Ahead of their upcoming show as part of their Word of Mouth Tour in The O2, Siva Kaneswaran of The Wanted chats to Killian Woods about what he wants on his tombstone, his experiences in reality TV, and the reason The Wanted are going on hiatus
It’s a grave subject for any casual interview to begin on, but when dealing with high-profile pop stars, such as Siva Kaneswaran of the boy band The Wanted, the conversation can be dragged in whichever direction the interviewee takes it.
Without a prompt, the conversation drifted towards what commemoration Kaneswaran would like to appear on his tombstone. Not a natural path for the conversation to follow after being asked to talk about some of the most impressive personalities he has met and worked with over the past four years, one would think; but an interesting start nonetheless.
Spike Milligan’s may have been credited with Britain and Ireland’s favourite headstone epitaph back in 2012, but his “I told you I was ill” entry doesn’t quite have the same wow factor that Kaneswaran has to draw upon.
“I always say I have so many quotes I’m going to etch on my gravestone,” he says with a sense of anticipation to see a mock up of the design. “Mickey Rourke was cool, he called me a ‘good looking C-U-N-T’ and Robin Thicke said, ‘Really, really cool good looking guy.’
“All these people I was talking to and you look back and go ‘oh my god, this is ridiculous’. It was cool; you get to meet loads [of personalities]. The biggest one was meeting Stevie Wonder and talking to him. He was a nice guy and very grounded. He’s very philanthropic; he really wants to help humans.”
As he recounts these events, it is clear from his voice that he still feels a buzz from the fame he has enjoyed from being apart of The Wanted over the past four years. Kaneswaran joined the five-member group back in 2009 and since then there hasn’t really been time for the man from Blanchardstown to rest on his laurels.
Level-headed in the delivery of his answers, Kaneswaran doesn’t get caught up in any notions that the band’s future, or his own name, was written in the stars from the get-go. He maintains that hard work and being savvy about building their profile is what helped the band shoot to prominence.
“When we started off, we knew there was a team involved, but you never do know. You can’t say, ‘We’re going to be massive!’ You’d never think that. So we worked our arses off for the first year, about eight or nine months, in schools and clubs.
“When we decided to release the first single, the fan base grew and social media pushed it straight to number one, and it was a phenomenal feeling. All the work paid off. We were all emotional and just exhausted, because I think we only got maybe three days off in that year, so it felt good. From there it went onwards and upwards.”
When chatting about the method the band use towards perfecting their image and music, it is clear that behind the scenes, the group are very clinical in their preparation for albums and tours. A lot of thought goes into their approach to the process of being a successful boy band, which is somewhat formulaic, but not rigid when it comes to the final product.
“It’s one of those situations where you go to rehearsals and you get really analytic. Of all the things you have to do on the set, we’ve got a lot of choreography to do and we’ve got to think of what the fans want.
“After the set up, there’s the set list of our music; there’s going to be a few little acoustic parts and a few surprises for the fans. You’ve just gotta go into it and get everything right, get your chords right, get your lyrics right, set up right, because we’re going to maybe do a medley too on tour, for the fans to know, which is a great thing because it kind of covers all of our albums.
“And obviously get healthy too. When you’re on tour, you do an hour and a half of a gig every day and you just get exhausted; you get knackered. So you’ve gotta keep healthy too. You have to get really serious, because otherwise your voice dies.”
Despite all the hard work that the band have put into boosting their own profile, the release of ‘Glad You Came’ in 2011 presented the group with an opportunity to cement their global profile. Kaneswaran spoke about Scooter Braun, manager of acts such as Usher, Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Psy, coming on board to help them break America.
“[Scooter Braun] came on just after we released ‘Glad You Came’. [That] was a hit and we did really well in the UK. When we brought it to America, we needed someone obviously to package it well in America and Scooter was the man for the job at the time.
“He took it and the song just exploded. Within two weeks, every radio station was playing it. We’ve had about 98 million listeners at the time. It just went international, it brought us everywhere, Singapore, Hong Kong, everywhere. Everyone knew the song. In America, he just made us this massive band. He took care of us very well in terms of the song and maintaining the band.”
Following the success of that fateful single, the band have released a third studio album called Word of Mouth and dabbled in a reality TV show called The Wanted Life, which aired on E! and followed the exploits of the band in order to try and boost their profile even further in the US.
The TV show, which was produced by Ryan Seacrest, ended up being a significant learning curve for the band, and some say the catalyst for their eventual announcement that they will be going on hiatus after the upcoming tour.
