Singer Mark Feehily on what he’s really hoping for over the festive season — and why art is his biggest luxury spend
Mark Feehily was one of the lead singers in Westlife, the biggest pop group in Irish history.
They had 26 Top Ten singles, 14 Number One hits, selling 50 million records worldwide, before they disbanded in 2012.
The band were formed in 1998, signed by Simon Cowell and managed by Louis Walsh. By the time they played their last ever gig in Croke Park, they were estimated to be worth €9m each.
Feehily, 37, from Sligo, was often the soloist in Westlife, and was the main vocalist, along with Shane Filan. He launched a solo career in 2015, releasing his debut studio album, Fire.
He recently supported Mariah Carey in Manchester and London.
Are you a saver or a spender?
It goes in phases. Through many of the Westlife years, I was probably far too sensible, and so then I learned to enjoy it more. I’d be buying candles for €100, before I learned they only burn out, so it doesn’t matter if they’re a tenner. I became a bit flamboyant, although I was always wary not to just blow money. I’ve got more sensible now, and I’m somewhere in the middle.
What was your first job and how much did it pay?
I worked in a fast food restaurant called Café Yeats in Sligo. I started off at the bottom, cleaning up and mopping. It was 1995 and I got about IR£5 an hour. I’d be there with the mop, listening to Backstreet Boys on the radio and dreaming of pop stardom. It’s funny, in hindsight, how I ended up supporting them. It’s like something from a movie.
Do you download music or buy records?
I have submitted to the download world. I will buy the album as well if I really like the artist. The first album I got was Michael Jackson’s Bad, as a Christmas present. The first album I bought was TLC’s CrazySexyCool. I bought it in the Record Room in Sligo. I used to spend hours in there, checking out the sleeves and the artwork and finding out who produced and wrote albums. It was like escaping to another world. I still love Tower Records in Dublin for that. Music is now much more disposable, which is a shame really. But if my parents are downloading, it means I should be.
Do you haggle for a bargain?
A pet hate of mine is someone seeing a Westlife member coming and rubbing their hands together. I’m thinking: no, you’re not going to get away without a haggle — I’m just like any other customer. It’s part of the buying process, although I don’t mean everyday stuff. My best bargain was a Damien Hirst piece about 10 years ago, which I sold as it didn’t suit my new house. I got double the price I bought it for.
Where is your best value holiday destination?
Krakow in Poland. It’s a stunning city and I couldn’t get over how cheap it was. It’s great to have that culture and architecture not so far away, and it’s really good value.
What has been your biggest luxury spend?
Art is probably my biggest extravagance. I find it inspirational to walk past something I love and will never get tired of looking at. I am very into an incredible performance artist and designer called Leigh Bowery, and I love the Fergus Greer photos I have of him. I also have a photograph of Bowery by Annie Leibovitz. Graham Knuttel painted each of us once, so all the members of Westlife have a Knuttel picture of themselves.
What’s the biggest rip-off in Ireland?
Car insurance seems to be very expensive. I hear younger drivers getting quotes of €5,000, and there are a lot of people not on the road because of it. I’m sure there are people driving that are far riskier than those being punished for their age. Also, rents in the capital are cutting it out as an option for many.
What’s the most generous Christmas present you’ve ever received?
If someone made a nice Christmas card, it would make me much happier than an expensive present. I like the idea of presents that last. My aunt bought me a tree for my 21st birthday and it’s still in my parents’ garden. My brother Barry always buys me something I use — last year he bought me a beautiful, big, warm jacket that I wear on walks. I have no excuse now to not to get out and exercise.