Mark Read tells us his story: ‘I always think the best is yet to come’
Singer and songwriter Mark Read is one of those artists that you can’t help but think highly of and respect on what he does. The instant he joined A1 with Ben Adams, Paul Marazzi and Christian Ingebrigtsen 17 years ago, there’s no mistaking that he’s one of the few who possesses the determination and vivid vision of where he wants to be.
For a man who’s not only able to write, produce and sing his own music, but also humbly believes in the integrity of crafting good music, nothing has changed. He remains polite, unassuming and grateful amidst success. “We didn’t predict what success we’d have or if we’d still be doing it 17 years later, you don’t stop to think, you just do, and with that drive and refusal to contemplate any kind of failure it just happened, with a lot of hard work from us and our team around us of course, and the dedication of the fans, which are probably the most important factor.”
One brief conversation and it is hard not to notice Mark’s energy-filled passion, authenticity, and positivism. With every answer, his mind and soul started to open up. And as we took a pilgrimage through his professional and personal life, Mark generously unloaded part of his story—as he has probably done in many of his interviews in the past—but only this time, this felt more real. Mark unknowingly, successfully shared a piece of his heart and soul.
This is Mark Read and this is his story…
Hi Mark! How’s life treating you?
Thanks for asking. Life is good. Hope all’s well with you!
Great! I’m feeling good. Anyway, I feel it would be awesome to start this interview by asking you to reflect on the three very special people that you feel have shaped and inspired who you are today.
Great first question, might seem like a bit of a cliche answer but I’d have to first go with my parents. They got me started in the music business, both being incredibly musical, and I joined the family band at age 11. They always encouraged me from day one, but never pushed me too much so I was drawn to it from a really young age. Both of my parents had record deals and prospective careers in the industry but sacrificed a lot for me and my brothers so we could follow our dreams, and the support I’ve had from them has been invaluable in getting me to where I am today. And then the third would be my dear grandad who we lost a few years back. He was the greatest entertainer and always knew how to work the room and make an impact on everyone he met. He played a huge positive part in my upbringing both musically and personally.
Lately, what have you learned about yourself? Has it been a discovery or a rediscovery process at all?
Ha, Rediscovery! I see what you did there, that was the name of our last album. [Laughs.] In the last several years I’ve only learned that I’ve still got a lot to learn, and you never stop learning. The older I get the more I notice how many habits I’ve formed and in some ways my drive and ambition isn’t quite the same, and I don’t beat myself up so much about taking a bit of time off here and there, but ultimately I’m still as much of a workaholic as I’ve ever been, and still just as passionate about what I do as when I first started. [Smiles.]
What do you hope people take away from your music and from your shows and performances?
I hope that our music and other things that I’ve worked on brings some happiness into people’s lives whenever they need it, even if it’s just from a catchy song, or a funny video (or bad dance moves), or even if I inspire someone to want to start playing piano and performing. Mostly, I hope our music reminds people of a good and positive time in their lives.
Right now, what thrilling, extraordinary (non-everyday) experiences do you value most in life?
Going over to my parents and spending time with them and our amazing dog Dizzy. Ok, that probably doesn’t sound that thrilling or extraordinary, but it is to me.
Reflecting, how did your musical and artistic vision change after joining A1?
I didn’t really have time to think about artistic vision when we were caught up in the whole pop star boy band shebang, and my artistic vision probably didn’t extend much beyond spiking my hair right and making sure I had enough boy band vests, just kidding (a little). [Laughs.]
Musicality and being able to showcase our talent was always really important, but at the time it all happens so quickly it’s hard to reflect on whats going on, but the artistic vision becomes much more real as you get older and more about what you experience in life rather than just being a catchy song to rally the fans, for example like “Be the First to Believe,” which was pretty much written to be a calling card for the fans to get involved with what we were doing, but it was a thumping tune and there wasn’t really anything else like it at the time so it did the job.
Almost half of your life you spend with Ben and Christian – how do you guys keep the fire burning?
By poking it and getting lots of wood! Ok real answer. By having a close friendship and taking breaks from each other to do our own things and by all being so dedicated to what we’re doing and by still having such an amazing fanbase that keeps that flame ignited and the passion burning… ok cheesy boy band lyric alert.
