Linda Martin

First Published November 2021

A LEGEND AND A LADY

The thrill of watching LINDA MARTIN win the Eurovision for Ireland when singing Johnny Logan’s brilliant Why Me? is a memory that will never leave me. Nor will hearing it ever fail to stir those same emotions of excitement and pride that I felt bursting in my heart as I watched Linda cast her spell over a continent back in 1992. Hearing her perform Why Me? in person in the Tullamore Court Hotel a couple of years ago was just like travelling back in time. I wasn’t a sixteen year old sitting at home in the kitchen in Lusmagh anymore, but I might as well have been. Music is magical, and songs like Why Me?, performed by artists like Linda prove why that’s true. 


Little did I know way back then, of course, that one day I’d have the pleasure of working on a project with the very lady who won the first of Ireland’s famous three-in-a-row, leading the way for Niamh Kavanagh who took the crown in 1993 with In Your Eyes from the pen of Jimmy Walsh, before Charlie McGettigan and Paul Harrington gave us the hat-trick with Brendan Graham’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids in 1994. But, that pleasure did indeed come my way. And just last week, it was my privilege to sit down for another chat with Linda. 


We’d been meaning to get around to this for a while now, and with Linda having two spectacular concerts coming up in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral next month, what better time to finally make it happen?! 


“I’m grand, back to work again”, revealed Linda, as our chat got underway. “I had a year and a half off like everybody else. What can you do? You just get on with your life. But it’s been so difficult for everybody. I mean, looking back on it, I can’t believe that for a year and a half there wasn’t any gigging, or meeting musicians, or setting keys for songs, or doing something. It’s just incredible.”

 Moving on to the forthcoming concerts of December 6th and 7th next, Linda explained how they came about…


“Well, we’ve been running them for about the last five years, hugely successful. Not last year, obviously, because of Covid. But this year, I reckon that people are gonna want to get out and revisit those fantastic nights that we had in the Pro Cathedral, which is a beautiful place. So I thought ok, we could go with a night which is Celine [Byrne], who is an opera singer, Red [Hurley], Mary Byrne, Michael English, and the choir [the Halleluia Gospel Choir], do that sort of a night. Then the second night, I was talking to Johnny Logan, and I said to him are you around at all on the 7th, and he said he was. ‘Will you come in?’, I asked him, and ‘I will’, he said, so when he said yes I got onto the other ones and they all said yes immediately. The only one who couldn’t do it is Eimear because she lives in Geneva, you see, so she couldn’t get home. So we went ahead and put all our arrangements in place and that’s what we have, two nights, and all profits, of course – as usual – going to three charities. The first one is The Peter McVerry Trust, I adore that man. I just think he should be sainted. We have a new charity on board [this year] called Blossom, which helps mentally impaired people get into the work-place. And the third one, of course, is the charity that I’m a patron of, and that’s Dogs Aid, up near Finglas in north county Dublin. That’s what we’ll be doing. And we have a raffle both nights in the middle of the show, and then we’ll have our guest readers as well, like Mary Kennedy, Anne Doyle, Rory Cowan comes in and he does a little Santa skit with lots of little kids dressed up as elves. He’s done that before for me and the public love it because all of the little tint kiddies are dressed up and he’s talking to them about Santa and everything. Peter McVerry will speak too. He enthralls everybody. People just sit with their mouths open listening to that man talking. Covid, I know people are scared, but we’re definitely adhering to every Covid rule that that government has told us to do, I think that’s important to say and for people to realise as well.” 

CHRISTMAS VOICES FROM THE PRO CATHEDRAL

One of the charities Linda will be helping to raise funds for is the Dog and Animal Sanctuary, and animals – dogs in particular – are and have always been a hugely important part of her life. In fact, Linda has twelve – that’s TWELVE – rescue dogs living with her. I wondered was there a moment, or perhaps a combination of certain moments in her life, that her love of dogs grew from? 


“Ah yeah, it’s twelve. But listen, for this house, that’s quite a small number. Trust me. Trust me! I remember one Christmas many years ago, there were twenty-four dogs in this house. I couldn’t walk across the kitchen [laughs]. But sure I don’t care, I love them! My father’s family were the same, they always had animals, always. So it comes from that side. When I was a child, I didn’t actually play with dolls and prams and things like that, it was always a dog. And I was always allowed to have dogs as a child. But my mam, she used to say to me, she never had to worry if I was lost, she just had to look for a tail wagging somewhere and she knew i’d be beside it. So it’s just in my heart. I just adore them.” 

How old is Linda’s eldest dog at the moment? 


“Fourteen. I can tell you that immediately because I’m going to the vet with her on Saturday morning, just for a check-up. When she came in here, she was a little mange-ridden puppy fourteen years ago, and he’s still here. He’s called Tinky-Winky, and he looks like one of the characters out of Emmerdale, I think his name was Red? [Laughs]. He’s fourteen, still moving about, still eating away, still doing everything. I became a patron of the sanctuary just because they asked me. That would be the closest one to me, it’s only about twenty minutes away from my house, so I’d known of them. I can’t really remember the exact reason, but I got a message from them asking would I come on-board as a patron, and I did so gladly. And I’m still with them. They’re good people. It’s a voluntary organisation. Nobody takes any money, all of the money that comes in goes to the dogs. It’s actually operational because of public donations, it’s marvellous.” 

EUROVISION VOICES AT CHRISTMAS

Eurovision is the theme of one of Linda’s concert nights, and no-one in this country is more connected to Ireland’s Eurovision history than Linda. Not only did she win it in 1992 with Why Me?, she also came second in the contest in 1984 singing Terminal 3, and has been a National Song Contest entrant nine times, a number that is – to the best of my knowledge – still a record. But in recent years…ok, decades at this stage, sadly… Ireland has badly lost its way in the Eurovision. There’s a Late Late Show Eurosong special coming up again soon, something which doesn’t fill me any hope because this is an event that deserves and warrants its own stand-alone show, not simply being tagged as another Late Late Show special, or indeed, having anything to do with The Late Late Show. How would Linda go about putting us back on the right path again? 


