Westlife were at the top of their game back in 2004 and just three weeks away from hitting the road for their fourth world tour when bandmate Brian McFadden dropped a bombshell.
He was done and wanted out with immediate effect.
Announcing his departure in an emotional press conference, Brian – who turns 41 today – explained he wanted to spend more time with his Atomic Kitten star wife Kerry Katona and their two young daughters Molly and Lily.
“It’s very, very hard to juggle two lives when you’ve got a family and being in a band like Westlife, it is a huge commitment,” he explained.
“To be honest for the last year, especially since Lily was born, I haven’t really been able to commit 100 per cent to Westlife and I haven’t been able to commit 100 per cent to my family, so I kind of felt it was unfair to both. I felt it was the right time to stand back.”
His bandmate Kian Egan choked back tears as he read out a letter written to Brian by Westlife, admitting his departure had knocked them for six.
“The last five days have been a huge strain on all of us and only us five in the room will ever understand that,” he said.
“We have enjoyed so many times with you on the road, we’ve shared laughter, tears, success, weddings, babies and most of all we’ve shared our dreams.
They fivesome insisted there was no bad blood, and poured cold water on claims it echoed Robbie Williams’ departure from Take That which was sparked by a series of rows.
However, the four remaining members feared that like Take That – who split less than a year after Robbie left – the end was nigh.
And Nicky Byrne previously told The Mirror it took a lot of healing for the band to move on and confirmed that there could never be any going back.
“I don’t think that Brian would ever ask to come back to the band. But the honest answer would be that we wouldn’t have him back in the group anyway,” he explained.
“We all get on great with Brian but we couldn’t go back to having five in the group because it was such an upheaval when he left.
“We had to re-build and start from scratch and we’re a different group now. We’ve moved on and Brian knows that as much as we do.
Brian and Kerry parted ways soon after he left Westlife (Image: Getty Images Europe)
“If you are asking me if we would let him re-join the group then the answer is no.”
He conceded: “At the time I suppose we did all feel a bit hurt and abandoned by the whole Brian thing because we were emotional about what was happening.
“We were taking a huge step into the unknown when Brian left. I think we all felt a bit vulnerable and scared. That was probably the toughest thing we ever went through as a band but it brought us closer together.
“I think a lot of people wrote us off and thought we would be finished – like when Robbie Williams left Take That.”
Meanwhile, Brian split with Kerry, embarked on a relationship with Australian singer Delta Goodrem and relocated Down Under.
And he also lifted the lid on his real reason for walking away from the band, admitting the flash point came when they were told to cover Barry Manilow’s hit Mandy.
Brian moved to Australia to be with actress and singer Delta Goodrem
Brian told the Irish Independent: “That was definitely a turning point. I’ve always been very proud of Westlife, and I still think that we never got the respect we deserved, but I was f**king ashamed of that song.
“From the second we went into the studio to record it, I lost all interest.”
Over the years, Brian has made several murmurings about wanting back in.
In 2015 he admitted he was kicking himself about the cash he’d missed out on, telling The Irish News: “Sometimes I think if I’d stayed another 10 years, I would have made a lot of money, but that would be the only reason for any regret.”
Westlife continued as a four-piece and have vowed to remain that way
And in 2018, Brian claimed they’d been offered a mega-bucks deal to reunite as a five-piece, but said the other four had snubbed him.
“I was offered a big multi-million pound deal. It was the other boys in Westlife who said ‘no’. They didn’t want me back,” he told the Irish Sun.
“How does that make me feel? It makes me pretty upset because I didn’t realise they still had those feelings towards me.”
That same year, Kian made it clear that there was ‘no feud’ but explained that as far as they were concerned, Brian had been part of a band that no longer exists.
He told the Daily Mail: “It’s a very simple case of Brian was a part of the band for the first five years and the band existed for eight years without him and when we got back together Westlife was a four…
“He’s part of a band that doesn’t exist. There’s no negativity, no bad blood. There’s only positivity and it’s a case that the Westlife we’re members of, is a four. That’s it.
Mark Feehily added: “We wonder when we’ll stop being asked about it because it was 15 years ago. There was never a question of Brian being involved.”