We had to keep our mouths shut 'til now say Blue as boy band biography published
Boy band Blue burst on to the music scene over 15 years ago and the four-piece have just released their first book, detailing their rise to fame, the highs and the lows. They speak to Lucy Mapstone about music – and mental health
BLUE were one of the biggest boy bands in the noughties and, although they may consider themselves to be no longer "current", they believe they have much more to offer their fans.
Simon Webbe says with unwavering confidence: "I don't think we've peaked yet, musically. We've still got that hunger to create and we've got that more than ever.
"I truly believe, listening to us singing in the studio, even us singing live together like we did the other day with a live band, we hold our own and we actually surprise people."
With a knowing smile, Webbe adds: "We surprise ourselves too, but just to see the surprise on other people's faces just lets us know, just a little bit more, that there's still room here for us."
I meet Webbe and his bandmate Duncan James (Lee Ryan and Antony Costa are otherwise engaged) as the band prepare to release their first book – All Rise: Our Story.
The tome details their highs and lows as they "tell their full, no-holds-barred story in their own inimitable words".
Penned by journalist Caroline Frost after speaking to Webbe, James, Ryan and Costa separately, the book sees them each retelling their version of different moments in their career, and it certainly makes for interesting reading.
I'm keen to know why the band – who formed in 2000 and who have each gone on to enjoy their own successes either as solo artists or actors – have chosen to reunite now to release a tell-all book.
"It just felt like it was the right time," James explains, before revealing that the financial crises that hit them all at different times over the years held them back until now. He says: "I think there's a lot of things we've not been able to say for certain reasons [as] we had to keep our mouths shut – bankruptcy being one of them – and we felt it was a nice time to do it.
"We've been through so much together as a band... the highs, the lows," he says, adding that the process felt "almost like a therapy session" for them all.
James says he thinks that Ryan in particular found it difficult to do, but it "brought up emotions for each of us".
While the book shines a light on many of their struggles – such as Ryan's infamous comment about the 9/11 attacks (when, aged just 17, he suggested publicly that people should be more concerned with animal welfare) and his cancer scare, Webbe's battle with depression, and James's friendship with the late Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and the many headlines that caused a stir – Webbe and James are keen to make it clear there is a bigger focus on the highs.
And what highs there were: lest it be forgotten that Blue enjoyed an incredibly successful career, with three number one UK albums, two Brit Awards and 16 million records sold.
From the moment their debut single All Rise dropped in 2001, Blue barely stopped until their hiatus in 2004. They reformed several years later and dabbled with more music, representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest and later taking part in The Big Reunion.
"I know we kind of highlight the negatives, but I hope people understand that in this book there are a lot of highs as well," Webbe says.
I ask about mental health, something that was rarely publicly discussed when they were at the height of their fame, and how it impacted them as a group and as individuals. James praises the current level of awareness around mental health and admits it "wasn't easy" for them to ask for help back then.
"It wasn't as easy to say, 'I need help, where can I turn?' It was not talked about, you just had to deal with a lot of things yourself," he says.
James explains that he found it interesting to learn now that "we all had our own s*** going on but we never actually talked about it to one another, because we were all too frightened to bring our own issues to the table"
Webbe adds: "I think dealing with it was just knowing there's something going on between us, individually as an undercurrent. But when we're together we're all right. Those problems don't exist when we're together."
James nods as Webbe continues: "I think a lot of people might read it as like, 'oh well – you didn't talk'. But we didn't need to talk."
James interjects: "You get on stage and the magic of Blue would appear, we'd sing together and be smiling and happy, we'd be in a really good place.
"We'd come off buzzing, and we'd all think everything was great. But it was the times when you'd go to your bedroom, your hotel room at the end of the night, and you'd close the door and be on your own and you'd think, 'I wish I could have talked to the boys, it'll be fine tomorrow'.
"And then tomorrow never comes – you're up and you're doing something else, you don't get the opportunity to talk."
Webbe cuts in: "When we took the break and had a lot more time on our hands, that's when the little demons would start to rear their heads. I don't think I came out of my house for three, four months. The only time I came out of my house was to fill the fridge."
Lifting the hood of his jumper over his head to bring his point home, he adds: "And it'd be with my tracksuit hood up, back in the house, curtains closed, shut off from the world."
Now aged between 34 and 39, Blue still can't quite believe how young they were when they were thrust into the spotlight back in 2001. James describes it as "overwhelming", and says they didn't have "the maturity level to deal with a lot of stuff".
"You're kids still, really, and you make mistakes and the way that you live your mistakes out in the papers, in the public eye, and sometimes it can be unforgiving because of the things that you say and the things that you've done. You learn quickly that you've got to have a tough skin because there are always eyes watching you."
Now they're clearly excited about the possibility of fresh music.
"We love making music, we love singing together, we love performing together," James says, gesticulating enthusiastically. "And it's like, we may not be as current now as we once were, but why can't we still make music? Why can't we still go out and perform?
"Just because we're a bit older and may have had our success, whatever certain people may think, I think that if you love doing something, if you enjoy being together and making music together and performing together, why stop your enjoyment because other people say you're not cool enough any more?"
:: Blue: All Rise: Our Story is out this week.