At only 25 years old, tenor Mark Vincent has recently released his ninth album, one he considers his fans’ most long awaited one. A Christmas recording inspired by Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé’s popular holiday releases, he’d been putting off the project for a while lest he should fall short of their examples.
Mark Vincent. Photo supplied
“My fans had asked me for so long, ‘Mark, when are you going to release a Christmas record?’ And I’d always say, next year, next year, next year because I wanted to wait until the right time to release a Christmas album because lots of artists sing Christmas songs. But only a few great artists like Michael Bublé and Bing Crosby make songs like White Christmas or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas their own and I wanted to make sure that I did that as well,” explains Vincent.
Another reason for the wait was the time Vincent needed to figure out the most appropriate vocal style for Christmas standards so often crooned. “I said to myself, but I’m not a crooner, how am I going to approach this? I didn’t want to take the gimmick out of some of these songs by being too classical – because that’s who I am, I’m a classical crossover singer. Working that out and adjusting to a different style took a long time.”
Chasing a solution took him all the way to London, where Vincent coached with “an incredible vocal teacher who just toured with One Direction for 12 months”. Singing her praises, he calls her “one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”
“She said to me, ‘Mark, you’ve got the vocal ability, you just need to do less. Less is more.’ She helped me understand that you have to respect the songs but you also have to be who you are. That’s what I was trying to achieve with this album.”
The lesson stuck and soon enough he was in the recording studio, armed with a newfound confidence. After doing a take of White Christmas at the behest of conductor Chong Lim, Vincent was dumbstruck by the site of the maestro in tears. “He said, ‘I can’t believe you actually approached that song the way you did, it just shows the growth that you’re doing as an artist.’ Coming from Chong Lim, that was just incredible. I didn’t expect that.”
Vincent’s strong sense of Italian heritage is another reason he wanted to do the recording. He fondly recalls big Christmas lunches with his family, Bing Crosby playing in the background and stacks of presents under the tree waiting to be unwrapped. “Being a kid and celebrating Christmas, it doesn’t get any better than that. I still can’t wait for Christmas Day even though I don’t get as many presents as I used to as a child.”
When it came to deciding which tracks would make the cut, Vincent knew that The Holy City had to be top of the list. Something of a calling card, he’s performed it a number of times during Carols in the Domain. “The producer of the program, she always says to me, ‘Mark, you realise that if you don’t sing The Holy City, people are going to boo?’ That’s what it’s become now, you know? And I thought well, we have to have it on the record. It’s a great feeling knowing people will be driving in their car or at home singing along.”
He’s also managed to net two artists that he admires for the recording, with past collaborator Marina Prior sharing the limelight on her trademark carol, Angels We Have Heard On High. Particularly special to Vincent is his duet with English tenor Russell Watson.
“I used to listen to Russell Watson with my grandfather and while we were watching his live concert in New Zealand, he said to me, ‘one day you’re going to sing with him. The time will come.’ And what’s so scary is that the duet that we’ve done on the album was my grandfather’s favourite song, Little Drummer Boy. That happened for a reason. Just to think that I have two great artists on my album is the best feeling ever, and to have that support and belief in me means everything.”
Though he grew up listening to Crosby, he cites Bublé as being the most influential during his preparation for the album. “I played and really listened to what he was doing and the great thing about it is that it’s laidback and it’s got variety. And that’s what I wanted my album to have and the most important thing I wanted out of this album was personality. I wanted people to not just see me as Mark Vincent but to see the personal side as well of what I feel about Christmas. Because the most important thing I think is making people feel a part of it.”
Throughout our conversation, what is uppermost in the singer’s mind is his fans – and Vincent wants his album to uplift. “You listen to the news, what’s going on in the world at the moment, it’s scary, and I think music is the greatest healer of all those things. It’s going to really help them reflect on the important things in life. That’s why I love my job so much and why I’ve done this album.”
And in further good news for his fans, Vincent is in the running to represent Australia in next year’s Eurovision, with the competition to be broadcast on SBS and the winner to be decided by public vote.
“This opportunity to compete in Eurovision – Australia Decides means everything to me,” he said. “I’ve been a Eurovision fan since I was young and love the incredible voices and talents that have emerged. I’m going to bring everything I’ve got to the stage. I’ve been working my entire life for this moment, and I can’t wait to perform for you.”
Mark Vincent’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is out now on Sony
Eurovision – Australia Decides premieres February 9 on SBS