Westlife's Mark Feehily Talks Monkeys, Malibu + Their 'Amazing' Upcoming Oz Tour
Monkeys, nights on the town, getting star-struck and writing songs on the fly... We got to know about a whole other side of Westlife when we chatted to Mark Feehily. Check out our interview with the Irish pop superstar right here and start getting pumped for when the lads hit our shores in September for their first ever Oz tour.
Q: Congratulations on your success Downunder. 'You Raise Me Up' has gone Platinum and your album 'Face To Face' has gone double Platinum! How have you guys been enjoying the success?
MF: Well amazingly, the whole thing's been like a new lease of life in a way. We've been banging-on to our record companies for years to let us go and give Australia a shot. Around this time last year we started talking to the record companies down there and talking to our home record company and we were like 'why aren't we getting it a shot', you know?' and eventually we finally said let's go for it. 'You Raise Me Up' seemed to be getting some interest and we went down there this year in February and it kicked off from there. We got an amazing reception and more importantly we really enjoyed ourselves and everybody - the fans - really enjoyed us being there. So we're coming back in September to do some gigs and concerts. We're really looking forward to that to show them a side of us that we feel is our best side - which is our live show.
Q: Is there anything that you missed seeing or doing in February that you're really looking forward to doing when you come back in September?
MF: We were only there for two and a half in February and we squeezed a lot of stuff in. But obviously there's a lot places we want to see - like Perth! I remember when I was six years old, seeing my cousin get in this big, fat aeroplane to flying to the other side of the world - to Perth! So I never thought I'd say that I was going to go to Perth! I'm looking forward to that. We really genuinely enjoyed ourselves when we were over there, especially the bits and pieces when we weren't working... I made really good friends with this monkey in Melbourne Zoo...
Q: That's pretty memorable! Why didn't you see a koala bear or a kangaroo?
MF: I don't know! (ha ha) But I love going to zoos cos I love animals! The zoo in Melbourne was amazing - it had so many cool things...big silverback gorillas and stuff. It was really fun!
Q: So what's it like on the road with Westlife - any crazy habits?
MF: Nothing too outrageous, really. If we've done a good long day's work, we like going to eat some great food and then going to a club. It can get pretty mad sometimes when we stay out late...but nothing outrageous. We're just the same as any guys our age - we love going out and having a few drinks and having a laugh...
Q: And I'm sure you'll find some fans to party with! Were you quite surprised at how many fans you had when you got down here in February?
MF: Yeah we were shocked with the reaction that we got actually. We weren't expecting quite a big rush of a reaction. All of a sudden it went from people knowing a few of our songs on the radio to having that kind of success! It's shocking and very, very exciting because it's been so long since we've broken a new territory and it just reminds me of the feeling that at the very start of the band when we were setting off. As I said, it's about bloody time we were getting down to Australia and getting to meet all our fans out there and hopefully make some new fans as well.
Q: It must be quite a relief to get out of the studio and perform live to the fans...
MF: Yeah our live tour is really like the end aim for us. We record the album and then we try and promote it so that everyone's getting ready for the thing at the end of the day - which is the live concert. We sing the songs and the fans can listen to us and enjoy the songs there and then with a live band, and the lights... that's what we always enjoy the most... the live element. So we're delighted to be coming to hopefully give the fans a good time!
Q: Can your Aussie fans expect anything special - any surprises? Anything you can give u a sneak-peek into?
MF: Well, we sing a lot of Westlife hits. If anyone does have any of the older albums then get them out and refresh your memories with the songs from the early days. Without giving it away, we do a couple of songs from other acts that they might like. And we always try and put a couple of saucy numbers in the show too! You know, we're known for our ballads, but we have just as many up-tempo and mid-tempo songs in our show because obviously when you're in the life arena, you can't just sing ballads all night or people will just sit down. We don't feel like we've succeeded unless people are standing up jumping with their hands in the air and just losing it basically. So it's a very high-energy show and this particular show is very modern and slick and it all moves very fast. Our aim from the moment the concert starts to the moment the concert finishes is to have people on the edge of their seats never sitting down bored.
Q: Your supporting act is going to be perfect for that - the Aussie foursome The Young Divas - are you familiar with them?
