Gareth Dunlop | Interview
Ahead of his appearance at the Holywood Harmony Festival • Sun 04 June 2017
By Tina Calder • Photography: Anthony Scarlati & Dianna Maher
A Belfast singer songwriter has been cast in a new movie – as himself.
Gareth Dunlop, 29, shot to fame after songs from his debut EP were used in big TV shows such as Bones, Nashville, House, One Tree Hill and Switched At Birth among others.
And it didn’t stop there, after his trip to Nashville to pursue his music Gareth bagged himself an American agent and had his music used in commercials for everyone from Subaru and Disney and Discover Ireland Tourism.
Now the father of two has had the chance to appear on screen himself in a film due out later this year.
Gareth performs and stars as himself in No Postage Necessary with Sleepy Hollow and Once Upon A Time star Robbie Kay, Michael Beach (The 100), Broadway star Charleene Closshey and George Blagden of Versailles and Vikings fame.
He said: “I was out doing some work in LA a couple of years ago and found myself at a film and TV get together where I met Charlene – who’s the lead actress in the movie – and Jeremy, the director.
“We got talking, hit it off, and I ended up playing a few songs for them that night. The whole thing started off with Jeremy wanting to use a couple of my songs in the movie and then as the script was getting edited he asked me to do an onstage onscreen performance in one of the scenes and I jumped at the chance
“As the script was getting kicked around and finalised, Jeremy asked if I would be up for a talking role in one of the scenes. After a bit of thought I came to the conclusion that if I don’t suck at the acting part then great, and if I really do suck at it, I can always look back and at least get a good laugh out of it.”
But for Gareth acting wasn’t necessarily the problem, playing himself was the difficult part.
Speaking ahead of his appearance at the Holywood Harmony Festival in Co Down on 04 June he explained: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable being myself in my life.
“I’d never acted before so I found the whole thing really challenging but rewarding at the same time.
“I didn’t realise the work involved in getting five minutes of film. The shoot took 14 hours so it was a long day but thankfully everybody on the set was great and very patient with the rookie. Remembering lines, cues, where to be for each take never mind trying to look natural was yeah, pretty difficult.
“I think the hardest part of it all was the live music scene, for no other reason than it was last stuff that we shot. After 10 hours of rehearsing lines, and shooting the talking scenes I was absolutely shattered! I don’t think it helped that I didn’t sleep much the night before.
“One thing that was a huge learning curve was slowing down my talking to what felt like a snail’s pace. The other actors were very encouraging and full of great advice throughout the shoot, so all in all it was tough but I was in good hands.
“I have lines with both Charleene and George in an Irish pub where me and my band are the entertainment for the evening. They walk in and it turns out that I have a history with Charleene’s character.”
And with a growing trend in music based TV shows like Glee, Nashville and Empire Gareth is keen to explore acting.
“I think I would try it if the opportunity arose, if for nothing other than the experience. I don’t have a burning ambition to become an actor but having written songs with actor/musicians and other people in the film industry, and hearing their stories…I think what they do is fascinating and really intriguing.
“The situation I was in was very unique, I was playing myself and only had a few lines. I think acting is definitely not something you can walk straight into without any training and I think if the opportunity came my way again, I would definitely look into some coaching.
“I found it really tough just playing myself. I can’t imagine how actors even begin to play someone else in a movie.
“I really loved getting an insight into how its all done, having never been in that situation before I had a completely naive expectation of all the work involved.
“It was like being able to look behind the curtain for a day.
“I drove my family down to Florida from Nashville so the four-day road trip through the deep south was definitely an enjoyable part too.”
Now that he’s back home Gareth is embarking on his new album. However, the musician is taking an interesting approach to recording.
“We moved into our house about three years ago now and it just has a cool vibe and sound to it” he said.
“So I wanted to see if it could be captured. My last home studio was in a tiny spare bedroom so recording more than one musician at a time was impossible. I’ve been in and out of a load of great studios over the last 10 years and while I love working in professional recording studios – and I’ll always go back to them – there is just something different that happens when the studio comes to the musicians.
“When you take away the partition glass, the isolation booths and the standard studio practices, it forces you to record in a different way.
“That can sometimes lead to approaches in recording and playing that just don’t happen all the time in a normal studio environment.
“Everyone’s most comfortable in their own home.”
With this album Gareth’s hoping to grasp the attention of his fans with some new sounds.
He said: “I’m excited to put some new music out there. It’s been an enjoyable process getting the songs together and trying to capture the sound I’ve been hearing in my head.
“I hope when people hear it they get a sense of that enjoyment. It’s been a couple of years since I last released anything, I feel like my writing has grown, my own tastes have changed and musically I’m in a different place now.
“I’ve been embracing those changes with this record and going down every rabbit hole that opens up. There’s still some work to be done but I think anyone familiar with the previous stuff I’ve put out will hear a new side to me.”
Gareth Dunlop will play the Holywood Harmony Festival on Sunday June 4. Ulaid & Duke Special on Friday June 2 and Hothouse Flowers on June 3.