Singer-songwriter Gareth Dunlop: Time is precious and I can't stand having any of it wasted

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast singer-songwriter and producer, Gareth Dunlop


Up and at it - what is your morning routine? Has it changed because of Covid?

Every morning starts with coffee... lots of coffee. I've never been big on breakfast, so I usually skip that and wait until lunchtime to eat something. Now that the kids are back in school, we get up around 7.30am, get them some cereal or toast and then we're out the door around 8.30am. I get back from the school run around 9am, pour another coffee and switch the studio on.


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

I usually don't eat breakfast.


Most lunches consist of a sandwich, bowl of soup or cheese on toast.

Evening meal?

We try to sit down as family every night around the table and will have anything from pasta dishes and curries, to soups, salads and Sunday roast.


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

There has always been a big element of working from home for me. I have a recording studio at home, computer for emails and work and musical instruments everywhere. The big thing that changed the most was not flying in and out of the country for gigs, meetings and events. To be honest, I really tried to embrace that - I got a rare chance to spend an unusually prolonged period of time with my kids. Technology meant I could continue to work on records and produce albums over the internet through Zoom and audio linking between studios.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Pasta. We have a family speciality called 'chicken soupy cheesy pasta'. Not the most original title and not the most glamorous of meals, but takes 20 minutes to make and usually goes down a treat.


Weekend treat?



How did you keep physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I'm not the fittest of people, but we did a lot of walking. Getting out in the fresh air and being away from the studio is always a good mental reset.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

We got a family dog, a 'Sheepadoodle' called Daisy to be exact, so lots of long walks in the forest.


How do you relax?

Cooking, watching TV and music. Most days will end with me cooking something up in kitchen and unwinding with a TV series I'm into or watching a movie which has been recommended.


Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple... I love a good whiskey at the weekend.


What book are you currently reading?

This is something I'm ashamed to admit, but I'm not much of a reader. I've promised myself, countless times, to change, but haven't got round to it yet. I have read one book cover to cover - The Easy Way to Stop Smoking - it wasn't the most thrilling read, but did the trick.


Best Netflix?

This is a tough one... I'd have to go with Stranger Things - nostalgic, great soundtrack, horror, supernatural, drama... all the right stuff.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I'd have to say how much I rely on the company of friends and family. I've always considered myself to be fairly solitary. I'm happy enough being locked away in studios or travelling around on my own. When I didn't have those frequent face-to-face chats and catch-ups it became pretty clear very quickly just how much I need them.


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

I think I've conditioned myself over the years and gotten pretty used to be being locked in a studio for days on end, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a bit of cabin fever creeping in now and then over the lockdowns. When we couldn't get out to see family and friends I was probably hovering around a five and now with everything going back to somewhat normality, it doesn't register.


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

Seeing and spending time with my family and friends was a big one. Also, not being able to play live gigs was a massive adjustment. And just going out for dinner or lunch.


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

I'll more than likely be jumping back on planes, playing gigs and travelling back and forth to America again.


Biggest gripe?

Tardiness. I'm usually early and rarely late when I say I'll be somewhere. Time is precious and I can't stand having any of it wasted.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think my perspective on what's truly important has changed a bit, or at least got further cemented in my brain. Getting to spend more time with my kids these past couple of years has been a blessing in so many ways and it's made me realise how much I've missed out on by being on the road so much. When everything stopped and the world slowed down, it gave me a bird's eye view of all the moving parts in my life. It was a good time to re-evaluate.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I got back into fishing with my dad.


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

At the height of the pandemic there was a feeling of everyone doing their bit to look out for each other - neighbours checking in on one another through the window, more smiles exchanged on the street - and I'd like to see that same sense of community carried through.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I think it made me think about it more, for sure. So much constant daily reporting on death and illness creeps into your thoughts. It definitely made me more aware of how fragile life can be and how precious it is.

Gareth Dunlop's new single, Sorrow, is out now, with new album, Animal, set for release on April 22.