Weekend Q&A: Garth Brooks tribute performer and Downtown Country DJ Jason Hughes on growing up in Culmore and getting paid for doing what he loves

Jason Hughes (42) performs as a highly popular tribute act, Ireland's Garth Brooks, and also keeps it country as a DJ on radio station Downtown Country, where he plays music by Mr B and other legends in two weekend shows.

Downtown Country DJ Jason Hughes performing as 'Ireland's Garth Brooks'
Jane Hardy

How do you unwind at the weekend?

Weekends are my weekdays as I do shows on Saturday from 10am to 1pm and on Sunday from 4pm until 6pm. I also work for a charity my father Jimmy and I founded, Northern Ireland Cancer Care, which provides transport to hospital for people with the disease. My mother Iris died from cancer 10 years ago.We've helped around 20,000 patients. We also have two shops in Londonderry. I tend to have a busy weekend. When I want to relax, I like walking and go out in Donegal, not far from Culmore where I live. I love walking on the beaches and also like playing snooker. I like to go to Muff, and I was actually mayor there for a year in 2018.

What do you recall most about weekends growing up?

I came from a typical family with my mum, dad and an older brother and sister. I'm the spoilt youngest. On Saturdays I'd play football with the Culmore team. Jobs-wise, I did lots of things when young and was a car salesman, a bungee jumping teacher and a nightclub bouncer. I just fell into my current job, I suppose. On our street there were at one stage 10 houses of Hughes. It was lovely to have so many relatives around.

Do you have a must-listen weekend radio show or podcast?

It has to be Downtown Country and I enjoy all the shows. But I like all kinds of music, from The Fratellis to Rufus Wainwright.

Do you have a must-watch TV programme or Netflix?

I enjoy comedy and like the classics - Only Fools and Horses, Cheers, Friends. I also like American news, mainly Fox News, and got really interested in the last presidential election.

Is Sunday still special?

We were brought up going to church and on Sunday I would have gone to our Church of Ireland Sunday school. The church was kind of rural and held only about 30 or 40 people. I think Sunday has lost something, and as a society we've moved away from that tradition, which is a shame.

Is there a favourite eatery or is it a takeaway?

I'm trying to keep fit and not eat out, otherwise it's a pub called Dirty Harry's and I'd go for blackened salmon. I could say I am beefing up for a role, or even as Garth Brooks. In terms of takeaways, I love a Chinese, anything spicy.

How do you feel on Sunday night about Monday morning?

For me, it's a question of how I feel on Friday night about Saturday when I start work. There's thousands of people who would give their right hand to do my job and I love it. It's amazing to get paid for something I enjoy doing. I'm going to be performing at the Northern Ireland Country Awards at the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena, on Monday February 7. Get on to Facebook and you can vote for me as best tribute band...

Jason Hughes - 'Ireland's Garth Brooks' - is in concert at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on February 25. Tickets from

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