With three number one singles, more than 15 million records sold worldwide and an endless stream of hit songs, Blue has secured legendary status as one of the world’s most iconic boy bands. Since their debut single All Rise took the UK by storm in 2001, the group has developed a cult following that has stuck with them for more than two decades. This year, they celebrated their iconic careers with a nostalgic set at the Mighty Hoopla music festival in London. GAY TIMES caught up with all four members of Blue (Duncan James, Antony Costa, Simon Webbe and Lee Ryan) shortly after their performance, where they discussed the “exceptional” response they had from the crowd and reflected on the last 20 years of their career.
Hi Blue! What’s it like performing the older songs all these years later?
SIMON WEBBE: It hurts our backs!
DUNCAN JAMES: Not as fit as we were back in the day.
SIMON WEBBE: We sound better though, we sound better.
DUNCAN JAMES: To be fair, it was so good to be back on that stage and just doing what we love doing. You know, we haven’t been able to do it for a few years because of the old ‘C’, but here we are, back at Mighty Hoopla all together again and it was just amazing to be back on stage and the reaction was just off the charts – it was incredible.
What’s it like to perform at a festival like Mighty Hoopla?
ANTONY COSTA: It’s fantastic. I mean, you saw tonight, there young people there who probably didn’t know who Blue were from back in the day, but they were enjoying themselves! I think, if we can get some new fans along the way, then we’ve done our job. I think today’s crowd has been absolutely exceptional and it’s an honour to be here, so thanks for having us!
Over the years, you’ve developed a huge LGBTQ+ following. Was there a moment where you noticed that happening?
DUNCAN JAMES: Yeah! To be fair, GAY TIMES has always been so supportive of us. I remember some of the shoots we did back in the day, I remember a shoot you did with me. You know, we’ve been so blessed that we’ve had the gay community supporting us and continuing to support us as well – especially because I’m the gay one in the band!
SIMON WEBBE: And I think it’s important for us as a group to show support for the gay community as well. It’s not just the gay community supporting us, it’s us supporting them.
DUNCAN JAMES: And also, talking about that, when I came out I was really scared about the reaction from the boys, but they were so lovely to me and really embraced me, and these are my brothers at the end of the day and I was frightened to come out to them.
ANTONY COSTA: Idiot.
DUNCAN JAMES: I know! They were so wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for a better band and a better group of people to be so supportive of me. Still to this day, I’m so blessed that they have all been so lovely to me from my journey coming out.
LEE RYAN: I was just really confused because he had some really fit girlfriends!
DUNCAN JAMES: I was confused as well back then, trust me! There was a lot going on.
Is there a song from over the years that you’d say is a Pride anthem or one that resonates with the LGBTQ+ community?
DUNCAN JAMES: I think One Love is really important because it was such a hit for us, but also it’s got such an important message that love is love at the end of the day, and to show love is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what gender, what sexuality, love is love and to show love to one another is what’s important, and we love that song. It’s all about one love.
Let’s go around one by one and say your favourite Blue song ever.
ANTONY COSTA: It’s hard, man!
DUNCAN JAMES: He wrote the new one and it’s brilliant.
ANTONY COSTA: I wrote the new one, thanks Duncs. I think, taking my Blue hat off, if I was a Blue fan I’d probably say Too Close because that was our first number one. I think from that, it sort of catapulted us and sort of showed we were here to stay for a bit. So yeah, Too Close.
DUNCAN JAMES: For me, I think it was Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word with Elton John. When we got Elton John on the phone and he said he wanted to do it with us, that was like a pinch me moment! Then when we were in the recording studio and Elton came in, it was just like… Honestly, it was one of the best moments of our lives, just singing with Elton around a piano. Him telling us all little stories of back in the day, it was just amazing. That’s my one!
LEE RYAN: I was going to second Duncan, because I had a dream to sing with Elton when I was younger and, when I was about eight years old, I said, ‘Mum, I want to sing with Elton!’ and she said ‘Keep praying’. So, I used to sit in my room listening to Elton John, and I used to imagine myself singing with him, so I think I almost manifested it. There was a time when we did the video shoot and I looked next to me and I went, ‘Oh wow that came true!’ so, sorry to say the same, but it was such a moment in my life to actually get to sing with my idol.
SIMON WEBBE: I think for myself, it would have to be All Rise. It was our first-ever track that catapulted us onto the scene. I just remember it being number four, number six, number eight, number four – it just wouldn’t leave the charts, which then told the record label that these boys might have a little bit of momentum. So, I think All Rise and, personally, because we shot the video on my birthday. So, it’s the first track on my birthday with the boys that I’m still with 22 years later, so it has to be that song.
What does it feel like to look back on your career now and remember all of hit songs, tours and other achievements you’ve had?
ANTONY COSTA: It’s insane because when Blue came out back in 2001, no one knew who we were – were we a boy band? Were we from England, America, Sweden, Denmark? I think the beauty of Blue is that it was all about the vocals, so our vocals sold the record before people were saying we were just another boy band. So, we went the old school route and I’m so proud we did that because we can stand here today knowing that we did it the hard way.
You can stream Blue’s legendary discography by clicking here.