“Well, exactly what you said. I’d make a special night of it. It could be in one of the studios in Dublin, but you could make it special [for the night], or else you could go to one of the theatres in Dublin and make money out of it. I truly believe that you’d be able to sell tickets. It’s a competition alright, but you could also have stars from Eurovision [as guest artists], you could bring them in. Think of Brotherhood of Man, for instance, they could be brought in. You would obviously go for the Irish winners, but you could go outside the box as well. Different countries that have won, RTE could approach them and just ask how they would feel about taking part in a show like that. It could be anybody. I think that would be a huge success, and it would make it something special again. When we don’t make it special, then the public tends to dismiss it. And Terry Wogan, God rest him, he was the worst! Jesus, the things he used to say about it [laughs]. But at the same time, he loved it. Graham Norton absolutely adores it. And I just think if we made this something special, whether we made the competition a stand-alone event, or really started trying to change the public’s opinion of it, because when you think about it on a base level, you’re providing work for an awful lot of people. Songwriters. The studios where the songs are recorded. Employees involved in putting the show together. There’s so much work in it that people would benefit from. People shouldn’t dismiss it, but think of it as a platform. If you can get your voice out in Europe in front of four-hundred-million people, that’s a platform for you! I just think we have to make something special of it. And we also have to take into consideration the days when we were all performing in cabarets, discos, variety shows on RTE and in the theatres, people got to know you, and you got your experience. So by the time that you had a few years under your belt, RTE would have heard about you, and you could put your name in the hat, and they would say well this song would suit X, Y, or Z.”

Linda continued, “Now I’m well aware that those situations don’t exist anymore. But, it’s not a contest for beginners. There’s no point unless you’ve got experience, are used to crowds, and dealing with people, don’t touch it. Seriously. If you think of last year’s Eurovision, and the amazing acts, all of those acts were brilliant. And I’m thinking of the women in particular. They were beautiful, dressed immaculately, smiling, dancing, singing, and they looked as if they owned the stage. And that only comes from experience. That applies to the boys as well. I remember suggesting to RTE one time, why didn’t they go around the karaoke competitions in Ireland. And they looked at me as if I’d just grown two heads! But it’s the only way these days that you’ll actually see and hear somebody. But I don’t know what we are going to do, because we can’t compete monetarily, or with some club-beat song, it doesn’t work for us. The Europeans have that nailed down. You know what their tracks and everything sounds like. We’ve always won with the big ballad. And I think we have to stick to that. Don’t try to compete with the other ones.” 

So, what Linda is really saying, if I’m correct, is that it all comes down to the song still? Or at least it should all come down to the song? 


“Yeah. Yeah. It really does. The song should be the most important thing. But it means nothing if you haven’t got a package around it. There has to be a ‘look.’ There has to be good vocals. They have to be camera-friendly. It’s a complete package that’s needed. And it’s very, very difficult to get that.” 

It’s that time of the year again when loads of fabulous new books begin to appear, and one in particular that I can’t wait to get stuck into soon is Backstage Pass by Pat Egan, a man Linda knows well. 


“I do, I do of course know Pat.”


And everyone is eagerly awaiting the day when another good friend of Linda’s, Louis Walsh, finally puts pen to paper! 


Hahaha!”


But what about Linda herself? Has the thought ever crossed her mind to tell and share her incredible story in that way? 


“Well, do you know something, I was approached a couple of times and I met up with a couple of publishers. And I just kept saying to them that I wasn’t going to name any names [laughs]. And they were sort of like well you’re no good to us then [laughs]. But I think I’d be boring. And I’m not looking for you to say, ‘Oh no, you wouldn’t’, or anything like that. I mean, genuinely, I think it would be boring.” 

I knew Linda wasn’t just looking for compliments because that simply isn’t her way. But I had to disagree, and I said it anyway: No way would her book be boring. No way. I think it would be fantastic.


“Well you’d never know what would happen in the future [with me], but Pat Egan’s is definitely going to be worth reading. I’ve known Pat for years, and he’s an extraordinary character. He’ll tell you the stories, but he never, ever runs anybody down, I’ve learned that from Pat. He always speaks very respectfully of people, no matter who they are. He tells amazing stories of stars he’s worked with and booked into Dublin, the festivals he’s run, and everything in between. A really interesting and lovely man. His book is definitely worth a read. I’m a voracious reader. My favourite author of all time is Frederick Forsyth.” 

It’s funny that Linda mentioned her karaoke idea to RTE all those years ago, because with their latest show – Last Singer Standing – well, it’s basically just karaoke and nothing more. When it comes to TV shows like this, of course, Linda has been there, done that, and went home with the tee-shirt as well, as they say. She worked with Louis on The X-Factor, and she played a major role on You’re A Star, so she knows what these shows are like. But in terms of something like Last Singer Standing, and indeed, the recent mess that was Virgin Media One’s The Big Deal (definitely not a big deal!), what were thoughts? 


“I have to give kudos to people who are actually trying to bring things forward. From what I’ve seen, there wasn’t anybody that sort of stood out and made me say oh Jesus Christ, you’ve got to sign that guy or that girl, you know. I did notice the winner of the first week of Last Singer Standing, a guy called Alex King, I remember Alex when he auditioned for Louis’s bands and things like that. And he’s a fine singer alright. But trying to get a record deal [now], it sounds to me like you need to have millions of followers on Facebook, then the record companies take notice, then possibly they’ll sign you to something. But there’s no money involved anymore. There isn’t. In days gone by you might have got €100,000 up front. That doesn’t happen anymore. Unless you’re Lady Gaga or somebody like that, that’s a different thing altogether. But no, I have seen anybody standing out. And Louis Walsh watches these things like a hawk. And nothing has come to his mind either. But he is putting some sort of a new act together. He’s looking for ‘something’, or ‘somebody’, or maybe a group, or people that he can put in a group, sixteen to twenty-one years old. He’s going to do something, he just doesn’t know what. The way he feels about it is when he sees it, he’ll know. And then he’ll push with a record company. But like I said, it’s very, very, very difficult.” 

Is it so difficult now because so many people try to just copy what’s already out there, rather than trying to be themselves and stand out as an individual? 


