What Makes Mark Caplice Tick

In ‘What Makes You Tick’ I get the chance to pick the brains of some inspirational people from all walks of life, in the hope that by sharing ideas we can continue to progress, push our limits, and inspire each other.

For Mark Caplice, or ‘Cappy’ as he is more commonly known, the path towards a career in music was paved from an early age.

‘I’ve played music since I was kid, stealing my brother’s guitars and making noise with whatever instruments I could get my hands on.’

He has enjoyed success very early on in his career after having played in numerous bands, performing to thousands at various festivals, and also to a wider audience following various TV appearances.

Now performing under the stage name Kolumbus, he has released two singles which have received radio play in over 20 countries worldwide, and he has hit No. 1 in the Irish charts.

Mark is a native of Baltinglass, in west county Wicklow, and he was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to chat, and to share his experiences and ideas!

Would you say you are more introverted, or extroverted?

I have always been a very outgoing, energetic person. I struggled in school because I found it difficult to sit still and be quiet for long periods of time. I played on almost every sports team in the school, and took part in all concerts and choirs, just so I could get out of class. I think the education system could do with a little reform to cater for energetic pups like myself. If there was a PE class at the start of every day I think it could help with focus- as well as battle Ireland’s growing obesity problem- but that’s a conversation for another day.

What is your passion?

My passion has always been writing songs. I love the process of turning a thought, a vision, or even a smell into a piece of music. If you approach it in the right way, you really can write about anything. All day, every day, I am writing songs. Even when I’m trying not to, I’m writing songs. 

You know that period of time just before you fall asleep? Well. Recently I was lying in bed trying to think of nothing. Then I became aware of the fact I was trying to think of nothing, and words and melodies started appearing in my head like unwelcome visitors on a Sunday morning. Regardless of whether or not I wanted them, they were there. So I had to do something about them. I got straight out of bed and wrote a full song from start to finish. Despite losing out on a few hours of sleep, I love that I was able to do that. Create something from nothing. I made a song that didn’t exist before and it will live on when I am gone. That’s what it’s all about for me. Giving life to your thoughts.

What are you driven by?

I am driven by the fact that every day could be my last on earth. Some might consider it to be a strange way of looking at things, but I have learned to live by watching people die. I have lost a number of close friends and family over the past few years and every time someone passes away, it’s a reminder that I’m still alive. It reminds me how lucky I am to have my parents and have a lot of great friends and family. I try to surprise my mother as often as possible with something nice, like flowers, or dinner, or breakfast in bed. It seems like such a small gesture and one you should be doing anyway, but we all get complacent. So I remind myself as often as possible that this day could be my last. I try to treat people as if it could be the last day of theirs too. I’m as kind as I can be, as generous as I can be, as positive as I can be, and I work as hard as I possibly can. I live life doing what I love to do. I do all of this because I’m hyper-aware of the fact that, in an instant, it could all be gone.

How do you measure success?

For me, success is that feeling that you get when have applied yourself fully to something. Sometimes things are completely out of your control but if you put 100% effort in, you can move on and hold your head up high. If not, then you only have yourself to blame.

Who had the most influence on you at a young age?

My brother was definitely the biggest influence on my life when I was a kid. He played football, I played football. He played soccer, I played soccer. He played music, I stole his guitar. We killed each other at the best of times but it was in good nature (for the most part).

What’s the best book you’ve read?

It would have to be The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a great story, but I feel it’s written in a way that many people can relate to. Everyone has dreams. Some choose to follow them, some choose to ignore them. Regardless of whichever route you take, I think you should always remember to live today, rather than tomorrow. Live like your time is running out, because it is.

Describe your typical morning routine.

I wake at 6.30 AM every morning. Breakfast is done and dusted by 7 AM and then I begin to tackle the to-do list. I think it’s really important to have a to-do list every day, because it helps keep track of progress and helps maintain focus. My waking hours are generally 6.30 AM- 1.00 AM.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

If I had a clean bill of health then I’d say my perfect Sunday would be an active one. It would need to involve some outdoor activity, lots of food and socialising with loved ones before finishing up with some music. If I was in a more ‘delicate’ state, it would be a different story. I would need a large fry-up to start the day, followed closely by an open fire and a full day of nothingness. I don’t handle hangovers very well.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I suppose my guilty pleasure would have to be playing the odd game of FIFA. I rarely play computer games or watch TV, but occasionally my housemate and I have a game of FIFA. It’s intended as a nice release and a way to wind down, but unfortunately, it usually winds us up, rather than calming us down.

What are your hobbies/interests?

Kayaking is one of my favorite pastimes. I live right beside a river, so a 2 minute walk has me from bedside, to water. As well as being a good form of exercise, it is very therapeutic and a great way to see the world.

I am happiest when…

It’s not very often life gives you moments of pure euphoria, but when you hear thousands of people singing one of your songs, that’s as close to bliss as it gets.

What is your approach to your daily life?

My approach to life is simple. Live like your time is running out.

What was the most significant learning experience you can recall having?

A few years ago I was studying for a degree in youth and community work in NUIM. For numerous different reasons I had missed 6 weeks of a 10 week semester. The toughest thing was, I had to pass all 12 modules to continue with the year. It was daunting at first, but I said to myself, if I can do this, I can do absolutely anything. I got two study buddies, pulled dozens of all-nighters, put sticky notes everywhere, notes and voice memos in my phone and applied myself completely to the task of passing. Not only did I pass, but I passed every module with merit. This was one of my proudest achievements and a hugely defining moment of my life. I learned that, once you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything!

I dropped out of college and have worked in music ever since.

What, if different from above, led you to pursue a career in music?

I could list off 90 reasons why I love music so much and why I pursue it as a career, but two reasons have always stuck out for me.

I recently received a message saying, ‘Your song was exactly what I needed’. I won’t give details of exactly what was said, but basically a song that I wrote had helped someone through a very difficult moment. I think it’s amazing to be able to help someone that I’ve never met. I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to do that.

I’m also very lucky to have something called perfect pitch. According to the gospel of Wikipedia– perfect pitch is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone. In English, what that means is, I can learn songs without even touching an instrument. It may seem like it’s not a big deal, but it is incredibly rare and I consider it to be a gift. If I ever doubt myself, I use this to remind myself how lucky I am.

How do you ensure that you are always learning, and improving upon your craft?

Currently I write/compose, sing, play guitar, piano, bass, ukelele, mandolin, and the kazoo. I make weekly planners so I can keep up to track on which instruments I’ve been focusing on. Songwriting/composition is my main area of focus so I work on that the most. Each of the instruments are mere vehicles for composition, but a limited skill set is restrictive, so I always thrive to improve.

What is the most rewarding aspect of music?

The best part for me is having a positive influence on people’s lives daily.

What advice would you give to young people, who may find themselves at a crossroads in their lives?

Live like your time is running out, and base your decisions on that.

You can keep up-to-date on tour dates and events on the Kolumbus website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook