First Published May 2021
If you were asked to name the Irishman who has represented us a songwriter at Eurovision, has won Song of the Year in Russia, and as a producer, has had his work featured on a major Netflix show, you might well struggle just a little bit to come up with the answer. But, if you can join all those dots, then you’ll come up with the name of Wicklow man MARKCAPLICE.
Part of the reason why Mark remains a ‘well-kept secret’ can be attributed to the fact that he is almost cursed by talent. Because he tends to be involved in so many projects with so many different artists, and often times as both writer and producer, a lot of his many musical gifts burst into life ‘behind the scenes’, as it were.
However, if you happen to spend any time ‘behind the scenes’ of the music industry in Ireland in any capacity, or spend time with anyone who does, the name of Mark Caplice will be no stranger to anyone. Chances are, though, the gent you’ll hear folk praise will be known to all as ‘Cappy.’ And Cappy is a man in demand. He’s also finally about to step out from behind the scenes and into the limelight in his own right as an artist, and not before time, too.
Mark’s brand new single, the brilliantly titled CATCH A TEAR, will be released on May 27th. I had the pleasure of catching up with the man himself last week, and began our chat by asking Mark to tell me about that title and how the idea for the song came about…
“Well, the overall message of the song is that you want to be there for someone that you love. A large number of people quite close to me were having really tough times, and lately, obviously, this goes for the whole planet as well. There were numerous different circumstances where it was really just raining down on people, and I remember thinking to myself I’m not much of a praying man, but if I was to start praying, I wouldn’t know who to pray for. That was the stem of the thought. I was like, Christ…where would I begin?! I just wanted to write something that would be very special and close to me, for some of the people that are special and close to me that needed a bit of help.”
And the phrase itself – catch a tear – was that Mark’s starting point for everything, or more something that revealed itself as the song developed?
“As the message and the concept of the song grew in my head, of I wouldn’t know who to pray for if I was praying and not wanting to lean too much into religion because it’s not a religious message by any stretch of the imagination, I was trying to think of different ways you could show – even in a phrase – that you’re there for someone. And I liked the idea of catching a tear because it shows both that you’re literally close to someone, close enough to catch a tear, but it’s also metaphorical, that if you’re under a bit of pressure let me take the weight. I can help.”
In speaking elsewhere about his new single recently, Mark said the reason he was releasing his own music under his own name right now was because a loved one who was ill had asked him to do so back at Christmas. I wondered if that particular loved one had not asked him to do it, would this be happening right now, or perhaps at all?
“It’s been on my mind for quite a while that I have wanted to release music, and I was going to slowly start gathering songs, and I was thinking of putting together a bit of an album this year, or maybe next year. So I was going to start the process of gathering songs now. But that conversation hit me pretty hard. It was a blunt, but important reminder that with every second time gets more precious. And that’s true for you, for me, for the loved one I spoke to. It’s a big part of my mindset and philosophy that time is so precious and so short. You never know when it’s going to be too late to start releasing music again. Tomorrow is guaranteed for no man. But I think I was just so busy writing with and for other people that I kinda put myself in the back-seat. And then I put myself in the other back-seat. And then I put myself in the boot! [Laughs]. Yeah, that conversation was definitely a big positive reminder to act on doing the things you love to do, when you can do them.”
Because Mark has been busy for so long working with other people, as both a writer and as a producer, now that he is finally turning the spotlight back on himself a little bit more with this new single, what’s the main emotion around it all? Is it nerves? Excitement? A mad mix of both from hour to hour and day to day, perhaps?
“[Laughs] It’s a mad mixture of everything from day to day, I’d say! There’s definitely a bit of, ‘Ah God, whatever I do couldn’t possibly be good enough!’, because I’ve had the pleasure of working with many, many gifted artists and songwriters over the past few years. And then having been a producer, I’m thinking I wanted to make it sound sonically amazing and do loads of incredible things. But it just comes back to what the song means. And the message of the song. What is the message of the song? It’s about making sure that message is clear, and that it’s sonically supported from what comes through the speakers. That’s how I diffused any anxiety or madness about it. As a friend of mine, Philip Magee, said to me not so long ago, if you’re trying to record a song for a producer, most of the time you’ll come up short, because there are insanely talented producers all over the world that can do incredible things sonically. So if you try to compare yourself to, or try to be like others, you’re putting yourself at a step back before you even get going. So it always comes back to what the song means for me, and for the people around me that the message is for.”
Mark is planning some Irish and European tour dates for later this year which makes me think there’s probably another single or two – maybe even an EP or an album – in the works for around those dates too. I asked him about what is coming after Catch A Tear, and for what kind of a heads-up he could offer on those tour dates…
“That’s a big point. I’ve got a lot of music I want to put out over the next while, and I think this first song was just a gentle reminder [to myself] to get back into the releasing world. But I’ve got a lot of music to come. And I think some of it is really special. I’m looking forward to getting it out there. Probably an EP. The thought of an album terrifies me! [Laughs]. So we’re probably lookin’ at an EP. The tour dates are looking to be about September, October, but obviously with regulations things are taking their time. But we’ll be patient, and abide by whatever guidelines we’re given. It’s lookin’ pretty positive that by the end of the summer there’ll be a few more tracks out in the world and I’ll be jumpin’ into a tour bus and travellin’ the length and breadth of the country! And THAT thought gives me so much excitement!”
