Former Westlife star Markus Feehily has just released his solo debut album 'Fire'.
Yesterday, we brought you Part 1 of our interview, where the Sligo man spoke about being in charge of his own career, the themes behind the album and moving on from his boyband roots.
Today, he touches upon coping with fame after spending so long in the public eye, the influences behind 'Fire's soulful slant and his hopes for the future.
Being in a globally successful boyband, you lived life in a bubble for such a long time. When Westlife ended, did your feelings about fame change?
I don't hate fame, and it's great fun when you get to skip queues, or whatever (laughs). But I don't like when people feel so free and entitled to go onto YouTube or whatever and fucking lay into you left, right and centre. I don't like it when people feel they have the right to speak about you in a derogatory way just because 'You're a pop star, sure that's your job – get over it.' I don't think that's fair. I feel like I've just as much right as anyone to be treated respectfully. There are things that people say to you on Twitter or under a YouTube video that they wouldn't fucking dream of saying to you in the street if they met you. So I'm not a big fan of that side of it and I'm not a fan of the idea that there are people out there that want to find a bad story, they want to see a bad picture, or they want you to do a bad performance so that they can talk about it or sell some papers. To me, that's kind of scary.
If I had to sacrifice my privacy… I mean, just going to the shop. Living in London it's easy to do that because it's such a big place and every second person you meet is on TV anyway (laughs). But if I had to sacrifice having a private life…. For me, this album is what I'm happy to give. I think for a long time, being in a big pop band, you're expected to give a lot more than that. for me, I could only ever do this alone if it meant that I could have my private life, too. I don't mind the little bits of fame, but maybe more in an old fashioned way – where you don't know everything about everyone and there's a bit of mystery to them.
That sense of mystery is hard to come by these days, with the likes of oversharing on Twitter and Instagram…
That's the new normal that people expect from you. I love keeping up to date with the kids and everything and being on Twitter and all that stuff, but at the same time I suppose I've been interested by more traditional artists that are a bit more mysterious. You don't know everything about Aretha Franklin, so when she does get up and sing, that's your Aretha Franklin fix. But you don't know what colour knickers she's wearing – not that anyone wants to know. You don't know what's in her fridge or what she had for breakfast. I suppose I'm halfway between being influenced by those kind of acts when I was younger and existing in a time that's much more information-crazed.
Speaking of influences, there's a soulful streak running through 'Fire' that maybe you haven't had a chance to indulge in much in the past. What artists, or songs, or albums set you on the right path or played a part?
The one thing I didn't want to do – and I'm a massive Stevie Wonder fan – but the one thing I didn't want to do that so many Stevie Wonder fans do is try to recreate a Stevie Wonder sound, and maybe add a synth in, or something. I wanted to take all my influences and of course use them, because that's what everyone does. But I didn't want to try to be a young Stevie Wonder. That's why when my manager would say 'I've put you in for a writing session with so-and-so', I'd think 'Jesus, I never would have thought of working with that person.' But it meant that it was completely different and unique, instead of saying 'Well, you've got a really soulful voice so maybe you should work with the guys who did Paolo Nutini's album, or Sam Smith's album', or whatever.
I think most of the influences that I have are from singers, more than anything. All I've really learned from them is that when I'm listening to them, I can tell that they're going somewhere else when they sing. People like Aretha Franklin, or even pop, r&b and soul singers like Mariah Carey. When I listened to her as a kid, she just sounds like she was hurt and she's putting that emotion into her singing. It's the same with Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Prince; there's loads of amazing singers out there and when I listen to them, there's something that you think 'That's exactly what I was feeling but I couldn't put it into words.' I don't try to copy any singers' voices, but what I try to copy is their use of singing as a way of letting off steam. There are certain days when I was like 'Just get me to the studio right now because I'm in such a fucking bad mood, I'll sing a song so well right now' (laughs). It could even be a happy song, but there's just something that singing does for me that nothing else can do. I can sit and talk to a counsellor or my friends all day long, but singing one song can do so much more for me in terms of getting emotion out. It's like primal screaming in therapy. (laughs)
It sounds like you're pretty content with embarking on this solo career, but the Westlife reunion rumours have been fairly constant over the years…
Yeah, since the day we split up – and the day before we split up, they were asking us 'When are you going to split up?' (laughs) I've loved making this album, and I'd love to tour this album. I'd love to do some movie soundtrack stuff, maybe… some voice work on an animation, maybe. Acting? I've thought about taking my voice and putting it on something else visually, instead of me being the person lip-synching or whatever. That's quite exciting. I'd love to play around a little bit with being behind the wheel, production-wise, because I've learnt a lot on this album. I'm not quite Prince yet, or anything (laughs), but I've learnt a lot about making a song and making an album. So right now, it's to release and tour this album very soon. If that goes well, I'll be happy.
'Fire' is out now.