“There’s some unique people alright [that stand out]. Dua Lipa, I think she’s fantastic. There’s some around. But I don’t know if copying is the right word because you fall into that trap anyway without realising it. Somebody could sit down and start writing a song and then realise it sounds like Elton John, but listen, that’s just the way it goes. Music selling, of course, has been destroyed because of Spotify and all of those things. Songwriters are making nothing because of that. It’s so easy to go online, listen to a song or listen to an album, and if you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. In the old days, you had to buy the album to listen to the one song. We’re caught in that trap as well.” 

Returning to the idea of if Linda did ever write a book, I have no doubt that she could fill volumes with advice to those in the worlds of  music, showbiz, and entertainment. Acknowledging the fact that it’s hard to ever narrow down advice to one or two golden nuggets, if Linda were to try, what words of wisdom might she pass on? 


“Yeah. To all young people who ask me that, I say you’re limited where you can be seen, so go and join your local amateur dramatic society. And they’re looking at me like, ‘Whaaaat?!’ [Laughs]. But I say, I’m telling you, these people know so much, they’ve been there for a long time, they will teach you stage-craft, voice projection, they’ll teach everything that happens backstage, and it’s so well worth trying. I don’t know if anybody has ever gone and done that, but I think it’s a great idea to do it. Most of these people [in local ADSs] are so helpful as well. The second piece of advice is go and camp out outside Louis Walsh’s house! [Laughs]. The options are limited. You have to push yourself because if you don’t, nobody hears about you. But then there’s an over-confidence that turns everybody against you. You’re looking for that middle-line all the time.” 

As we tip-toe around the edge of another new year now- and even if things are still somewhat uncertain in a lot of ways – what is Linda looking forward to or hopeful about in 2022? 


“Not so much for myself, but what I’m hoping we can do is progress animal welfare laws in this country, that the government will actually say no, and start to take action against these dreadful puppy farmers and people who inflict such cruelty onto animals. That would be one thing that’s always on my mind. And for myself, just getting back to work! That’s all. That’s how my life has been spent, so it’s alien to me to be sitting not doing anything. And the Covid, I know we’re going to be living with it for the rest of our lives, but hopefully we can get it down to where it’s there, but we’re not actually getting sick from it.” 

~ CHRISTMAS VOICES from the PRO CATHEDRAL takes place on DECEMBER 6th, featuring Celine Byrne, Michael English, Mary Byrne, Red Hurley, Anna Kearney, the Halleluia Gospel Choir, and Linda Martin. The EUROVISION VOICES at CHRISTMAS concert takes place in the Pro Cathedral on December 7th, featuring Johnny Logan, Dana, Paul Harrington, Charlie McGettigan, Niamh Kavanagh, Anna Kearney, the Halleluia Gospel Choir, and Linda Martin. Tickets for BOTH shows are ON-SALE NOW, available from eventbrite.ie, and the Pro Cathedral Parish Office. 

ENDS

Marc Roberts

First Published August 2021

“PEOPLE NEED MUSIC”

Part 2

It’s far from a given that somebody who possesses an extraordinary talent will also possess a personality to match. One gentleman who effortlessly excels in both regards, however, is one of Ireland’s foremost talents when it comes to the gentle entwining of words and music, MARC ROBERTS. 


Truth be told, in fact, if some extraordinary talents were relying only – or even too much – on their personalities, they’d be in big, big trouble. And just to be clear, when I talk about personality in this context, I mean something as simple as someone’s ability or inclination to be friendly, to be respectful of others, to be able to show some sympathy, some empathy, and some compassion as a matter of course, rather than as an exception, or only when they have their ‘show’ face on. There are some in the world of entertainment who consider themselves to be ‘stars’ first, humans second. In their own minds, they walk among us, rather than with us. Not so with Marc. 


The Mayo native, who has made his home in the land of the tribes where he presents The Feel Good Factor on Galway Bay FM, is as down to earth and normal a chap as it could ever be your pleasure to meet. Marc is a genuinely extraordinary artist, as his latest single, CONSIDER IT DONE, proves yet again. And if you haven’t yet heard his previous release, the truly beautiful Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes, let that be exhibit B in this case. 


But as well as being s songwriter of considerable skill and renown himself, Marc was also the man responsible for introducing Daniel O’ Donnell to the craft in a serious way. But how, I wondered, did it all happen? This week, we get Part 2 of our recent chat with Marc underway by the man himself telling us all about it…


“Well Daniel has been a friend of mine forever, for as long as I can remember. And he’s always been a great encourager and a great friend in the business, without a doubt. And we have a similar sense of humour too, to be honest. Then in 2004, I toured Australia with him, as his guest artist. He’s always said he loves my songs, so I used to always send them to him. But then he’d come back and say, ‘It’s a gorgeous song…but it’s just not me.’ And I was like, ‘Well what IS you then?’ [Laughs]. I didn’t get that. You see, with me, cathartically, I have to write. And I love it. I won’t push myself, but when something happens I go there. So it could be rock, pop, rap, classical, anything, I have bits of everything. I just love music, like I love people. That’s just me. And it has to come out some way. So I’d send him all of these, and in hindsight, I could see afterwards why they weren’t suiting him or whatever. So it was Don, my manager [Collins], while we were on tour who said, ‘For God’s sake, I’m sick listening to the two of ye talkin’ about writing. Why don’t ye get together and try writing something?’ The thing with Daniel is that he’s very lyrical in the way he speaks. And he comes out with some very profound statements, and some very positive things. He has his own definite thoughts on things. Almost to a charismatic point where he can comfort people by some of the things he says without even realising how important it was that he said it.”

“So when we came back from Australia”, continued Marc, “I went to his house in Donegal, and we wrote ‘I Will Think Of You.’ And then the following day – I stayed over that night – and the following day we wrote another one. That was two. And he was absolutely thrilled. He just couldn’t believe it. He was ringing two of his friends and goin’, ‘I’ve actually written my first song.’ And he did his work [on the song] the same as I did mine. We trashed out ideas back and forth, just kind of teaching him in a way that there are certain things you can say, but by not saying it. And there are certain words you shouldn’t use that just don’t work in a song, that kind of thing. And it went from there. We had two on that album, ‘Live,Laugh, Love’, then we had three on the next album, including the title-track, ‘Yesterday’s Memories.’ And then the next one was ‘Until The Next Time’, and I wrote two-thirds of that album, pretty much. The first single that came off it was called ‘Crush On You’, which went Top 20 in the UK pop charts.” 

