Following his SOLD OUT Ulster Hall show on December 21st, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan is playing his biggest ever Belfast show at Custom House Square on Saturday 17th August 2019. The past year has seen a phenomenal rise for Ryan, from selling out The Limelight, Mandela Hall and his largest-ever Belfast show at the Ulster Hall in December 2018. Ryan is currently on tour with Snow Patrol as support and filling in for Johnny McDaid. Mark Millar caught up with Ryan to discuss his upcoming debut album and his Custom House Square show.
Hi Ryan, when did you decide that you wanted to follow music as a career?
RM: My introduction to the music business is a bit strange. I had never really intended to work in it other than as a hobby or just playing pub gigs etc. I went to university and studied civil engineering. The final year got a bit overwhelming and I needed an outlet, so I wrote and recorded a few songs to mainly keep my sanity through that. And then I played an ep launch show and from there on it kept spiralling until the point where it was no longer a pipe dream.
You will be releasing your debut album next year. How is it coming along?
RM: It’s coming along, that’s for sure. It’s a weird thing that I keep changing and re-sculpting, not because I’m precious, but because you only get one chance on a debut album and I want to make sure it gets the right journey, with an audience looking it. But yeah it’s coming!
Did the songs come easily for the album?
RM: Do they ever come easy? It’s hard to know, really. Its been fun creating, but I don’t know about easy. It’s changed a few times now and the songs are ever-changing and evolving.
What is your songwriting process?
RM: To think of how I feel and just start playing, singing and writing lyrics, not necessarily in that order.
You have written songs with Ed Sheeran, Foy Vance, and Iain Archer. Is there anybody else you would like to write with?
RM: No names, in particular, just people who have something to say. Actually yes, Julia Michaels! She’s an incredible writer
How did it feel when you were asked to join Snow Patrol on tour while band member Johnny McDaid recovers from surgery?
RM: Wonderful, exciting, flattering, terrifying, anxious and incomprehensible all at once.
Following the tour with Snow Patrol, you return to Belfast to play Custom House Square on Saturday, August 17th. How does it feel to be headlining in front of the Belfast crowd again?
RM: Belfast has the best people in the world. There’s nothing like a homecoming gig to get me excited and I’m so excited for this one.
How do you unwind after a gig?
RM: Sometimes we don’t want to unwind, so we go to a pub, have a few drinks and keep the show going, but mostly it’s with Netflix in the hotel after.
In your last single Belfast City, you say, “Back to the friends that I can't take with me We'll have a night out in Belfast City, alright.” Where would you go for an ideal night in Belfast?
RM: Anywhere my friends are. Should it be Lavery’s for pool, the Empire for Ken Haddock on a Sunday night, a quiet one in the dog-friendly bar the Jeggy Nettle or a general day sesh in the Cathedral Quarter - it’s hard to beat.
What do you love most about Belfast?
RM: The people. People make a place and we have this wonderful way of accepting strangers, provided they can handle being the butt of the joke for a minute. I don’t know if it’s because we’re embarrassed by our government or trying to make amends for our past, but people in Belfast kind of go out of our way to show how incredible our city is and it’s a very charming and infectious trait to have.
Do you think there is a healthy music scene in Northern Ireland now?
RM: I think there is a healthy amount of talent! With regards to a scene, we’re still getting there. It’s hard when the majority of scenes happen close to the hubs of the business like London or Manchester. But the wealth of talent is unquestionable.
What are you most grateful for about being able to be a musician every day?
RM: That I get to perform to people who have an interest in what I want to say. They give me an opportunity to get lost on stage and not worry about phone bills or needing to fix the noise in my car. The stage is very powerful, and I’m most grateful for being allowed to be on it.
Out of all the records in your collection who do you have the most albums by?
RM: The Beatles. I’d love to have more Elton John records, so I’m looking out for them!
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
RM: Gang of Youths, Blake Mills, James Blake, Foy Vance, Maggie Rodgers, Stormzy, Bon Iver, Sam Fender.
What’s next for Ryan McMullan?
RM: Right now, next is breakfast, then to play one more show in Sydney, before hopping on a flight back to play the biggest headline show of my career so far, in my home city. After that, let’s see.
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