'I feel I've come out the other end of a dark journey' - Mark Feehily on finding love and musical success
Mark Feehily is having a moment.
He enjoyed international fame and fortune for 14 years with Westlife, playing sold-out stadium gigs around the world; but these days, he prefers to focus on the joys of domesticity, enjoying all the little things in his day-to-day life in Sligo and he’s been reunited with his first love – music.
It’s been two years since his debut solo album Fire was released which he says reflects a “darker period” in his life, but now he’s back with something more jovial, in fact, as joyful as it gets –a Christmas album, indicative of him finding light (and love) at the end of the tunnel.
While recording his first album, he was dealing with the end of his relationship with ex-fiancé Kevin McDaid and adjusting to life without Westlife, which was apparent in his music. Now, he’s in a relationship, spending time with his family and back home in Ireland.
“I made that album between three and three and a half years ago, over the course of 18 months. Westlife had just finished, my last relationship ended and it was a darker time; especially now in hindsight, it was a more difficult time for me and I navigated it as best I could,” he tells Independent.ie Style.
“Making the album at that point in my life genuinely reflected it – the songs on my first solo album were breakup songs and about the trials and tribulations of single life, meeting people and the search for the right person. It was slightly darker, but not mega dark. Now I feel I’ve come out the other end of that journey, I’m living back in Ireland for the last two and a half years and I’ve been in a relationship for the last four years.”
He’s iving in his native Sligo after settling in London for most of his career and later to Dublin and in a way only a former megastar can, he finds happiness in the mundane, enjoying all those smaller moments he missed out on while working and touring.
“I’m living in Sligo a year and a half, I was in Dublin a year before that. I have two goddaughters, one is in school, so I bring her to school, all those little things,” he adds.
“I was always very family oriented, but I was living in London and as much as I enjoyed it, I think inevitably I was always going to feel I was too far away. I wanted my family in my life on a daily basis. London is great in terms of anonymity; in Sligo, they just treat me like a local, I like just being a normal part of the community.”
His relationship is rock solid, although he prefers not to divulge any details about his other half, who doesn’t work in the industry.
“It’s fantastic. There was a time when I was single and I didn’t particular enjoy it, it didn’t take me long to realise I prefer being in a relationship,” he explains. “I was very grateful to meet somebody not in the industry - I have that balance where I can work hard, come home and switch off. It’s not 24/7 for me.
“For me, I just respect he’s not in the industry.”
When I ask if he’ll share his name, he says he’ll let him “in his own time”, adding: “I don’t even shine that much to publicity, it’s part of my job and that’s fine with me.”
In the wake of a myriad sexual misconduct allegations emerging across industries, particularly in entertainment, I ask him if he’s seen anything in the music industry in Ireland.
“With us, we were a band so we were like a little gang. We always had that protection of always having people around us. Fortunately we haven’t met any personal experience that would stand out,” he said.
“Obviously it’s not just the entertainment industry, it’s a variety of different characters similar to any industry, media, film - there’s always going to be challenges like that and unsavoury characters, Westlife always protected because we were a little gang
“If anyone was ever acting a bit odd, we always had each other’s backs. We weren’t as vulnerable as solo artists might have been. “
In addition to his new album, he’s landed a gig with the Queen of Christmas herelf – Mariah Carey – whom he has experience collaborating with after Westlife performed together for their cover of Against All Odds back in 1999. The story of their reunion isn’t one of star-crossed professionals, but rather down to the fact that they share the same agent who did some “musical matchmaking” coupled with the fact that they get along quite well.
“Everything is falling into place in a nice way, I’m appreciating how all the stars are aligning,” he said.
"Sometimes, collaborations can be like two ships passing in the night, you meet once or twice and that’s it; but we’ve stayed in touch. I feel like she’s not your best mate, but in terms of the relationship with a fellow artists, it’s a pretty good and strong one. I’m aware she’s a huge star and she’ll always be Mariah Carey in one way, but in another, I’m just a big fan of her as an artist. I try not to think about how much of a mega-star she is so we can try and have a relatively normal chat, so I’m not just sitting there thinking, ‘Oh My God, it’s Mariah Carey’.
Recording a Christmas album was always on his bucket list and his new work gives him the opportunity to have more of an intimate relationship with his fans at gigs - he's performing at smaller venues and plans interaction with the crowd.
He’ll be taking to the stage of Dublin’s Sugar Club on December 19th and Belfast’s Empire Hall on December 18th.
“It’s going to be some Westlife songs thrown in among the new Christmas songs for new album and from my first solo album,” he says. “It’s a mixture, it’s a very up close and personal gig that involves a lot of talking to the audience, it’s the complete opposite to the big stage and barriers separating you from fans. “