Soul and jazz singer Dana Masters: Lockdown, for me, was a massive exhale

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: soul and jazz singer, Dana Masters

Singer Dana Masters is looking forward to filling her house with family and friends
Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

From Monday through to Friday, I'm up at 6am to steal an hour alone before the rest of house wakes up and the excitement begins...


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I'm not a breakfast enthusiast, so I normally just have coffee and toast.


In the summer I love a fresh salad for lunch but in winter it will usually be a big bowl of soup.

Evening meal?

Dinner is different every day, but our recurring meals are home-made curry, tacos (Tuesdays) and chicken wraps.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

As a musician, there are certain parts of my job I can do from home - writing, some recording - and although I miss being on stage and creating live music, I've found removing the demands of touring for a while has cleared my mind and made room for a bit more creativity.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

My favourite lockdown meal has to be a Sunday roast chicken lunch. Turning this into a ritual each week has become one of the joys of lockdown for me. Before the lockdowns, when I was touring, having a traditional Sunday lunch was such a luxury, but now it has become part of the rhythm of life which has been wonderful. I think, because there is so much we couldn't control – and as humans we love the illusion of being in control – this was one thing that could be a constant.


Weekend treat?

A nice glass of wine.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

During lockdown I have made it a priority of walking at least five miles, five days of the week. That makes me feel physically healthier as well as mentally resilient.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Walking. I never liked the idea of exercise before - this thing that you remove from the rest of your life - but I have introduced movement into my everyday chores and it works. My washing line, for instance, isn't outside my front door – it is up a hill – so even taking clothes on and off the line has meant climbing a small mountain. And when I take my kids to school now – another small pleasure I didn't have before – I deliberately leave the car at the school and then walk home. That means I have no choice but to walk all the way back again to collect them. My husband can't believe the change in me; when we lived in the city, I would drive the kids to school which was just a short walk away from our house.


How do you relax?

A quiet evening at home with my husband.


Teetotal or tipple?

Teetotal during the week and drinking in moderation on the weekends.


What book are you currently reading?

Actually, I've decided to read a genre I've never been into before and have started the Outlander series – historical fantasy novels by American author, Diana Gabaldon.


Best Netflix?

OK, it's not Netflix, but I fell in love with the Apple TV series, Ted Lasso.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I definitely surprised myself – and my husband – that I love to walk.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I haven't felt any cabin fever. I am very much an introvert who lives rurally in the foothills of the Mournes. I breathe deeply and the fresh air usually knocks off any cobwebs as soon as I am out the door.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

Honestly, my life was moving at such a fast pace that I only felt a sense of relief at the beginning of lockdown. It was a massive exhale for me.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I will fill my house with family and friends.


Biggest gripe?

At the moment, the thing that probably annoys me the most is the way so many people on social media seem to complain about everything. The level of negativity you can take in on a daily basis is so exhausting. I try to stay away from social media for this reason. I was brought up in a family where I was taught to either do something about the thing you're complaining about or just shut up.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

No, but my awareness of my own power to make my life what I want it to be has changed. I have learned to enjoy sitting back a bit more and having a better balance between my family life, my touring life and my creative life. I like to think I have reclaimed a bit of normal humanity. I liked doing simple things like making the children's packed lunches.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I learned how to make the world's best roast chicken (a title that is self-awarded). I also helped our dog birth puppies – something I thought I would never do – and I dipped my toes into presenting. I was asked to present a BBC4 documentary which is going out in the autumn about little-known Northern Irish blues singer, Ottilie Patterson from Comber. That was a new and really interesting experience for me.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I'd like to see more kindness and patience embedded in our culture.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

No, not really, that's something I had to deal with before the virus. But it has made me more aware of the suffering of others and challenged me to see past my own experiences. I want to work on cultivating a more curious nature when it comes to other people's life stories and experiences.

Dana Masters will be performing at Bangor Castle Walled Garden on Wednesday August 25 as part of the Open House Festival,

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