‘By being so dedicated and by still having such an amazing fanbase that keeps that flame ignited…’
Can you look down the road on those early years and give us your predictions for the state of music today, and the ‘future’ of A1?
We often get asked about the state of music today, but as it’s such a young industry, with new bands coming up all the time, it’s hard to really have an opinion on it, because we’re from a different time, and so much has changed with how people break into the business now. You can be a star just by posting YouTube videos now. But ultimately the difference maker is always going to be a good song, and those can come at any point in your career, Waiting for Daylight in my opinion is probably some of the best work we’ve ever done as a band, and that was written a few years ago, so I always think the best is yet to come and I think that is true with us.
What kind of adjustment did you have to go through back then when you guys were playing your first show, as compared to doing shows today?
We were such a different group back then it’s incomparable. The biggest difference is we’re now a fully self contained live band and we know exactly what we’re doing and feel ready for anything when it comes to performing live, back then we were just four excitable bouncing balls of energy jumping from one stage to another.
If you could have asked anyone for advice when you were starting out. Who would you have liked to ask?
If I could ask anyone… I would’ve asked Paul McCartney of course, and asked him how to become the biggest band in the world, to which he probably would’ve said (in my best Liverpool accent), “I dunno mate, if I could’ve bottled it and done it again and again I would, but there’s only ever been one Beatles.” Then I would’ve asked Elvis, how do you manage to look so cool in a white jumpsuit, to which he probably would’ve said (Memphis accent): ‘Uh-huh-huh! I can’t tell you that, I just do cos I’m the King, thank you very much!’
What would be your answer now?
Exactly the same probably. [Laughs.]
Can you recall the best advice in this business you actually followed, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
One piece of advice, ‘smile at the old ladies’ can’t go wrong with that, and one I didn’t follow, ‘don’t have a girlfriend whilst in a pop band!’ but I don’t regret that… honest. I’d like to think it helped me stay grounded and appreciate all that I had at home.
How has your definition of success changed over the course of your highs and lows in the music industry?
In more recent years, I appreciate more that success isn’t measured in chart positions, number of fans, or how many magazine you appear in, but how content and happy you are in life, all of that doesn’t mean anything anyway unless you are truly happy from within (and meditate, ooohhhhhm).
‘I hope our music reminds of people of a good and positive time in their lives’
How will you describe the level of success coming to your way lately? What do you feel about the support from people around you?
I’d describe it as consistent which I’m extremely grateful for, but somewhat miraculous as well, as it is amazing to still be doing what I love after so long.
So far, what would you say has been the (best) highlight of your career?
Very hard question! Too many highlights, so impossible to compare them, but I guess interviewing the Muppets would probably stand out for me. And performing at the Royal Albert Hall which is one of my favourite venues in London.
Is there a level that you feel that if you get to, then you’ll be satisfied?
Nope, I can answer that in a heartbeat and say I’ll never stop looking for different challenges. I’m just not made that way, to be satisfied. I can be proud of certain things that I’m achieving, but no matter what happens, I’ll always be looking for new ways to express myself creatively, as long as I’m given the opportunity to do so. Although if I’d written a song for a Disney movie that had won an Oscar, I’d probably allow myself a day off or two to enjoy it. [Laughs.]
Is Mark Read’s glass half full or half empty?
Shouldn’t even have to ask. I don’t even think of half empty as being on the table. [Smiles.]
I once heard an artist say that they wanted to record the perfect album. Does it really exist?
It depends on what the listeners idea of perfect is, to some people Michael Jackson’s Bad might be a perfect album, or Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, which both have amazing songs on them, to someone in the world maybe even the Ketchup Song album is perfect… someone… somewhere… ok maybe not. But like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder, or in the ear of the be-hearer?! Most creative people are never satisfied with their work but sometimes you have to just let things go and let the listener decide. I do think a great album should only be around 8-10 tracks and leave you wanting more and never get sick of hearing it for years and years.
Very well said. Anyway, who did you first see performing live in concert?
[Laughs.] Sorry to change your question, Jayson! But first concert I DIDN’T see was Michael JacksonBad Tour, because my brothers went without me, apparently I was too young?! Or maybe they just didn’t want to buy me a ticket! I still went in the car with my dad to pick them up though so I sort of went… right? [Laughs.] Last great live act I saw was ELO at the O2 , one of the best UK bands of all time.
