Composer Sheridan Tongue: I'd love to score a film set in Northern Ireland

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast's Emmy award-winning composer, Sheridan Tongue

Award-winning film and television composer Sheridan Tongue. Picture by Phil Sharp.
Award-winning film and television composer Sheridan Tongue. Picture by Phil Sharp.
Composer Sheridan Tongue: I'd love to score a film set in Northern Ireland

Award-winning film and television composer Sheridan Tongue. Picture by Phil Sharp.


Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

My alarm goes off 6.30am and three times a week I head straight to my local outdoor swimming pool and swim for 20-30 minutes.


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

Breakfast is a bowl of porridge with nuts, peanut butter and a banana. I am a creature of habit and so after my porridge I will have my first flat white of the day – and then another, late morning. There are many things I could give up, but coffee is not one of them.


Lunch will often be a cheese salad sandwich, a toastie or a just a salad.

Evening meal?

This will usually be something home-cooked – but occasionally, an Indian or Thai take-out.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I really think you are what you eat, so I try to eat healthily - most of the time.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

No,I've never been on a diet.


Weekend treat?

I took an Indian cookery course some years ago and really enjoyed it, so sometimes I'll cook up an Indian meal for the family at the weekend. Also, my boys have always liked my home-made lasagne, so I'll make that sometimes - although, I eat much less beef now, perhaps only once or twice a month.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I spend my days working in a recording studio, so I like get out on my bike two or three times a week, for anything between a 30-mile ride to a 50-mile ride. In the summer, I really enjoy taking part in sprint triathlons (swim for 500m, bike for 20k and run for 5k) so keeping up the biking and swimming throughout the year really helps. Sometimes, when the creative juices are not flowing, I may just down tools and go for a bike ride... it really clears my head.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Doing a little bit of activity every day really makes me sleep well that night.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

At school, I really disliked all sports and resented how I was always forced to participate. However, early in my music career a friend asked if I wanted to join his five-a-side football team - I only joined because he was down on numbers - but I very quickly began to love playing soccer. Working to deadlines composing soundtracks is all-consuming and can be very demanding, so playing in a game for 60 minutes a week gave me a total release from that world mentally - and also a fantastic workout.


Teetotal or tipple?

I tend not to drink during the week, but I enjoy a couple of beers or glasses of wine at the weekend. I do 'dry' January every year with my brother, up to February 10, which is my brother's birthday. Sometimes, one of us will crack first.


Stairs or lift?

Always the stairs.


What book are you currently reading?

The Last Season by Eric Blehm, which tells the story of the extraordinary life of the legendary backcountry ranger, Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada.


Best Netflix?

Derry Girls.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

That I felt an immediate urge to reach out to family, friends, people in my community and work colleagues like directors and fellow composers and musicians. It was only after connecting with everyone and hearing that they were all fine that I could settle to work. The wellbeing of everyone was far more important than anything I was doing. My priorities changed massively.


Any new skills or hobbies?

No, but I really want to learn to kite surf.


How do you relax?

Walking our dog, Bella, a 12-year-old bearded collie, on the beach is one of my favourite ways to relax. Once there, she suddenly turns into a young pup that loves to chase sticks. Then, she lies down and refuses to budge when it is time to go home.


What are your goals for 2023?

I have three - to write and record my next album with Northern Ireland musicians, Ruth McGinley and Darragh Morgan; to assist Belfast City Council in some way with their Unesco Belfast City of Music plans and, finally... I'd absolutely love to score a film or television drama set in Northern Ireland.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I get to bed around 10pm, so, yes, I think I get enough sleep.


Biggest gripe?

I love the World Cup, but it should not be taking place in Qatar right now, for so many reasons.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I am very lucky that I can now choose the jobs that I want to do. Back when I was growing up, kids from Belfast did not become film and television composers. But I knew I wanted to work in the music business so I spent 10 years working in recording studios all over London which led me to my current career. It has been an incredible journey and I would not be here without the support of my wonderful wife, Pam, who has been my rock. I always try to give something back to the music industry in whatever way I can, so, while I was in Belfast last week, I met with a wonderful group of talented young musicians, songwriters and composers at the Oh Yeah Music Centre.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

How something that started in one corner of the world changed the lives of so many people around the world made me think about how we live in such a fragile, connected world, so yes, it made me think how we are each given a finite time on this world, so we should really make the most of it.

:: Sheridan Tongue was the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the recent NI Music Prize celebration at the Ulster Hall, Belfast.