Kaneswaran describes how he felt he personally learned a lot from the experience. “It was like the house we were living in was like a set. Everything was really extreme and all our emotions were heightened. I feel like the show did dramatise who we were and I felt like after the show, it was a bit stitched up.
“I felt like I was a bit pigeon-holed, and same with my partner. I don’t think it was who I was; it was very dramatised. I did learn a lot, and in some ways it brought us together, and got us to talk more. Looking back at it, I’d change so much.”
Despite the learning curve and opportunities the show presented, Kaneswaran still has regrets about getting involved. “I think maybe looking back at it, I would maybe not have brought my partner into it, because she got pigeon-holed and she got typecast, but that wasn’t her.
“It was quite upsetting afterwards looking at the programme, knowing that it wasn’t who we were. On the positive side, we got to do amazing stuff. We got to go to the White House, we got to go everywhere with the show.
“We got a lot of opportunities and some things I regret and some things I don’t, but at the end of the day, I learned a lot. At the end of the day if you’re going to walk away from something, you have to have learned something, otherwise there’s no point in doing it.”
After the band’s announcement on January 22nd that they were taking a break, the media went into overdrive trying to pin-point the exact cause of the split. When asked about the band members’ decision to go on hiatus, Kaneswaran doesn’t hesitate to mention their venture into reality TV.
“Well, since we did the E! show, [The Wanted Life], it felt like it was every man for himself. Our true colours actually showed and that’s where the team aspect was lost. We carried on from that, you know we carried on working together as usual.
“It was fine, we’re like brothers; it was fine, but a bit difficult. And then recently we kind of naturally had a meeting together and we decided it felt natural to take a break after the tour and do our own thing.”
Despite the recent revelations, Kaneswaran was keen to point out that although it is disappointing, the band are still close and that he will always cherish the memories from touring and being immersed in the music industry with his friends and bandmates, Jay McGuiness, Max George, Nathan Sykes and Tom Parker.
A special memory that Kaneswaran says he will always hold dear is the time a girl presented him with an old Irish punt when they were on tour in Liverpool.
“I [will] always remember in a school in Liverpool when we started off… A girl gave me, now she’s English, but she found a coin in her grandfather’s pocket when he passed away, and she held it and she showed me it, and it was an Irish punt, a really old Irish punt.
“She was like, ‘Do you want it?’ and I was like ‘What? You want to give me it? Are you sure?’ And she was like ‘Yeah, I don’t know what it is’. I was like ‘It’s a punt!’ and she was like, ‘I don’t know what it is’, so she gave me it as like a thank you for coming to her school years ago.
“I still have it now, I still have it for good luck. That’s a really nice thing a girl gave me years ago, and I thought, good for the heritage.”
The Word of Mouth Tour starts back in Liverpool on March 14th, with the Dublin date in the O2 set for March 24th, ahead of an extensive tour of the USA and Canada. That leg of the tour consists of 27 shows between April 8th and 17th.
After that rigorous schedule, Kaneswaran is on his own, and it’s a daunting challenge that the singer is looking forward to. “After The Wanted, I would love to do my own music, I think that’s what I’d love to do. I think we all kind of agreed that we’d all do our own thing after the tour.
“After that send off to the fans I think I’m going to do my own kind of sound, pop-indie sound, and I support the rest of the boys in what they do. I want to just go crazy, I’ve already recorded a track with RedOne and I’m writing like crazy. I’m enjoying it and I’m excited. I can’t wait to show you me.”
Fans will be happy to here this enthusiasm from Kaneswaran, who has no intention of fading into the background. This is what he loves and it is evident when he describes how much he enjoys the creative process of writing and recording songs.
“I think on the last album, I wrote like four or five songs on it. I go crazy for writing, I go mental. I love it. All of us kind of work on the album. This, Word of Mouth, the album, has taken us two years to make, two years! And the tour, I can’t wait to get on stage and express that to the fans.
“The fans are dying to hear it in front of them, they connect to it that way. There’s a lot of emotions in it, we put our life and soul into that album, and hopefully fans take that and we can show them a good time. I do think that writing is the most important, that is certain, you’ve got to write, it’s where your strength comes from.”
It is clear that over the next few months, emotions will be high as the band wrap up their final tour before an indefinite hiatus. However, this is just the normal trajectory for all successful boy bands and it wouldn’t be outlandish to think that a reunion is on the cards in the near future. Siva, Max, Jay, Tom and Nathan have had a habit of giving the fans what they’ve wanted for the last four years, and they will undoubtedly reform someday.