knew what we were laughing at – but the more we laughed, the more they laughed. It was brilliant!
So, what can you tell us about your new album, Roulette?
Duncan: Our voices have grown and matured – we’re singing better, our harmonies are tighter and our music’s matured as well. It’s more about love and relationships.
Lee: With our new single Hurt Lovers it’s an older sound. We wouldn’t have released that kind of song ten years ago.
Have you taken inspiration from Gary Barlow and the Take That boys?
Antony: I remember when we were first around and in the studio with Gary, I said to him once, “Would you ever get back with Take That?” and he said, “Watch this space…” He obviously had something up his sleeve and then to drop a tune like Patience was amazing. If we can even have a little bit of what they’ve got I will die a happy man.
Ever fancy a Gary Barlow judging role? We hear Simon Cowell’s on the lookout…
Lee: I can see Duncan or Simon doing something like that.
Duncan: I’d be interested but we have to get the album up there – if it does great then who knows what the future can hold…
We’re putting our money on Mr Ryan to mix things up on the judging panel.
Lee: I’d get kicked off the show!
Duncan: He’d be the Jason Gardner of the panel.
Lee: I wouldn’t be horrible.
Duncan: No, not horrible – but you’d come out with something that would be a front page headline.
Well, they do say all publicity’s good publicity. So, do you ever get fed up with the One Directions and Union Js of the music industry who ride the reality TV publicity wave?
Antony: I feel like with us we’ve worked in a different environment. The industry will never be the same again to when we first came out. I look at some bands on Twitter and they’ve got a million followers and haven’t even released a record. That’s a massive platform they’ve come from but on the other hand we’ve worked from the rotos up in the old way and I really do appreciate that. We understand the work and graft you’ve got to put in and we’ve still got that mentality – we don’t expect anything. We know we’ve got to work and put the graft in and we enjoy that because that’s where we’re from.
What advice would you give to the new generation of boy bands?
Antony: Just enjoy it because you don’t know when it’s going to end.
Duncan: Every band has a shelf life and nowadays there aren’t many bands who have that longevity. We don’t just want to be in and out quickly, we want to keep churning out albums every year and going on tour. Being apart we’ve realised how excited we are to be back together.
You’ve got a one-off date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 3 May – do you have plans to do more touring in the UK?
Antony: If the first gig and the album do well then we’d love to do another at the end of the year.
Lee: I’m happiest when I’m on the road. I love living out of a suitcase, I’m a proper traveller. I go home and look at a wardrobe and it makes me sad.
Riiight. So, what’s it like being back in a group?
Simon: I found out as a solo artist that I didn’t like being a solo artist…
Duncan: I hated doing it on my own. I started becoming really insecure and when you’re with the boys your confidence grows because it’s what you’re used to. When I was on my own I felt really naked and exposed.
Lee: I just got in trouble in interviews. They’d just ask me loads of questions and normally if I don’t want to answer something I can just sit back. The amount of time I got the record label ringing up saying, “What the hell have you said?”
Antony: We haven’t got our surnames again now. We did for a while but now it’s “Antony from Blue”, “Simon from Blue”…
Duncan: We tried to get away from the “from Blue” family for years and now we’re back.
Lee: “From Blue” sounds like a French desert, doesn’t it? I’ll have the raspberry “From Blue”.
Duncan: Or “The Dysfunctional From Blues” - that’s actually quite a good TV series name, like The Osbournes.
It’s certainly never boring in the Blue camp! Duncan and Antony, you’ve dabbled in a bit of musical theatre – are we ever going to see Blue: The Musical?
Antony: I’d love to!
Lee: I’d like to do a Blue film because we all come from an acting background and we’ve all done films or been on stage. Not a nostalgic Blue film but something with a real script – a comedy, maybe something a bit tongue-in-cheek.
And finally, as Eurovision veterans, what’s your advice for this year’s entry, Bonnie Tyler?
Antony: Go there, enjoy it, represent your country – and hopefully bring back the crown.
Duncan: And don’t listen to the politics because there’s lots of it in Eurovision. We just want to wish her all the best. Have fun – it’s crazy out there.
Blue's new single Hurt Lovers is released on 22 April, followed by their album Roulette on 29 April.
Watch the video for Hurt Lovers below: