Mark Prendergast told David Hennessy about his new solo project Man Alive, conquering the world with Kodaline and the advice Aisling Bea gave him about doing his own thing.
Mark Prendergast’s new project Man Alive is a step away from Kodaline, the band he is well known for playing guitar in.
With over a billion streams, three #1 albums in Ireland, two Top 5 records in the UK and playing shows all over the world, Kodaline have conquered the world since they burst onto the scene back in 2012.
Mark burst onto a new scene this year with Be Someone, his debut solo track.
It earned him attention from the likes of NME, Clash and Hot Press as well as radio airplay.
The debut EP Colours will be released on 15 September so Mark has just shared his title track and new single.
You might think that Mark has always harboured ambitions to be centre stage but it was never on his agenda to record solo material.
While he has always written songs for Kodaline, he has also composed and demoed other songs simply for his own pleasure.
But when a break-up as well as lockdown hit, he would find himself writing a catalogue of songs that were just too personal to hand over to someone else.
To date, Man Alive have played just two shows: a raucous house party in which Mark’s band included Gavin James and members of Soft Launch, with his friend Aisling Bea acting as MC, and a sold-out debut headline show at The Waiting Room in London.
In fact, it was Aisling Bea who was a pivotal influence for Mark to bring Man Alive to the wider world. He played the comedian and actress an early version of Be Someone when they were in Los Angeles in 2021, and her belief in the project really pushed him to make it happen.
The This Way Up star also convinced Prendergast to change the first provisional name he had for his solo project, Blood Type, telling him it was “sh*t and doesn’t match your music.” Eventually, he went with Man Alive.
The singer- songwriter has also just moved to London, spending most of the summer in ‘County Clapham’ although he remains semi- based in Dublin.
“It’s very strange,” Mark says of releasing music without his Kodaline bandmates.
“Interviews and the recording process, photos, videos, gigs…
“The whole thing is strange.
“It’s scary, but I feel good after I do anything by myself.
“I think you have to spook yourself to grow.”
So going solo was really never on the cards for you? “It’s never been on my agenda.
“I’m very, very comfortable and happy being a guitar player in Kodaline.
“I love it.
“But just going into lockdown, I went through a break up.
“I hate talking about lockdown but because you were not allowed work or collaborate or go into studio with other people, I was kind of left to my own devices and made a lot of music in my house.
“I just recorded so many songs, and they were so personal to me.
“And some of them just didn’t sound like Kodaline.
“And to try and make them sound like Kodaline, they wouldn’t fit that kind of mould.
“I’ve a lot of friends who are kind of artists and through the years they’ve always kind of pushed me and been like, ‘You should really do your own thing’.
“And it never appealed to me.
“It was never on the cards but then the right amount of songs came along at the right time.
“I was just like, ‘You know what? It’s now or never’.
“It’s exciting and it’s not like I’m leaving Kodaline.
“We played in Belfast last week and I’m going to Asia for all of September to do a full tour.
“Everyone does their own things outside of the band and I think it’s a really, really healthy thing because we started the band when we were 15.
“When a band starts, even when you’re just a teenager, you take it so seriously from day one.
“You become the band and for years that was us.
“From the point of releasing that first album until lockdown pretty much, you’re away ten months of the year and you’re doing festivals and shows and it becomes your life.
“It’s great, but sometimes you need that little bit of independence.
“And that’s kind of what this is as well.
“I think it’s happening at the right time.
“It feels like it’s the right time to do it.”
Does it feel different to other releases in that this is your project alone?
“Yeah, it’s very exposing.
“I have a whole new respect for singers.
“Just the vulnerability of standing on stage and singing, it’s hard.
“Playing the guitar is so easy.
“You literally hide in the shadows and sing backing vocals every now and then.
“This is a very, very different release.
“Kodaline’s a success.
“We have fans, and we have an audience there.
“Whenever we release a song, whether the song goes on to do loads of numbers, I never checked, I never cared, that never occurred, it never bothered me. What bothered me was playing the songs live.
“Whereas now I find myself looking at the metrics more and obviously, it’s a new project.
“It’s nice to be really, really busy and be so wrapped up in something so new.”
So singing was something you never planned on? It wasn’t like you ever felt like asking Steve if you could sing a Kodaline song one time?
“Never,” Mark says without hesitation.
“No, to be honest, it actually annoys me when you go see a band and the guitar player or someone else in the band sings a song.
“I think the most important element of Kodaline’s sound is Steve’s voice.
“It’s never even come up, I wouldn’t even ask the question, so that’s why I’m doing this.
“There was never aspirations there to be a singer.
“I’ve never done it.
“I’m doing it now for the first time and it’s hard.
“It feels fantastic to stand up on a stage and sing a song just me and a guitar.
“It does feel like it’s breathing a whole new life into my life a little bit.
“I know it sounds probably a bit dramatic but it’s ticking all these new boxes that I didn’t know were there.
“We (Kodaline) played in Belfast on Friday and thousands of people there and that’s- I don’t want to use the word easy- but it’s like muscle memory.
“It’s so comfortable up there.
“But the first gig I played was a gig in my house and I just invited friends and people I knew.
“I was terrified.
“I thought in my head, ‘Talking to a crowd, it’s easy, I’m going to be really cool and going to be able to just tell some stories before each song..’
“But experiencing dead air I was like, ‘Oh Jesus, go on to the next song, next song’.
“It’s terrifying but I think you have to scare the shit out of yourself every now and then.”
Was a conversation with Aisling Bea pivotal in you pursuing the Man Alive project? “Yeah, well it was a few pivotal conversations.
“I showed her some demos when I was over in America.
“I was actually over in America with Gavin James who’s another person who really, really, really egged me on.
“Years ago when I told him I was doing it, he jumped on me.
“He was like, ‘You have to do it’.
“And the same with James Vincent McMorrow, he’s another friend of mine.
“But Aisling was one of the first to hear the initial demos, and I was kind of on the fence because it’s a big endeavour.
“She was the one that was like, ‘Just do it, you have to do it’.
“And she followed up. She messaged me a few days later, we met and she was just like, ‘I think you should really, really pursue this. It sounds like it would be a good thing for you to do.
“And then she was the one who cornered me in a pub in Dublin and said, ‘Blood Type is a f**king terrible name, what are you doing?’
“Sometimes you need people around you that are not afraid to say what they think.
“I think you need those people in life.”
Other people who are right behind Mark are his Kodaline bandmates that he knows since childhood.
The band absolutely exploded back in 2012 before their debut album In A Perfect World arrived in 2013.
What was it like to be in the eye of that storm?
“It’s nice to be able to kind of look at a point your life and know that it was the most important and life changing moment like that.
“We said we were going to do it.
“We were like, ‘We’re going to play this venue. we’re going to make an album. We’re going to get a deal. We’re gonna play the Olympia. We’re gonna play Electric Picnic. Glastonbury.
“We had all these aspirations.
“It happened really, really, really quick and it was really exciting.
“Every couple of days, we’d get an email saying, ‘The song just got used in a movie’, or we were gonna go to America.
“And then it was like, ‘Oh, the American tour is now sold out’.
“Just every single day, there was new things that were happening and to be in the middle of it was crazy, crazy, exciting.
“The most exciting thing I think was the summer of 2013, the summer we released our first album.
“I think we played about 35 festivals.
“We were on early playing in these small tents at these major festivals but every single tent was full of thousands of people.
“The most rewarding thing for a band is, people show up and they sing the words back to you.
“And that just happened so fast.
“And there was a weird adjustment.
“There have been times where we have to kind of stop ourselves and be like, ‘Look, here, this is going well’, or, ‘This is weird that this has happened’.
“But it was a really, really, really exciting time.”
But the guys had been playing together for many years so it wasn’t as ‘overnight’ as some may have thought.
“What do they say? Overnight success after ten years.
“We were on a TV talent show in Ireland called You’re a Star so when we came out of that, you’re famous, but we were sh*t.
“We had no songs.
“We were even offered a record deal by a major label at that point and we weren’t ready.
“And we were like, ‘Let’s lock ourselves away, not do any gigs, there’s no point in gigging until we have like a setlist that’s incredible’.
“It was four for five years but we worked every single day, and then the success did happen overnight pretty much.
“The funny thing is you never feel like you’ve made it.
“There’s never a point where you’re like, ‘We’ve made it’.
“You’re just always looking at the next thing.”
Back to Man Alive, I bet you just can’t wait to get it out there.
“I’m a big believer in a body of work.
“I can’t wait for people to be able to just press play and listen to the songs in order.
“I love when someone that I don’t know will quote a lyric from one of my songs, and they’ll say, ‘Oh my god, this lyric makes me feel this’.
“That hits home every single time.
“I’m just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that’.
“It’s like you live with songs, the songs live in a folder on my laptop for years and you kind of forget that there’s someone on a bus somewhere or someone in a house listening to you sing.
“It’s kind of a different beast when it’s me actually singing.
“It’s very gratifying, kind of overwhelming a little bit at times as well.
“It’s all good stuff.”
The single Colours is out now.
The EP is out on 15 September.
For more information, click here.