So would Marc say that songwriting is something that can be taught to someone who might have never even attempted it previously? Or would it have to be someone like Daniel who – as Marc had pointed out – is almost lyrical without even knowing it, so maybe just needed to be made aware of how close to being a songwriter he actually was? 


“I’d say it’s a mixture of both, to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s something you can teach people. It’s something innate that we [songwriters] have. And there’s a general thought that you don’t question it too much in case it disappears [laughs]. We all do different things in life. I can’t do things that other people can do. I would be, probably, a deep thinker, I would think a lot and would be working things out that way. And I know Daniel would be the same, from the point of view of having definite thoughts and ways of saying things. His fans are just so important to him, no more than my own are to me as well. I mean, they are the reason that we do what we do. We’ve been given an amazing responsibility and opportunity to do what we do for a living, and meet people in the process, and make people happy. It’s just an amazing thing. So, for him, I would have definite ideas and things of what he wanted to say, and he did. All we did was get together and we tried it, and it worked. My manager and I have written a song together, just the one. And again, it was down to something that kept recurring thought-wise, words-wise, idea-wise. We finished it together coming back one night from a gig. So I don’t think it’s something you can teach people. You can show people the idea of what songwriting entails, but I think a lot of the magic is something that you have to be born with. It’s just something that happens. And as I said, you don’t question it too much [laughs].” 

Songwriting is a funny thing on the Irish country scene, in that it can often be ignored. An artist like Derek Ryan, for example, will – quite rightly – be heralded as a figure to admire precisely because he’s such an excellent songwriter. But he’s not the only great songwriter in Irish country music. Yet, so often you’ll see Irish country artists covering American country songs that, of course, first entered the world as…original songs. So why not find great original songs from Irish writers too? As a songwriter, how does Marc see that side of things? 


“The only thing that really bothers me is that there’s an element of karaoke coming into the business that I don’t like. I’ve written with Derek, we’ve written three or four songs together, and we’ve had quite a lot of success with those. And everytime we meet we say we must get together again! I’ve written with Brian Kennedy, I’ve written with Jimmy MacCarthy, there’s quite a lot of people I’ve written with and loved the whole process. Gary Barlow calls it sharing the birth experience! [Laughs]. It’s great to get like-minds in a room and to just work at something, and see it evolve. So that’s the only problem I have with the business. There’s even karaoke tracks being released with vocals on them, and that’s not what the business is about. Derek Ryan and I always say that the amazing thing about writing a song and releasing it is that you KNOW that no-one else is going to have that song as their next single. Whereas if you’re recording covers all the time, there’s always a danger that somebody else is going to have the same song recorded with three-and-a-half-grand spent on it, and so did you! Then it’s a battle for the playlists [laughs]. But you see, for us, for people like yourself and myself that write and are in the business, it’s a total commitment. You’re there for every element of it. And there’s nothing nicer for me than to hear somebody who wrote something perform it. If you ever hear Jimmy MacCarthy perform his own songs, it’s just the most magical thing. And you realise why he used a particular word in a particular place…because it’s him. I did a lot of stuff with Jimmy down through the years and he’s just amazing, the way he thinks and the images he creates. People that do write their own songs, I have so much respect for them because you have bought in totally into the whole business. Everything about who you are and what you do is music. Even when you’re off, you’re writing. You’re thinking about songs. You’re coming up with something. Then you’re seeing if it’s good enough, will people identify with it? It’s a full-package kinda thing, which is what the Americans have done for years. But people have always covered songs, and if it’s a great song, or something that meant a lot to me, I would certainly do it. But I love the original element of things because you’re getting a part of the person really.” 

Of course it isn’t just Daniel from the O’ Donnell household that Marc has co-written with, having collaborated with Majella on When I Found You, a very special song for the couple…


“That was amazing, yeah. And the way we did it. It was Don again, my manager, who came up with the idea. Majella had said to me one time she was down in Galway – her sister lives here – that she wanted something special for the wedding, and she’d love to write a song. She has a great voice, you know. And she just wanted to do something different. So she wanted to write one, but she had no idea if she could. And to be honest, I had no idea whether she could or not either! But Don came up with the suggestion that Majella write Daniel a letter telling him exactly how she felt about him from the minute she met him, and how her life has changed. And God forbid, but if he was to head off to war tomorrow and she was never to see him again…what would she say? What are the things you would say to someone you loved who you might never see again. And you’d only have this one opportunity to do it. We were performing our tribute to the music of John Denver in the National Concert Hall in Dublin at the time, and Majella came to the show with one of her friends. And before the show she handed me a letter, and she said, ‘Do not show this to anybody or I’ll kill ya!’ [Laughs]. I said no problem. So I came back to Galway, and I live beside the beach. So I literally went to the beach with the guitar, opened the letter, and twenty minutes later I had a song called ‘When I Found You.’ And that title was one of her lines. The very first line in the letter was, ‘How can I put into words the way you make me feel’, and that’s the first line of the song. So I literally crafted the song out of what she had given me. ‘You’re everything I’ve lived for/ Somehow it feels so right/ You’re the sunlight in the morning/ You’re the stars above at night/ I want this day to last forever/ I hope it always will/ I thank God above for making dreams come true/ Cos he gave me all I wished when I found you.'”

Marc went on, “While I know Majella, and she’s a dear friend of mine – more so now than at the time, when I would only have known her for about a year and a half, and on occasions where I would have met herself and Daniel at shows or maybe out in Tenerife – but we wouldn’t have been as close as we are now. And you need to be close to someone [to write with them], almost to be able to give out to them, to say, ‘You can’t say that!’ [Laughs]. When you’re writing with somebody you have to be so honest. You need to know you can trust that person, that you can say whatever it is, and sound as stupid as you want. Because then the other person can come back and say, that won’t work…but this will! That kind of trust has to be there. Anyway, when she heard the song, she was just blown away. Because she could hear the various things she’d said, ya know. So on the day of the wedding, after the first dance, I went up on stage with the guitar and Majella came up and sang it. And she made a gorgeous job of it. I’ll tell ya, he was one shocked Daniel! First time I’ve ever seen him speechless [laughs].” 

