Arts Q&A: Matt McGinn on Johnny Cash, Anthony Toner and Tom Petty

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Co Down songwriter Matt McGinn

Matt McGinn and band will appear at EastSide Arts

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

I've never really thought of it as a career, more just a collection of small goals that lead to class experiences. I studied music at Queen’s but it didn’t really agree with me. At a time that I was doing the odd acoustic gig here and there, but I remember being blown away when I first saw Ken Haddock and his band in the Empire Basement. I remember thinking, now that looks like fun.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

The Highwaymen at The King’s Hall, Belfast, PEOPLE Festival 2018 in Berlin, Tom Petty at 3 Arena, Dublin.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Jimi Hendrix and Glen Campbell on guitars, Aretha Franklin on vocals, Stevie Wonder on keys, Stevie Winwood on Hammond, James Jamerson on bass, Ringo on drums. And on back-up vocals, Emmy Lou Harris, Bonnie Riatt and me in the middle.

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

The White Album

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island?

It would have to be something new. I think I’d have to call on someone like Anthony Toner, who’s probably the most well-read person I know, to pick me out a real humdinger.

6. Top three films?

Blazing Saddles, anything with Star Wars in the title, and Neil Young's concert film Heart of Gold

7. Worst film you've seen?

The one with Leonardo Di Caprio where all of the buildings bend [Inception]. The fact that I can’t remember the name is a good sign. It must be seeping from my conscience bit by bit.

8. Favourite authors?

Michael Connolly, Joe Nesbo and various autobiographies – Dylan, Rodney Crowell and Springsteen to name a few.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?


10. Ideal holiday destination?

Havana, Cuba. But it would be to record an album, not a holiday... the more I think of it, this music stuff doesn’t sound like work at all, does it?

11. Pet hate?

People throwing litter from cars.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Fillet steak.

Dessert? Chocolate mousse.

Drink? Tea.

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

I’m very lucky to have a range of incredible friends from so many different aspects of my life. But the one constant is my wife Kathleen and more recently my three children whose characters become more endearing by the day.

14. Is there a God?

If I told you 100 per cent yes or no, I’d be lying... and maybe slightly deluded.

:: Matt McGinn will perform at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival on Thursday August 1 at the Harland and Wolff Staff Club. He will be joined on stage by John McCullough, Colm Mclean Nicky Scott and Matt Weir. For full programme and tickets visit

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