Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Slinging the booze: Ryan McMullan on staying sober to focus on latest tour

17 Aug 2019 - Ryan McMullan at CHSq. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
17 Aug 2019 - Ryan McMullan at CHSq. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

By David O'Dornan

Singer Ryan McMullan has revealed he has a new support act on tour — staying sober after slapping a booze ban on himself.

The Portaferry-born songwriter has had the busiest and most successful year of his career yet — a sell-out show at Belfast’s Custom House Square, touring with Snow Patrol and an appearance at Glastonbury.

Now he is set to headline the Atlantic Sessions festival on the north coast next weekend and as he focuses on making the most of all these opportunities, he admitted it is better to knock alcohol on the head.

He explained: “Well I’ve been trying a new approach to touring — sobriety. I’ve realised that what I think I sound like drunk and what I actually sound like drunk are two very different things.”

Ryan said that the teetotal transformation has also seen his rider — backstage requests for his dressing room — change dramatically.

He said: “Currently? Ginger, apple, celery, spinach, coconut water and berries. Previously? Copious amounts of alcohol. I recently watched a documentary called The Game Changers on Netflix — I haven’t ate meat since.”

But there is one thing he does miss from home when he is away on tour and it’s not a bottle of Bushmills whiskey.

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He confessed: “I would love to be able to bring things like soda bread with me, but with the customs stops it’s just not possible.”

It’s been a meteoric rise to fame for Ryan, who concedes himself that he is now living a lifestyle packed full of ‘pinch me’ moments and showbiz stories.

He agreed: “I’ve been very fortunate to have met some of my biggest heroes, but a sentence I’ll not get tired of saying is, ‘I once played football on Courtney Cox’s tennis court with Snow Patrol’.  That has got to be the winner.”

Ryan (right) on stage with Foy Vance (left) and Ed Sheeran (centre)
Ryan (right) on stage with Foy Vance (left) and Ed Sheeran (centre)

Next up is the headline slot at Kelly’s in Portrush on Saturday and as a man from a seaside town himself, Ryan said he has a love-hate relationship with life on the coast.

He joked: “I do feel an affinity with it. I love the sea but I also had to travel to school on a boat every day, so in winter I hated the sea.”

Ryan is not a man short on ambition either and he has no plans to rest on his laurels, hoping to build on what has been a bumper year.

He said: “I want to release an album and headline an arena show. They are the current goals I’m working toward. A headline tour of America was one, but we’ve just made that a reality which I’m so excited about.

“I can’t imagine a life without music. It’s an obsession. A journey. I’m in it for the long haul. I think the part about my career that gets overlooked quite a bit is how much work it takes to do it. I’m very fortunate that everyone in my life understands that and moves things to fit around me.

“It takes a lot of discipline to be present with my family and friends without veering off in my head about what needs to get done.

Ryan McMullan performing at Glastonbury
Ryan McMullan performing at Glastonbury

“And they can always sense when I’m not present with them but they are very patient with me. It’s a lifestyle that takes everything and to have them in my life means the world.”

And for now, home is where the heart is for Ryan who is currently based in Belfast and a long-time cheerleader of the local music scene — but would he ever consider a move away?

He said: “I mean possibly — but I’ve gotten this far without needing to leave. It would take a lot to make me consider leaving Belfast. Like a mansion in Malibu. And even then it would need to have enough rooms to bring everyone with me.”

Last year saw the 10th anniversary of Atlantic Sessions and its sell-out success was proof that the festival continues to go from strength to strength. This year’s festival will be headlined by Ryan in Kelly’s on Saturday, November 16.

The festival runs from November 14-17 with seven gigs ticketed but another 40 free entry. For more information, including travel and accommodation details, check out

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