While every song will, of course, have its own special place in his heart and its own memories attached to it, I wondered which songs in Marc’s own catalogue held a particularly special place in his affections? 


“Probably the one I mentioned before, ‘Four Empty Walls.’ Because every Sunday afternoon, myself and my mum and dad, and my sister, always went to my grandparent’s house for a visit. That was my mum’s mum and dad. It was something we always did, and always loved to do. It was just unquestionable that every Sunday that’s where we were going to be. And some of my other relations would arrive and it was just gorgeous, it really was. Then, over a short period of time, both my grandparents passed away. And it became too difficult for any of us to go back and see the house. But one day, without telling anybody, I hopped in my car and I drove to the house. The wall around the front of the house that was too high when I was a kid, I could step over. At the back of the house there was a tree. And I remember one day, myself and my sister, Marie, we were playing at the tree and we tied a little piece of the tree down to the ground, so it was like in an arch. It was just a small piece of a twig. And all these years later, I came back and that tree had totally grown into that shape. And it really got me. And the house, all that was left of it was four empty walls. I sat in the car, I was quite upset, and I wrote ‘Four Empty Walls’ from beginning to end. Then I put it away because I couldn’t tell anybody that I’d been to the house, because I didn’t want to upset them. As in emotionally. Not that they would have minded me going there. But eventually I did [tell them]. It’s just one of those songs that affect all of us. And then, Shay Healy, God rest his soul, heard me sing it, asked for a copy of it, and sent it to Ralph Murphy, who sadly is no longer with us as well. Ralph was one of the people behind me being one of the six Irish writers who would go to Nashville, because of that song. To this day, everytime I sing it I’m back there. And I see my grandparents, so it’s special. It means a hell of a lot. And I’m so happy to say that it means a lot to a lot of people. Because everybody has that one little house, that one place in their life that they can’t go back to.” 

Because it is such an emotional song, is it also a hard one for Marc to sing? 


“It can be. It’s even harder if my mum and dad are in the audience. So I literally just have to blank them out [laughs]. Because the last thing you’d want to do is to upset your parents, needless to say. But everybody is back in that moment when I sing it…and me too. It’s just one of those things, every little bit of it brings me back…”

One thing we couldn’t pass over before our chat came to an end, was the state that the music and ‘live’ events industries remained in. On the day we spoke, indoor dining had just returned, and yet, for music to return indoors, the road ahead was – and is – still as unclear as it had been six, eight, and more months ago. What did Marc think lies ahead? Or what way back is one he thinks would work? 


“I honestly don’t know. It’s a little bit frightening. We were the first to go, we’ll be the last to come back. And we’re always the first port of call for anybody who needs any celebrations or charity, or whatever. And I have no problem with that. That’s one thing I spent a lot of time doing in lockdown, doing a lot of stuff for charity, which I’m very proud of. We did a concert on Valentine’s night for the National Breast Cancer Research Institute, I put it together and compéred it, and sang on it. We got all our buddies, Daniel, and Nathan, and everybody else to do it. And we raised €69,000, which was amazing. Again, for a very worthy cause, because everybody is affected by something like that. But yeah, I honestly don’t know what the answer to those questions are. What scares me a little bit is that we’re not talked about that much, as an industry. I know for a fact people need music, in every sense. Emotionally, physically, socially, whatever it may be. Everybody needs it, and I think this has highlighted it. On the other hand, this is unprecedented, this has never happened before. So I mean, my heart goes out to the government at the same time, because there’s no blueprint. Everybody’s waiting to see what’s going to happen. It’s difficult for everybody. I have no idea how music is going to come back, be it in phases or whatever. But I really do believe that it has to come back. People cannot live without music. We can’t live without performing it, and people can’t live without that social element, and music’s release, and that ability to provoke thought. Everybody needs it. I’d be quietly positive, and I always would be, that we’ll get there.” 

Finally, we finished up with what is possibly my favourite question to ask anybody that I’m lucky enough to have a chat like this with. I asked Marc if he could remember one of the best lessons he’s ever learned, be it about life in general or specifically music related. And also, is there any one piece of advice he’s ever been given – again, about life in its broadest sense or just about music – that has stuck with him and served him well to this very day? 


“Great question. I went to secondary school in Gortnor Abbey in Crossmolina, which was the Jesus and Mary nuns. And they always said one thing: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason! And I think that’s the best advice in the world. Listen. Speak your mind, but listen when you’ve spoken, like I said in the song. It’s amazing even at gigs when you meet people, and how people can feel comfortable enough to talk to ya. Ok, it might end up in a song [laughs], but at the same time, I think it’s so important to listen. I really do. To anybody. I find in conversations, if there’s a lot of talk goin’ on, I get quieter [laughs]. I just listen. And that’s not being judgemental, it’s not being anything. I just feel that when the time is right, or if I have something to say, I ‘ll say it. But in the meantime, I’ll just keep quiet. That’s one of the most important things, and I’ve always remembered it…you have two ears and one mouth for a reason! Listen twice as much as you speak. And the other one then, well I remember being asked once by Brenda Balfe on RTE Radio 1, aroundabout the time of Eurovision, my favourite proverb. And it would be, ‘Never leave to do tomorrow what you can do today.’ Because if you do it today and you like it, then you can do it again tomorrow! [Laughs].

CONSIDER IT DONE, the brand new single from MARC ROBERTS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can also tune into Marc’s shows on Galway Bay FM every weekend, The Feel Good Factor (Saturday and Sunday afternoons), and Sunday Night Country.

ENDS

Marc Roberts

First Published August 2021

“BELIEVE THAT IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN”

Part 1

There are certain artists who don’t just fall into the category of ‘gentleman’ in the world of Irish music, but whose very names could well be used to define the term. And singer/songwriter MARC ROBERTS is most definitely one of those artists. Simply put, if you were to name someone with a bad word to say about Marc, I’d name you two liars in return. And you’d be one of them. 


