Mark Feehily on being pals with Mariah Carey and why that Westlife reunion won’t happen anytime soon
BY Rachael Kane
After recently being announced as the opening act for Mariah Carey on her UK tour, former Westlife star Mark Feehily reveals that he goes back a long way with the superstar singer. In 2000, when both she and the Irish boyband were in their heyday, they recorded a duet together which saw Mark and his pop comrades Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Shane Filan and Brian McFadden holed up in her lavish Italian mansion in Capri for several days to record Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now). And Mark reveals that Mariah “is most definitely not a diva, that was not our experience”.
The pair remained friends, and he has since found himself sitting on the floor of her London flat, chowing down on a Chinese takeaway with the award-winning chanteuse. Then Mark got a call from his manager explaining that Mariah was bringing her All I Want For Christmas tour to Britain (she is not playing Ireland, sadly) and wanted him for the guest slot. Having remained out of the spotlight for the past two years since the release of his first solo album, Mark jumped at the opportunity to revive his singing career and has just released a brand new Christmas album, called Christmas, funnily enough.
He will perform tracks from the new CD at a one-off gig in Dublin later this month, including a moving cover of Joni Mitchell’s River, an uplifting version of Otis Redding’s Merry Christmas Baby plus Mark’s own interpretations of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Mariah Carey’s Miss You Most (at Christmas Time). Former Westlife manager Louis Walsh joined Mark for the launch in Dublin. As we know, the Sligo hunk is a man of many talents from renovating cars — he hit the headlines in 2015 when he was papped selling coffees from the back of his 1950 Citroen van, which he did just for fun — to flipping country piles. And his ambitions don’t stop at that.
“I’ve a lot planned for the next couple of years. In the last six months I’ve been doing a lot of vocal training,” Mark tells buzz.ie. “There’s also been quite a few musical theatre offers, which is exciting. That’s a world I’ve always loved so I’m trying to approach it in a legitimate way rather than just being the guy from Westlife. I’d love a challenging lead role in a musical,” he admits. Mark also intends to make his debut as a TV presenter over the coming months.
“Friends in the TV world approached me to get involved in a documentary about Irish music and the influence Irish songs have had worldwide through the years,” he explains. “This goes right back to the 1600s when a huge cohort of Irish people went to the Caribbean and brought their songs and instruments with them. The programme is coming to fruition quite quickly.”
As for Louis Walsh’s recent claim that Westlife will reform, Mark laughs: “Louis has this giant wooden spoon on his back and he likes to take it off from time to time and stir things up! But I think he’s right, all of us do want to get back together, but we just have no idea when. We haven’t had any conversations about it. Everyone’s busy doing their own thing. We might love the idea but I don’t think it’s going to happen for a while.”
In the meantime Mark is more than happy to enjoy “normal” life, or as normal as it can be when you’re hanging with Mariah Carey. “It’s funny how people always expect you to live in this five-star private jet type world — real life isn’t like that and I love real life. To me the private planes and the VIP stuff is all great. But I’m a normal person and I like doing normal everyday things.”
He continues: “Sometimes I’ll be in a pub in Dublin and people are like, what the hell are you doing here you should be in some VIP section. God forbid you’d go for a pint with your mates. Even in Westlife I’d slip off by myself to some pub down the road while the rest were in a VIP section surrounded by security. I always liked to escape and I think I always will to be honest.”
Mark’s romantic life is “fantastic”, he confides. “I’ve been in a relationship now for four years. He’s Irish and he’s not in the business so he’s quite shy but he’s quite happy to let me do my thing. Life is great in that respect. I couldn’t be happier.” The pair have been living together in Sligo, having initially got together when Mark was based in London. As for taking things to the next level, he tells me: “We are both quite traditional and romantic. I think marriage and kids are what we would both love one day. It’s just a matter of when, as opposed to if. But for now we are focused more on just enjoying our relationship.”
Mark has never been as excited for Christmas as he is this year, as he looks forward to moving into his new Sligo home, which was a building site this time last year. And he can’t wait to get stuck into cooking the turkey. “When we were in Westlife we lived in hotels 90 per cent of the time. Everything was done for us. You never had to cook a meal, for example. Now I love being in the kitchen. I’m confident I’ll manage the turkey but my other half is a great chef with lots of experience so I can call on him if anything goes wrong for me,” he laughs.
In addition to a support slot for Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas tour, Mark Feehily will perform his new Christmas album at the The Sugar Club, Dublin on Tuesday December 19. Tickets €27.90 from ticketmaster.ie His new album Christmas is available now for download and in record stores.