Mark treasuring home comforts with big plans for the year ahead
Jessica Farry chats to Mark Feehily about his Christmas album, a possible Westlife reunion, and his hopes and dreams for the new year.
He's one of Sligo's most famous sons - but Mark Feehily just wants to live life quietly, like any normal person.
Having spent two years away from the spotlight, he's back with a new Christmas album, and preparing for a Christmas tour with none other than Mariah Carey.
The multi-Brit Award-winning star, who notched up 14 number one hit records as Westlife's lead vocalist is set to provide the soundtrack to Christmas with the release of his festive new album aptly titled 'CHRISTMAS'. He will perform Christmas classics at The Sugar Club, Dublin on December 19th.
The Sligo native will be joining Mariah in Manchester and London for her 'All I Want for Christmas' tour.
Renowned for being private, Mark's humility means that the Sligo public have always allowed him to live his life as though he was anyone else rather than one of the most famous people to ever come from Sligo.
"This is an exciting time for me. This album is light-hearted and upbeat. It's more fun than my first album. My first album was a bit dark. This is a reflection of where I'm at in my life," he told The Sligo Champion.
Recording and releasing a Christmas album is something he says he always dreamed of doing. And, when the opportunity arose to join Mariah Carey's Christmas tour - he knew the time was right.
"I've recorded songs that not everyone will know. I always play it to my Mum and Dad. One of the songs is 'River' by Joni Mitchell and it's one of my favourites, and then there's more well known songs like 'Have Yourself a Merry Christmas'. It's really upbeat. 'Oh Holy Night' is a song I've been singing since I was an altar boy in Calry Church.
"A Christmas album is something I've always wanted to do. Then when the chance came up to do the Christmas tour with Mariah Carey, where we would perform Christmas songs, I just thought that I had to do the Christmas album. I couldn't turn down the Mariah thing. And then this is really the perfect time to put out this album."
The last two years have been quiet on the music front for the former Westlife star, but, on a personal level he has been extremely busy.
"I've been quiet in terms of promoting but I had probably the busiest year out of the public eye. I've been doing a massive job in the house in Sligo so I've been running between Sligo and London to meetings and keeping an eye on how it's all going," he said.
Now that he is getting older, he has noticed an increase in the number of offers to do musical theatre. That is something, he says, he would love to do.
And with that added maturity, he finds that there are more roles that would be suitable for him to play.
Mark has always been extremely private when it comes to his personal life.
Keeping his private life private, he says, has always been of extreme importance to him, and he will be forever grateful that the people of Sligo have always honoured that wish.
"It's very important to me to keep things private. I don't like going into a room and everyone looking at me. I got used to being on stage with Westlife. I've always been given that space in Sligo.
"Everyone kind of goes out of their way to make sure I'm left alone. Locals are very protective. They always take care of their own. Sligo people are so proud of Westlife.
He continued: "Even strangers help me out when things are getting out of hand or there's someone drunk sort of annoying me.
"To be able to live in Sligo and to be able to live life as a normal Sligonian means a lot to me."
And although he admits he likes to keep things away from the spotlight, he has spoken about his desire to have children somewhere in the future.
"I 100% want kids down the line. I can't think of a better place to raise children than Sligo. It really is a fantastic place.
"There is so much to do here whether it's music or sport or art. People are becoming more aware of their surroundings here.
"There was always a whisper from people that there's not much to do in Sligo, but actually when you look at it there is so much to do here."
His time spent away from his home county means that he has grown fonder of what we have to offer in Sligo.
"I've recently become more appreciative and I've started exploring a bit more and trying out all the walking trails that I haven't done before.
"I climb the new walking trail at Knocknarea a bit with the new steps. I'm discovering so much more about Sligo.
"I'll be honest, we don't realise how amazing it is. I had friends over from England there recently and they were blown away by the beauty and the scenery."
Social media was rife last week with excitement after Westlife manager Louis Walsh hinted about a possible Westlife reunion.
It's not the first time he has alluded to such an event happening, and it certainly will not be the last.
Kian Egan shot down those rumours speaking to The Sligo Champion at the time.
Mark admits that it is likely to happen in the years to come, but right now he says is far too soon for a reunion.
"It's funny. Louis said something about Westlife reuniting, that all the boys want to get back together and then all of a sudden it's just blown out of proportion. Mum, Dad and my brothers were all getting texts about it. It's mad that it happens like that.
"I'm so grateful that the interest is still there from the public. I hope that the excitement remains and that by the time we do come back, everyone will be dying for it.
"It will be way down the line. There is a big place in my heart for it. But I think we would be silly to come back now. It's only been five years since we split up so if it's further down the line then people would be more excited."
Each band member has their own thing going on at the minute, he says, and all are too busy at the present time.
"I have the Christmas album and once January comes I am planning loads of things like a new album so I don't have the time and all of the other lads are really busy and have their own things going on. Once every so often Louis mentions the possibility of Westlife reuniting, but I think he's just stirring the pot. The main thing is, until you hear it from one of the band members then it's only rumours."
Mark's album 'Christmas' goes on sale this Friday (December 1st). Tickets for his gig at The Sugar Club went on sale last Friday.