As well as sharing his own considerable talents with us over the years, Marc has also represented Ireland on the international stage, taking the song Mysterious Woman – written by Nathan Carter’s manager (and no slouch himself in the songwriting department), John Farry – to within one place of glory in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. Not just someone who happens to make his living in the music business, Marc also harbours a deep appreciation for those whose musical gifts have graced the world. This sense of gratitude led to him recording the album A Tribute to the Music of John Denver, with a live show performing the hits of the Country Roads legend also giving rise to ‘full-house’ signs going up at venues nationwide. In fact, that show even made it to Denver’s hometown of Colorado. 


It was under Marc’s expert guidance that Daniel O’ Donnell himself first ventured into the realm of songwriting, something we’ll come back to in much more detail during Part 2 of our chat. 


So, with all of the foregoing considered, it seems more than fitting – and especially given the monumental achievement of his fellow county-men in dethroning the Dubs at Croke Park last Saturday! – that we point the OTRT spotlight in the direction of this proud Mayo man this week. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Marc a week or so ago, with the main reason for our chat being the release of his latest single, CONSIDER IT DONE. I asked Mark if that song was based on anything in particular from his own life, or was it more a case that he came up with the hook or a couple of good lines and just took it from there? 


“It’s kind of a mixture, because the expression, ‘consider it done’, just came to me, and I thought, wow, that’s catchy. But what could it mean, though? Then when I started to think about it, it’s kind of like how your life progresses and the way you should think. The chorus is, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride/ It’s not how you look, but how you feel inside/ And if you need a helping hand, consider it done.” Don’t ever be afraid to ask for a helping hand. It’s all about the whole idea that life is about choices. I was always torn between the expressions, ‘Everything comes to he who waits’, and then, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ Because how can they both be right? ‘Consider It Done’ was on my first album, and for me at the time it was my perception of the business. How does it start…God, I’d need the guitar on my knee now to think of the lyrics [laughs]. ‘When you sit and count the stars in the sky/ You want to touch them, but they’re too damn high/ If you want the brightest star, consider it done.’ Everything seems like, oh my God…how is this gonna happen? But if you have a bit of belief and faith in yourself and what you’re doing, and you know it’s right…then karma! It’ll happen! If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. Consider it done.” 

While I didn’t realise that Consider It Done had also appeared on Marc’s debut album, I did notice that it was also the title of his publishing company. So ‘consider it done’, as a phrase, obviously has a much deeper significance in Marc’s life? 


“Well yeah, that’s it. And that’s the explanation for it. It’s my publishing company, and our record label is C.I.D., which is also ‘consider it done.’ It’s like a positive affirmation. If you want something, consider it done. Believe in it. Believe that it’s going to happen, and have faith. The problem is a lot of us don’t know what it is we want [laughs]. I think everybody is the same, no matter what walk of life you’re in. You want something, whatever it is. But if you believe that it can happen, just believe in it, then consider it done. It will happen.” 

Marc mentioned how he was always torn between the two phrases, “He who hesitates is lost”, and “Everything comes to he who waits.” But of those two, which one did Marc himself tend to veer more towards, I wondered? 


“All my life it’s been a mixture of both, and that’s what always kind of confused me. How can they both be right? Everything comes to he who waits. So, if you sit back and wait for something to happen…allegedly it will happen. But I do believe that everything happens for a reason. People come into your life for a reason. Things happen in your life for a reason. So it would be more that than he who hesitates is lost. That used to always throw a spanner in the works for me. I used to try to figure out, well, if I hesitate too much…time is passing, life goes on, things change, everything changes. Music changes. Thankfully for me, that song still means as much to me as it did when I wrote it. And I see it in so many people, and it’s such a positive affirmation to have. Just consider it done, whatever it is.” 

Was there any particular reason why Marc wanted to bring the song back into the public arena right now?


“Because anytime that I performed it ‘live’, people loved it. And I wanted to bring it to a different audience. I got it remastered and edited for radio, so it sounds very much of what’s happening now in lots of ways. It’s very radio-friendly, and any presenter that’s heard it has loved it. So thankfully, from that point of view, it’s been playlisted everywhere, including RTE, which is great. It’s a very polished production. It was Chris O’ Brien and Graham Murphy that did it, and they’re both Grammy nominees, as you know, for their production. And Billy Farrell, who I write with, and produces quite a lot of my stuff, is also a Grammy nominated producer, he mastered it for me. There’s still a lot of people who hadn’t heard, so to them it’s a brand new song anyway.” 

Consider It Done is the follow up to Marc’s previous single, Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes. What process does Marc go through when he’s considering a new release? 


“Well, to be honest with you, I’d normally be a bit more organised than I am now [laughs], but with the way things are with the pandemic…! ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was a huge radio hit from our point of view, and again, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It’s a song that I was inspired to write by my niece and nephew when they were kids. And it all came from the way when you’re a kid, and you know when you look up at the sun and you get tears in your eyes? And my wish for them was that the only time they’d have tears in their eyes was when they looked at the sun. So ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes’ was my little way of twisting it around and saying don’t get those tears in your eyes. And again, the song was very much along the lines of something that you could live your life by, at any age. ‘Let tears of joy be the only tears you cry/ May the universe guide you in everything you do/ ‘Cause love will always see you through.’ It goes on, ‘Speak your mind, but listen when you’ve spoken/ Choose your words so no-one feels the pain/ Open your heart, although it may get broken/ Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ Again, it’s saying to live your life in a positive way. Be good to people. You’ll get it back tenfold. Help people whenever you can. And I’ve always lived my life by that. So that song was me telling them what I felt would help them in life.” 

Even just listening to Marc speak about those two songs – Consider It Done and Don’t Let The Sun Get In Your Eyes – and hearing him recite some of the lyrics, it really emphasises how philosophical a songwriter he seems to be. I asked Marc if he thought that was a fair observation? 