Mark said recently in relation to this solo-project, that it “isn’t focused towards commercial success, but more so to create a body of work that I feel passionate about as a writer and artist.” Now, Mark is very much a commercial writer as well, and a very successful one. So I asked him to talk as a songwriter about the line that can exist between what you need or want to do from a commercial point of view, and on the other side of that line, where passion and creativity and inspiration can be the driving forces in what he writes…
“Yeah, that’s an interesting and really good question. This is a conversation I have quite regularly. Some of the time, when you’re in a session, it would be more so, ok, what do you think the audience of this artist or performer will want to hear? That’s where the thought starts and grows from. You almost imagine a seed being planted in the middle of the 3Arena, right in the middle of the crowd, and that’s where the seed of the song grows from. Because you’re trying to think about what the audience wants to hear. What tempo will it be? What’s the message of the song gonna be? Is it gonna be upbeat? Or is the artist goin’ through a bit of a tough time and they need to let their fans know about this? And they want to communicate all of that in an effective way for their own sonic brand, so that will include the type of melodies you use, the type of instrumentation you use, the type of wording you use. That’s where that seed grows from. Songwriting has to be a selfless act when you’re writing for someone else because you totally put yourself in their shoes. You can draw from your own experiences, but it definitely leans more into the artist. But when it comes to my own stuff, I want it to be more autobiographical, to be closer to home for me.”
Earlier this year, Mark gained a kind of national notoriety by becoming big in Russia! His song, Dirty Secret, co-written with Cian Sweeney and Briony O’ Toole, achieved all kinds of amazing things, including being named Song of the Year in ALL of Russia! But funnily enough, this was actually the first song that Mark, Cian, and Briony had ever written together, and it happened over three years ago! So I asked Mark to talk me through how it all blew up in such a big way for him at the start of 2021…
“It’s a funny amalgamation of stories, if you will. Cian and I met at an IMRO seminar, for publishing, I believe. We just got chatting, and then gently stayed in each other’s circle. I think he told me about this girl called Briony and he showed me some of her stuff, and I thought God, she’s amazing. But in the back of my head I was like, Briony? I know that name! It’s a very unique name. Well it actually ends up that Briony and I are related! Yeah, I swear! And we only found this out a week before we were due to do the writing session, which was hilarious. We went to her house in Laois and it ended up being where a lot of my family grew up and everything. A crazy 360. So we got together, started just messing about with ideas. It was the first time I’d met her as well. So it was all just quiet, chilled out, laid-out, exploratory, just having fun. Let’s throw ideas and melodies and beats and stuff out there. It was very organic and real. A fun session, a fun session.”
Mark continued, “When we finished the song, we knew it was good. I was thinking about releasing it myself, but I wasn’t fully sure about it. Around the same time, I actually met a publisher in Dublin and they said they really liked it and offered to, as they say, shop it! And it found its way to Russia, and Grigory Leps, who is a major, major artist in Russia. It was released at the very beginning of 2020. Via a contact that I have in Russia, they were filling me in on all of the information on how it was doing. And it was skyrocketing, it was super popular, always on the radio, that’s what she was telling me. And I was just like, that’s cool, that’s cool [laughs]. Then, by pure chance, I messaged her at the beginning of 2021, just saying happy new year, hope everything is well with you and everyone, and she replied, ‘Oh thank you so much, it’s lovely to hear from you! And by the way, your song has won an award.’ I was like, oh, alright. Well cool! I like awards! [Laughs]. So I asked her what award did it win…and she said it won a Golden Gramophone! And I was sitting in this armchair that I’m sitting in right now, and I was thinking to myself, did I just win a Grammy in Russia?! [Laughs]. It was a real what-is-happening-here moment! So I asked her if it was a Grammy, but it’s not, it’s a little bit different. Basically it’s for songs that have been in the top-twenty airplay chart in Russia, in the whole of Russia, for more than twenty weeks. So it’s a serious stint. So I was sayin’ wow, that’s insane, it’s so cool, ya know, and I was super-chuffed.
But there was even more to come, as Mark went on to explain. “But then she says, ‘Oh, but by the way, it won another award, I almost forgot!’ So I was like, again, ok, I love awards! [Laughs]. What award did it win this time? And she said it actually won Song of the Year in Russia. I was like, in ALL of Russia? And she said yeah! This was one of the team that has worked on the song in Russia, so it was a fairly reliable source. So for the whole country, that’s huge! I think their population is around 145 million. I had to check, I was just curious [laughs]. So yeah, on their national broadcaster it was awarded Song of the Year. And I saw the awards show. At the beginning of it, it sounded so funny hearing my name spoken by a Russian gentleman! [Laughs]. It was a wow-moment again. There were like thousands of people at the ceremony, and I was just sitting here in my home in Baltinglass thinking, WHAT is goin’ on?! [Laughs].”
~ CATCH A TEAR, the brand new single from MARK CAPLICE, is out May 27th, available on all platforms.