Arts Q&A: Gareth Dunlop on Bob Dylan, Marc Cohen and The Goonies

September 17, 2020

1. When did you think about a career in music and what were your first steps into it?

I left school and went to music college in Bangor when I was about 16. Music was the only thing that really interested me then, but I never really thought it would be more than a hobby until I got my first paid weekly gig in a pub. I picked up more cover gigs as time went on and eventually started writing my own music. It wasn’t until my first trip to Nashville TN with Pan Arts 11 years ago, when a publisher offered me a songwriting contract and I started writing songs for a living.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Marc Cohen in Dublin a couple of years back is up there with the best gigs I’ve ever seen in my life. Stripped down, stories behind the songs, room full of fans singing every word. Another one would be The Steel Drivers in Nashville about nine years ago. Chris Stapleton was leading the band then. It was in a small, grungy bluegrass bar, one mic on the stage, the whole band leaning into it. Real authentic bluegrass.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

It has to be up-tempo, hit after hit all night. And maybe 80s. Michael Jackson would be a good bet.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. It was the first record I ever picked up and put on that made me want to get into songwriting. It’s full of loaded lyrics, interpretive metaphors and brings me back instantly to my eager teenage self.

5. And the book? I’m not much of a reader. I’ve embarrassingly only read a couple of books cover to cover. But I’d try to be clever and take Gray’s Anatomy, in case I do myself an injury.

6. Top three films?

The Shining – the score, the acting, the tension and the cinematography.

The Goonies – it’s a movie I grew up watching as a kid, pure 80s nostalgia and complete comfort blanket movie.

12 Angry Men – it’s like a time capsule with great actors, amazing performances, no tricks and an amazing script.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

The Shape of Water. It won lots of awards and had lots of hype, but I absolutely didn’t get it. I found myself wanting to laugh and was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be a comedy.

8. Favourite authors?

I’m really gonna have to start reading more. I’ll give you one… Allen Carr. He wrote The Easy Way To Stop Smoking and I’ve read that at least five times.

9. Sports you most enjoy?

Table tennis (I used to play a lot as a kid) and I like watching rugby when it’s on, especially when Ireland is playing.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Me and my Arctic-white skin hate the heat, so somewhere cold with great views and plenty to do. Somewhere in the Black Forest in Germany at Christmas time perhaps.

11. Pet hate?

Tardiness. I can’t stand it when people are late without good reason.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Slow-cooked Bolognese with spaghetti.

Dessert? Sticky toffee pudding with ice cream.

Drink? Middleton Irish Whiskey, one cube of ice, stirred anti-clockwise.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

My wife Amy Dunlop. We met 14 years ago and have been raising hell and kids ever since.

14. Is there a God?

I’m not a follower of any faith. I like to think we’re not alone on this rock. Maybe there’s a greater force pulling the strings every now and again. I think a lot of people have different names and stories behind that force. Or maybe there’s loads of gods… I don’t know.

:: Gareth Dunlop releases his full five-track EP Born Uncool – A collection of songs created during lockdown – on Friday September 18.

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