“Hmmm…I can be. Depending on the type of song. Those two songs, for instance, they almost wrote themselves, both of them. Because they’d be very much an extension of the way I would think. I wouldn’t like to see myself pontificating to people that they should do this, or that. But it’s to remind people that life is always full of choices. There’s lots of things that you can do. If it can be half-full or half-empty, it’s always better to be half-full. It’s that kind of thing. You only have to listen to the younger artists now to realise – and this is in general, in pop music, Ed Sherran, Tom Grennan, any of these guys – the lyrics are so important. I think people don’t realise how important they are. It’s not all about, ‘I love you and you love me.’ That’s been done a million times. You have to find a different way of saying that, but still keeping the sentiment. I think, if you can make people think, you’re halfway there. If it does nothing else but somebody gets something positive out of it… Usually people will just go, ‘Ah it’s a lovely song, I love the melody of it.’ But then all of a sudden they’ll come back and go, ‘Wow, I was listening to the words!’ It proves that the perfect marriage has to be both words and music. Words are so important. Down through the years, a lot of the time, they’ve become lost. And that’s a pity, because they’re very important.” 

Given how hard the last seventeen or so months have been for the music, entertainment, and arts industries, did being a songwriter help Marc to get through it all? Was he able to fill some of that extra time writing, or, like a lot of songwriters, did he actually find it a hard time to write? 


“Good question. I’ve done some writing, but no more than I would have ever done. I’m not very regimented and orderly in that sense. It’s hard to explain. I’ve never done a 9-to-5 writing job. I know that works for Gilbert O’ Sullivan and Chris De Burgh, and people like that, and that’s great. But I don’t know, I kind of consider that too much like work! [Laughs]. I always used to write better when coming home from a gig, it could be three or four o’ clock in the morning and there’s nobody on the road, you have a coffee, and you take your time. Just empty your head of any thoughts, and that’s when I get ideas. My only thing that I was very conscious of from the very beginning of Covid, was that I didn’t want to write anything negative. I didn’t want to write anything that was going to be very much of a pandemic type of song. Because we all just have had enough of it. We just want to get on with life. We want to get back to some semblance of normality. I wrote one with Charlie McGettigan, and in that one we actually went there. It’s one called ‘To Hold You Again.’ We were both kind of thinking God, ya know there’s people that would come to our gigs that we’d give a hug to at the end of it. And we were thinking if only we could get back to that person again, that would be an indication that things were normal! But, we’ll just have to wait. I’ve always done a little bit of writing, the usual scribbling down little bits and singing my heart out into my phone. That’s what I do. I’ve finished a song with Max T. Barnes, that’s going to be a single soon.”

CONSIDER IT DONE, the brand new single from MARC ROBERTS, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. You can also tune into Marc’s shows on Galway Bay FM every weekend, The Feel Good Factor (Saturday and Sunday afternoons), and Sunday Night Country. 

ENDS

Mark Caplice

First Published June 2021

“FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE”

Part 2

Towards the end of last month, Wicklow singer, songwriter, and producer MARK CAPLICE released his much anticipated single, CATCH A TEAR. In Part 1 of our chat with Mark, we got the lowdown on how Catch A Tear came to be, and why now was the right time to share it with the world, as well as taking a deep-dive into Mark’s songwriting process. This single, however, was far from being Mark’s first foray into the spotlight in the music-world, as the Baltinglass man has also had the honour of seeing his song, Dirty Secret (co-written with Cian Sweeney and Briony O’ Toole) being named Song of the Year in ALL of Russia earlier this year. 


Today, Part 2 of our chat gets underway by sticking to that international theme. It was Eurovision time of the year again when Mark and I spoke, and while Ireland didn’t make it to the Grand Final…again…this year, being in that coveted and once very much taken for granted position is something that Mark does have experience of. Back in 2018, he co-wrote the Irish entry, Together, with its performer Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, and Laura Hughes. Ireland has a great history in Eurovision, but over the last twenty years or so it’s become a subject of division in so many ways. I wondered if, for Mark, being involved was something that was always an ambition, or did the opportunity just happen to come along and prove too good to turn down? 


“Genuinely, it’s something I always wanted. Actually, I remember when I was a kid thinking that surely I’m not allowed to write a song for Eurovision?! That was something far beyond my reach, I couldn’t even contemplate this [laughs]. But the further and further I grew into my career, I stumbled into a few friends who had had similar experiences. They had written a song or two that they had entered. So slowly but surely the belief started to grow [in me]. And honestly, the day that we found out, I just started shouting my head off [laughs]. My housemate was upstairs, and he ran down thinking someone was after dying! Cos’ I was just shouting, like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ [laughs]. He was like what’s wrong, what’s wrong, and I told him to read it, and it was the confirmation letter from RTE that our song had been accepted. And I can’t even describe that feeling. So yeah, it was definitely something that I always wanted to do. And the experience itself was just…out…of…this…world! Going from living in a small town in Baltinglass in Wicklow, to a police-escort into stadiums of thousands…it’s a bit of a juxtaposition! Like, holy God, what’s goin’ on here?! [Laughs]. It was a beautiful experience. And funny enough, I’ve had a couple of close encounters since. And I’d love to do it again. It was just so much fun. But I don’t think anything will ever match that first experience when we were sitting on the couch waiting to hear who was going through [to the final]. And we could see before everybody else could because the camera crew had to get into position to be on the country that was going through. I happened to catch the event-controller’s eye as he was coming up with the camera, and he smirked and he looked away from me! And as soon as he did that, I was like, oh my God, it’s us! [Laughs]. Good times!” 

I mentioned to Mark that I’d recently heard about an actual Irish Eurovision winner that didn’t even make it out of Ireland the first time it was submitted for consideration to be our entry, and yet, it went on to win Eurovision a couple of years later…


“That’s a funny one, because ‘Together’ was entered twice, and it was the second highest song – so very close to being picked – the year before. So there ya go. But I LOVE that! I love that as a message and as an absolute life-hack. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t go anywhere! Pitch a tent! And keep knockin’!” 

Outside of the pop field, Mark has also worked with two of the biggest names in Irish country, Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan. Derek, of course, is a natural songwriter, already well-known for his talent in that area, while it’s fair to say that Nathan would write a little less. What was Mark’s experience of working with both men? 