Is there anyone coming out of Norway who we should be looking out for?
You mean in music or just people in general that you should look out for? Oh yeah watch that guy, he looks scary! Crazy big beard and the viking helmet! Er, we used to be Norway’s second biggest Pop export don’t you know…you know who’s first ? A-ha, that’s right! [Smiles.] Ok, third if you count the fact one of ABBA is Norwegian. What an accolade eh, 2nd or 3rd biggest Pop Export from Norway… maybe, and I didn’t get a certificate to show for it! But now I have a feeling we’ve been overtaken by a few acts like Kygo, Nico & Vinz, and probably a multitude of amazing Norwegian DJs tearing up the charts!
When not working, how do you pamper yourself? What’s your idea of fun?
I couldn’t possibly say, this is a family-orientated music interview right? [Laughs.] Actually truth be known, it’s probably far to geeky to divulge, so I’ll just say trampolining.
You must have tour and visited a lot of beautiful cities and countries already. But can you share us your Top 5 favorite travel destinations in the entire world and why?
Again, too difficult to answer. I’ve loved so many of the places we’ve been to. But I always get an amazing feeling and buzz whenever I visit New York… and Manila of course… and Cebu… and Singapore… Indonesia… Norway, see that’s what happens, you can’t leave somewhere off the list. [Laughs.]
You are coming back to Manila via A1 Here We Come–Back. Tell us more about it.
This is gonna be such an awesome show If I don’t mind saying so myself. We’ve spent some time putting together a really special show for the fans with songs we’ve never performed live before and some we haven’t done since we first came around. It’s gonna be up close and personal and intimate experience with lots of chat, Q&A and laughs as well, ok, maybe that’s not advertised, but I’ve just decided that’s what we’re doing. I’m sure everyone will be up for it.
What do you love most about the Philippines and your Filipino fans?
The fact that they know the lyrics better than we do so we just look at their faces if we forget them. And of course their overwhelming support and love. And it’s totally reciprocated. We LOVE our Filipino fans. [Smiles.]
You had to go there, that would be GRATEFUL , the last song on the a1 Rediscovered album, I thought I could sing it at my grandad’s funeral, I was mistaken. I managed about one line, the rest was a blubbering mess. Right happy question next please.
What was the first and the latest record that you bought?
The first is too embarrassing to mention and the last is Now 94, hits compilation, just to keep up on the latest tunes. And the new Ghostbusters movie soundtrack, so I can hear four different versions of theGhostbusters theme.
Can you give me five random facts about you that your new fans might be interested to know about you?
Not without spending ages thinking about it, I’ll give one, you can hear me singing in one of the HarryPotter films, 5th one I believe, and I’ve been the voice of Optimus Prime (Transformers) for TV, that’s pretty random. Ok, so maybe this is quite easy, I own 4 life-size replica Muppets! And I’ve just started collecting Funko Pop Vinyls, despite saying how bad they are and that I’d never buy any. 20 Pops later I have a wall of them at home! [Laughs.]
Your (old and new) fans want to know, what do you sing in the shower?
Do they really? Vocal warm ups if I’ve got a studio session that day. Probably mostly opera. Bravo Bravissimo!
When it’s all said and done, what kind of legacy would you like to leave?
I’d like to leave a Leg and the letter C behind, there you go, that’s my leg-a-cy. Ok that was terrible. [Laughs.] Legacies don’t last, often the ones that are talked about are of notorious people and villains. I can appreciate that people like David Bowie and John Lennon have left behind a legacy in music, but I’m not bothered about that, only thing that matters is the positive impact you make on peoples lives whilst you are here.
Finally, can you say something incredibly witty and interesting?
Have you not just read the interview?! What do you want for your money!!? I am getting paid for this interview right …no??! Right that’s it! Interview’s over… (door slams!)
Jayson: Er Mark, the interview is over! [Laughs.] Thanks, Mark!
Mark: Thanks, Jayson! Great questions!
‘In more recent years, I appreciate more that success isn’t measured in chart positions, or number of fans, but how content and happy you are in life’
Presented by Concert Republic, A1’s Here We Come–Back! Tour in Manila will be held at the Kia Theater in Araneta Center, Quezon City on October 23 and the IEC Pavilion in Cebu City on October 25, shows start 8 p.m.