joy of six Where are the RTE Popstars winners Six 20 years on?
Six's version of There's A Whole Lot Of Loving became the fastest selling single released in Ireland
Twenty years ago six young aspiring singers were propelled to instant fame when Six's version of There's A Whole Lot Of Loving became the fastest selling single released in Ireland.
The sextet became household names thanks to JAMIE: Massive high-end bicycle theft in south Derry , which hit the front pages after Nadine Coyle was kicked out of the band after being rumbled for being 16 years old when the required age for the show was 18.
The band's mastermind was Louis Walsh and it was thanks to his first appearance on Popstars that Simon Cowell later picked him to be a judge on both UK Popstars: The Rivals and The X Factor.
There's A Whole Lot Of Loving went to No1 in Ireland in mid-February 2002 and stayed at the top of the charts for several weeks, eclipsed only by Elton's John's reworked Candle In The Wind tribute to Princess Diana and Bill Whelan's Riverdance as the biggest selling single ever released here.
Tyrone man Liam McKenna was a fresh-faced 19-year-old barman working in Dublin when he decided to audition for the show and remembered how crazy it was two decades ago.
"The first thing to remember was 20 years ago there wasn't all these other shows," he recalls. "There wasn't X Factor or The Voice or Pop Idol, so we had nothing else to compare it to.
"During the filming of the show we were put into a house in Killiney for three months, so we were kind of in a bubble while the show was being aired and we weren't aware it was a big thing and didn't realise it was getting so much coverage until we saw the Sunday papers - but still didn't realise it had become so huge so quickly."
Six were unveiled to the media at a launch in the Guinness Storehouse in their trademark white outfits.
"When we saw the turnout, it was only then we realised the show had become massive and the Nadine controversy had made it to mainstream media," he recalls.
"We had auditioned to be in a band and the TV side of it was kind of secondary, it wasn't really our main focus. We just wanted to be in a band, tour the world and make music.
"It was very cool and a lot to take in. I remember a few incidents which blew our minds. We thought we could go into shops unrecognised and I remember going down Grafton Street being followed by swarms of people looking for autographs, and this was before camera phones."
But despite being signed by Simon Cowell's record label Syco and going on tour with Westlife and trying to make it in the UK, Six eventually had to split up after two years together.
"I remember being somewhere in Scandinavia, we all sat down and looked at the diary and the pages were blank and we said 'there's nothing much here for us' . Simon Cowell had moved to American Idol, so we knew the writing was on the wall and it fizzled out," reflects Liam.
"I remember getting the flight home and us all saying goodbye to each other and giving each other a hug, knowing this was the end but also knowing it was our decision to end it."
The other five members of Six and Nadine Coyle are now all parents, with Liam (40) still free and single.
After Six he tried his hand at TV presenting with pop channel Bubble Hits but found his passion in his professional life working in TV production and tour management.
"I always wanted to work with music behind the scenes anyway, so I've been lucky in that pretty much since the day Six finished Louis started on X Factor and I went straight in to work with him on that," he explains.
"Then I became tour manager with Jedward, then Shane Filan and Westlife so I have been lucky enough - ever since I've always been able to keep working in the business."
While working as Louis's right-hand man on the X Factor for over a decade Liam saw his fair share of memorable moments.
"I remember when Rihanna was on it and she was waiting to go on live on air and waiting in this crammed corridor," he reveals.
"There was about 100 of our crew and probably 50 or 60 of her crew standing in this tiny space and they are taping down '10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5' ready for her to go on and then suddenly she decides 'oh no I want to pray'.
"So she makes everybody around her, including me, kneel down and say a prayer' and the floor manager is having a meltdown as the opening sequence is of her being promoted for so many singles of her sold and so on, and she is kneeling down in the corridor praying and they are all like 'get the f**k up on the stage quick'."
When Simon Cowell became ill Louis was asked to step into his role as a judge for a while on American X Factor and sat next to Britney Spears at the judges' table.
"We got on a private plane, flew overnight to Kansas City, landed, then did three days with Britney and the other judges," Liam says.
"Britney and Louis were sitting together. I met her and found her to be lovely, despite hearing her people had sent out emails asking for no eye contact and so on with her,
"Then we got back on the same private plane, a massive one. Just the two of us. And just the two of us into Scotland to do more UK X Factor. So that was a brilliant trip.
"That was at the height when X Factor was huge. So, you can imagine the craziness around it."
Liam now owns an apartment in Dublin and also owns several rental properties in the North, which helped him when touring was shelved for two years during Covid.
He recently worked on festivals in Paris and New York, working with the likes of Elton John, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, but still occasionally manages to get back to his native Augher near Dungannon to see his family.
"Myself and Nathan Carter are working on a new project, where we have put together a new band of five young guys, aged 20 to 25, and they play kind of folk trad music but in modern style, it's called Ceol," he reveals.
Likeable Liam still keeps in regular touch with his Six friends.
"We are all on a WhatsApp chat group and we always keep in contact on it. Andy just sent a picture on it, 'Ach, that came out of nowhere, how did 20 years creep up on us'," he smiles.
"We are planning to do something this year to try and all get together but there's complications now with I don't know how many kids between us all, more than 10 kids.
"We are throwing around the idea of Six Juniors, remember S Club Juniors?
"So putting all the kids together and making them into a band!"
- SINEAD SHEPPARD
Sinéad Sheppard opened up her own dance school in her hometown of Cobh, but also has a sideline in politics. As a member of Fine Gael she was elected Mayor of her hometown in 2012 and is currently a member of Cork County Council.
The brunette got married in 2012 and the other five band members attended her wedding - she is now a mum of three.
- EMMA O'DRISCOLL
Emma O'Driscoll started a broadcasting career in her home city of Limerick on Live 95FM and then went on to become a successful children's TV presenter on RTÉ, working alongside the likes of Socky the sock monster.
Now a mum-of-two, she still does TV presenting as well as running her own stage school in her hometown.
- ANDY ORR
Dubliner Andy Orr now lives in London with his Finnish wife and their two daughters.
From Blackrock, Andy is now an equity finance trader in the English capital and four years ago had to have a life-saving operation after a cancerous tumour was removed from one of his kidneys.
- SARAH KEATING
Galway girl Sarah Keating was slotted in at the last minute after Nadine Coyle was rumbled after lying about her age.
Blonde Sarah tried her hand at media in radio stations and is now a mum-of-two living in Singapore.
- NADINE COYLE
Derry girl Nadine Coyle's removal from Six for being underage was a blessing in disguise as later in 2002 she entered another TV show in the UK, Popstars: The Rivals, and was picked to be a member of Girls Aloud.
The 36-year-old is now a multi-millionaire and having lived for as period in Los Angeles the mum-of-one now spends her time between homes in England and her native city.
- KYLE ANDERSON
Belfast man Kyle Anderson went into TV presenting and production for a time.
The other five band members attended his wedding in 2014 and the dad-of-one now works for Amazon in the North with his company delivering packages with electric vehicles.
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