“That’s one of the things I just adore about songwriting, different people have different perspectives, different approaches. It’s funny, Nathan probably wouldn’t be as well-known for writing, but I’ve written a good bit with him and he’s no stranger to it, he’s great. You can’t climb to the position he’s in without songs being your life. Same for Derek. They’re different in a lot of ways, but they’re similar in many too. They’re both really good people to write with, and especially in Ireland and the UK they’ve got great careers. Who knows what the next couple of years have in store for them. I won’t give away any trade secrets [laughs].” 

When writing with artists like Nathan or Derek, where the song is aimed at the Irish country scene, does that make it a very different kind of song than if he was writing with an artist from the pop field, for example? 


“Genres differ. And genres tend to have a certain language, a certain melody. That’s why I adore writing with different genres and different people, you just learn so much about what works in each genre. The dialogue, and where you even place the message of a song. Pop, it can be a little bit more right in your face. I am sad today because the rain is falling down. Country, it can be quite literal as well. That’s why I quite like writing my own stuff as well. You can use metaphors to share the message you’re trying to communicate. Language works differently in each genre. You learn as you go. The more people you write with, the more little tips and tricks you pick up. Then you learn about different structures, and how you can create dissonance even with a structure. Depending on your story, there’s different ways to tell it to make sure the listener feels what you’re trying to tell them.” 

We’d done a lot of talking about Mark as a songwriter, but we couldn’t overlook the question of how exactly he became one. When did he know that he wanted to be a songwriter? 


“I was in a band for six or seven years and we did a lot of collaborating [within the band]. There were two main co-writers in the band, we’d write the core of the song, and bring it to the band, and we’d all work on it. It was a very collaborative experience. That’s when I was nudged into the slightly more commercial side of it. As a band, we were discussing what we wanted to do, and world takeover was the plan [laughs], all this kinda stuff! As it happened, we signed a deal, went to America, recorded an album, everything was looking amazing. Then, a couple of things happened here and there, probably a miscommunication, and there was a bit of legal argy-bargy. It ended up that the album couldn’t get released, and it’s now in limbo forever. It won’t see the light of day. When that finished, I was very nearly going to give up music. And as odd as this will sound, I was sitting in my grandparents living-room, and I was thinking to myself, right…if I died and went to heaven, what would God say to me? I walked up to God, and I said to God, howya God [laughs], I did music for a while, then I became a marketeer. And his response was, ‘Ya big eejit! I gave you perfect pitch!’ And that’s really rare, and super-handy when you’re writing songs! [Laughs]. So, because I have this super-unique thing that lots of people don’t have, his response to me was, ‘Ya big eejit, I gave you perfect pitch and ya wasted it!’ [Laughs].”

That conversation”, explained Mark, “as silly as it may sound – a hypothetical conversation with God – was the kick in the backside I needed to jump back into music. So I said ok, now that I’m certain I’m 100% invested, I’m going to make a living from music, and that’s that. So I started thinking about what avenues were there, and what I wanted to be. I was a little bit wounded by the band experience, so I didn’t want to jump back into being in a band. But I knew I could write songs. So I started writing songs with people. There’s a friend of mine, Josh Gray, who had left Louis Walsh’s band, Hometown, and he was kind of in a small bit of limbo as well. So we started writing together, and he has grown exponentially from it, it’s been amazing to see. Some of the songs we wrote together kicked him back into the spotlight, and since then he’s signed a publishing deal as well. Things are going really well for him. He’s on the slightly poppier side of things, which was a new experience for me, but I really enjoyed it.”

Mark continued, “When I was in a band, there’d be this country song writing itself in my head, and I’d be wondering, what do I do with this?! Then I could have a more rocky song, or a folky song, because I definitely come from a more folk background, I’d be into Glen Hansard, Elbow, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne, where the stories are really at the core of the music. In pop, it’s more about how it sounds, rather than what it’s saying. And that’s a huge, huge thing for a songwriter. Especially me, coming from guitar-land! [Laughs]. Never going anywhere without a guitar, and wanting to tell stories. It was such a different experience, having to push myself out of my comfort-zone. But it was really interesting to see, and to learn about, and ultimately, it’s helped me to grow a lot as a songwriter.” 

To finish up our chat, I had three quick-fire questions to put to Mark. The first one was what would be the proudest moment of his career so far? 


“I find it hard to overlook that Eurovision moment when we were sitting on the couch, waiting to hear if we’d made it through. Nine countries had already been called out. I knew how crazy it was at home. When I was chatting to my parents, they were saying it was like Italia ’90, everybody was going crazy. And I just knew, as soon as our names were called, that this was such a win for absolutely everyone involved. Our families, our friends, our country. Just getting us back in the Final again. That was a beautiful, beautiful experience.” 

And his biggest disappointment? 


“Oh wow! [Laughs]. Biggest disappointment? Probably…let me just think. There’s two in my mind. One, is when my first band broke up. Because we were brothers, and we were all fighting for the one cause, but it just wasn’t working. And it wasn’t helping our mental health either. So it was literally for the best that we walked away. But crazily enough, as one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I think it was also the most forming. It really, really taught me a lot about who I am. It made me self-reflect. I feel I grew as a human, massively, from that experience. Yes, it was the biggest disappointment, and a tough experience, but…that could very easily have been my best experience either.” 

And finally, what’s the greatest lesson Mark has ever learned as a writer, and also about the music business in general? 


“As a writer? For me, I always feel the best songs are songs that will resonate with people. You’re supposed to feel music. Music is a feeling. Not a building, ya know. For me, music is pure magic. And for me, the real music comes when you’re in a discussion with somebody, or you’re in a room alone with a guitar or a piano, and you’re diving deeper and deeper into a thought…I feel as though the songs that will resonate most, will come from a real place. For the music business, I think it’s just super-important to know what you enjoy, but equally – if not more important – to know what you don’t enjoy, what you’re not mad about. If there was a way of explaining it all, it’s stay true to yourself. Figure out what you love. Figure out what you don’t love. And stay closer to the former.” 


CATCH A TEAR, the brand NEW single from MARK CAPLICE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS

Mark Caplice

First Published May 2021

PRECIOUS TIME

Part 1

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.

ENDS