MF: Yeah I've heard a lot about them - especially more so now they're supporting us! I'm really looking forward to meeting them. They sound really cool.
Q: Your single 'Amazing' is about to be released here in Australia - what's the song about?
MF: Well the songwriter will take a personal experience in life and incorporate it into a pop melody. So I don't know exactly what experience it comes from but it's just a general song about relationships. But to be honest with you, it's not so much about the deep and meaningful of the song. It's more about the harmonies, melodies and production of the song that we would like people to listen to. We did it with some Swedish guys from a company called The Location who have done a lot of songs with a lot of people. It's a nice light and airy, mid-tempo fresh kind of pop song.
Q: When a song is written by someone else but performed by you, it must creates its own meaning for you...
MF:When you perform it, that's when you go to your experience of emotions to find a way of singing the song with passion. Another thing that a lot of people say to us is that when they listen to our songs, because there's no direct story that we're pushing in the face of the fans lyrically, they kind of take their own meaning out of it. It's kind of like an open for them to think about their own situation because the lyrics are quite general.
Q: You recorded 'Amazing' with Steve Mac - what's it like working with him?
MF: Steve is great, he's someone we've worked very closely with ever since the band started off. He's a very talented songwriter and a great producer as well. He's somebody that is passionate about Westlife and passionate about his songs, and he's somebody that has given us a lot of our great songs, so we're very grateful to him and we're working again with him on our album as well...
Q: Aha! A new album! Talk to us about that!
MF:Well it must be weird for Aussie fans to hear there's a new album already! But we're recording a new album due out over here at the end of October. It's gonna be another pop album - hopefully another good pop album - that fans will like as much as 'Face To Face'!
Q: On the Aussie release of 'Amazing', there's second track 'Miss You When I'm Dreaming'- was there any special reason you chose that track to go on the single?
MF:It's kind of a weird story... we were recording 'Amazing' in Sweden, and Shane and I were messing around in the studio and had just ordered food. So we said 'While we're waiting of the food, let's just write a song!' We literally wrote the song in half an hour - it all happened quite fast! So we decide to put it on with 'Amazing' because we recorded it at the same time. It's just a little ditty - no big production but just a nice little song.
Q: The Amazing video is included on the single... what's your favourite Westlife video?
MF: There's a few... but the video for 'Unbreakable' was cool. You know when you grow up and you hear about Hollywood and the movie sets, and we actually got to make the video in Universal Studios - so we felt like actors in Hollywood! We made the other half of it we made on Malibu Beach and the American crew were pointing to the houses going 'There's Cher's!' 'That's Britney's!'... and were just looking around us trying to see Courtenay Cox or Pheobe from 'Friends' walking her dogs. I know it's quite naïve but it was so exciting to be there and to know anyone could walk past with their kids and their dogs!
Q: Kian has said that his favourite Westlife moment was making the 'If I Let You Go' video in Tenerife... what's your favourite Westlife moment?
MF: As an experience, but not necessarily the final product, making the video for the Mariah Carey duet was really cool cos we got to hang out with her for 3 days and they filmed it all on an Capri where she has a big house and a studio. So we got to go on her big massive yacht and go to dinner with her, and it was just a really crazy experience to be hanging out with Mariah Carey in a big mansion in Italy, you know?! That's the great thing about what I've done in these past 8 years in Westflife is these little things we get to do which are so cool.
Q: And the best thing about being Westlife right now?
MF:It's the experience, you know, and what you learn. After being in LA I couldn't wait to get home with for a nice home-cooked meal from my mum. You know, you learn to appreciate all these little things. You learn so much about the world and the different cultures, so it's a pretty amazing lifestyle. We just jump a train to Sweden, and the next week to china and the next week to South Africa. And if we're not on planes we're in the studio, or doing a duet with somebody, or writing a song... It's a crazy life but it's really good that at the end of the day you've done something interesting and it's not the same thing all the time. There are days you miss your family and friends but we're a lot more used to dealing with everything now, like getting recognised on the street and just dealing with everything - it just hardens you up. I was a quite naïve young kid from Northern Ireland countryside but I've really lived a lot in the last eight years and it's just been an amazing experience.