Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Belfast singer Gareth Dunlop on performing in Nashville and missing the Northern Ireland humour

Belfast singer Gareth Dunlop is set to embark on a number of Northern Ireland gigs next week - including the Eastside Arts Festival and the Stendhal Festival in Limavady.

For almost a decade the singer-songwriter has been partly based Nashville, Tennessee where he has performed with some of the greatest musicians the city has to offer.

Ahead of his upcoming gigs on home soil, Gareth has been speaking about his new music and how Nashville has influenced his sound.

Q. For anyone who hasn't heard your music, how would you describe it?

I think my music is kind of a mix of a lot of the stuff I grew up listening to.

I still listen to a lot of different types of music and I think that bleeds into what I do; there’s some soul, folk and pop in there so it’s hard for me to describe it as one ‘genre’.

One thing I can say is I definitely don’t rap.

Q. What kind of sound does this new album have and how is it similar or different to your previous work?

The new album was recorded at my home in East Belfast, so it immediately sounds different from the other releases that were tracked in conventional studios.

When I started the record I didn’t really have a set in stone idea of the sound. Just had a bunch of songs and some great musicians in the room.

I think the limitations of recording in the house helped guide the production of each song in a different but cool way.

Q. How does it feel to be performing a show in front of a home crowd?

Exiting and terrifying in equal measures but when there’s a room full of folks who have been listening to the music from the start it’s always special.

Q. Tell us about your experiences in Nashville?

I’ve been going back and forth to Nashville for almost eight years now, spending around six months of the year out there. It’s become kind of a second home.

When I first landed there the music scene was overwhelming; everyone and their dog is either a songwriter or involved in the music industry in some way. The city’s powered by music and the highways are pretty much built on it.

I’ve been lucky to work as a staff songwriter for several publishers out there and I’ve met some incredible writers and musicians along the way.

One experience I’ll never forget was writing with John Oates (Hall & Oates). Like most of the songwriters out there, he was warm and encouraging, Nashville is a lot like Belfast in that regard, just full of good people.

Gareth Dunlop 2017 - B&W HEADSHOT (marshall) - photo credit Pete Wallace.JPG
Gareth Dunlop (Photo: Pete Wallace)

Q. Who would you say has influenced your music?

A ton of people. When I first got into music I was listening to guitar players like Hendrix, Clapton and Page and I wanted to be able to play like those guys.

Singing came a bit later and I first started really paying attention to lyrics when I got into Bob Dylan.

Lately I’ve been listening to Sean Rowe, Francis and the Lights, Parker Millsap and more. I think everything you listen to whether you like it or not seeps in somehow.

Q. What do you miss about Northern Ireland when you are away?

I've got a list - my family, friends, Northern Irish humor, a decent pint of Guinness, the weather (it’s too hot in Nashville), driving on the left side of the road, Sunday dinners, putting my kids to bed.

Everything really, I’m a total home bird.

Q. Do you enjoy performing at festivals like EastSide Arts and Stendhal?

I love playing festivals. They’re a different animal than club gigs. They move faster, the energy is different and you have to just go with it.

The songs take on a different life on different stages and the guys in the band play differently too. I think the energy from the stage is a lot more outward than it can be on smaller intimate stages. It’s hard to put my finger on what exactly it is but it’s good energy and always fun.

Q. What Northern Ireland artists are you listening to at the minute?

I’ve got a lot of friends here that are great singers and songwriters so we’re always sharing new songs.

Nathan O’Regan has an awesome EP that’s gonna be dropping soon. Anthony Toner’s New Album INK is a great listen, Wilfie’s got an EP coming out soon that sounds fantastic, and I have just finished up producing Brigid O’Niell’s new album which is full of great songs. 

Matt McGinn is getting ready to release new material that is sounding awesome too. 

Northern Ireland is not short of great talent!

Q. What has been your career highlight to date?

Its been EPs and singles up until this release but I think finally putting my album together and getting it out there is a huge highlight for me.

  • Gareth's new album No.79 is available from August 11. For information on his upcoming gigs visit

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