‘I’ve never known fear like I’ve felt on Strictly’: Nicky Byrne says singing to millions in Westlife was a cinch compared to dancing on TV
‘He was so encouraging,’ says Nicky, who’s more used to rapturous applause as one quarter of Westlife, one of the most successful boy bands in pop history. ‘He said: “Don’t let it get you down. It’s a journey. It’ll be fine — just work hard.” ’
Which Nicky did, practising all the hours God sends with Venezuelan partner Karen Hauer to perfect his cha cha cha for the following week’s show. ‘Nobody understands how nervous you are, going into that first night in front of ten or 11 million people,’ he says. ‘You’re being judged and you’re trying to remember steps in your head.
‘When we finished the waltz, I thought we did OK. I didn’t fall over or forget the routine. Then we stood there and got absolutely hammered.’
Craig Revel Horwood made such a fuss of the illegal lift you’d have thought they’d vandalised Strictly’s spray-tanning booth. They received a disappointing 17 points.
‘There was a part of me that thought: “This is week one. The judges are going to go hard.” OK, we did put an illegal lift in there and had we known it was as bad as it was going to be we wouldn’t have.
‘Anyway, I was raring to go with the cha cha cha to show what I could do. It’s a bit more me. There’s a lot of hip movement involved and a chance to have fun. The final rehearsal went great. I thought: “If I do that tonight I’m happy.” We were all set to go.’
But his cha cha cha was a disaster. Nicky and Karen hadn’t taken account of the noise of the applause. ‘The song starts with eight beats, during which I was supposed to do three big moves. But the crowd started clapping and I couldn’t hear the beats of the music. Not only that, but I was waiting for the clapping to stop.