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Inarguably among the most popular bands of the 2000s, Brit-quartet Blue amassed a league of followers fairly early in their pop music career. Having delivered 15 chart-toppers in the mere span of three years soon after their debut, their early success had them rubbing shoulders with industry icons like Elton John and Stevie Wonder, establishing their place as a band that was, as they say, “here to stay”.

And even though their hit tracks, including All rise, U make me wanna, and One love never left the playlists of ’90s kids, it is the recent attention directed to the last one on this list that brings them before us for this interview. One love has been trending on social media, but there’s some comic relief in the unison with which they nod their heads in the negative when we ask them if they are social media-savvy. “When they tell us we’re trending, we’re grateful, but we don’t know what that means,” say the boys in their 40s, adding, “We’re not from this era.” In this interview, they discuss sticking together for 24 years, and the defining moments that made them. 

Edited excerpts from the interview:

When you look back at your successful tracks today, can you identify what made them the evergreen classics they are?
Duncan James: When we wrote these tracks 24 years ago, we were lucky to collaborate with producers known as Stargate. They were fundamental to our career, because they created that sound that everybody knows, like the [ones you hear] in One love, All rise, Sorry seems to be the hardest word. They found a nice [way] to place our vocals on their production, and it worked, not just in our home country, but across the globe. It was like an Elton John-Bernie Taupin kind of relationship. We were lucky that with them being part of the beginning of our career, we found our Bernie.

Simon Webbe: We were influenced by the music that we grew up with. And, there are four of us. Some of us were [followers of] George Michael, Abba, [and others admired] Boys II Men, and Mutant Clan. [We could] put that [knowledge] together. For some reason, our sound resonated through time. For us, it was [only within] three years, between 2001 and 2004, that we were able to deliver 15 hits. Today, we don’t really understand what’s going on with this social media stuff. Back in the day, people had physical CDs; there was something about owning them and being part of [that era]. Now, with social media, you can listen to artistes at the click of a button. Our song, One love, is nostalgic for people around the world. We don’t really understand what’s going on. We’re just sitting here going, okay, can you explain what the whole ‘trending’ thing is? 

Are any of you social media savvy?
Anthony Costa: No, we don’t understand it at all. So please excuse us. This is all very new to us. But, the fact that our song is doing well across the world is amazing because it shows that it was a really strong pop song that resonates to this day. We’re very grateful, we just don’t understand how it works.
Blue has enjoyed a very successful run, and there have also been instances when you all decided to take a hiatus. What does it take to keep a band together for 24 years? 

Lee Ryan: You’ve got to first have love and respect for one another. There have been many boy bands from our era whose members would fight each other, even physically. We’ve never done that. We’ve had our spats, because that’s what happens within all bands, but never to the point where we lost our self-respect. We’ve been through a lot with each other, more than a lot of bands that I’ve seen. And we’ve stood together through that. You can’t be in a band and stand the test of time for 24 years without going through trials and tribulations. We’ve got a story, and that story has bonded us together. We’re still here touring and making music. That’s what’s important. Making music as a band and expressing yourself comes with experience as well. Those experiences bleed into your new music, because it’s what you write about. You want to tell a story because your story is so big. But, it all starts with respect and love [for each other]. If you don’t have that, I don’t think you’ve got a band. 

An aspect that is often discussed within bands is how each member is able to shine within the group. Do you find yourselves discussing that? 
Lee: We’ve worked on [projects] separately, but this band has its own identity. We’re always going to come back to it because this is where we started. I don’t like [working] on solo [projects] because I’m so used to looking around and seeing my boys next to me. I don’t like doing anything apart from making music with this band. That doesn’t mean that I don’t do that. 

Duncan: Blue is home. It’s like the house your parents live in; it will always be called home. Being in this industry for as long as we have been, I don’t like being away from home for too long because I have insecurities, and suffer from paranoia. I like being with these guys because I feel safe. 

Given that you have been creating new music again, how do you believe your music has evolved in the recent past? 
Anthony: You progress naturally and look out for the kind of music that is doing well. We don’t emulate that, but we keep it [contemporary]. Our music had a lot of anthemic choruses, like you’ll hear in One love, and Fly by. So, we retain that because that’s what we’ve been known for. 

Lee: When we write, we think about what will sound good on stage, because we’re a gigging band. Even to this day, we put music out as we tour. When we get in the studio, we’re always thinking about our gigs, and those [ideas] are reflected in our music. 

What would you say has been one of the most defining moments for your band?
Anthony: A standout point for us was winning the Best Newcomer title at the Brits Awards in 2002. Back then, we were just a band that was making cool music. But none of us knew that we would win anything. That moment brought Blue [a lot of recognition across the world]. It showed people that we were here to stay. 

Duncan: Getting nods from people like Elton John and Stevie Wonder, [who said] they wanted to work with us, [was another highlight]. They were well-known legends who had sold millions of records worldwide. They agreed to not just work with us, but be in a music video with us as well. To be seen standing next to them was a massive nod of respect.

We have had the pleasure of working with a lot of legends, like Lionel Richie, and Sir Tom Jones. We never worked with other people who were on the same level as us on the music charts. Maybe we could do a collaboration with an Indian artiste.

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