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Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop

Singer-Songwriter, Producer, Soundtrack Composer, Actor
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Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop is, at heart, a singer-songwriter, but so good are the results that his music has found a home in countless TV shows and films. His career has consequently branched out into production and even acting, and he likes the odd microphone shootout too, as he reveals…

Gareth Dunlop/No.79
Curiosity to Necessity

I got into music first as a guitar player and then started singing. I caught a few cover gigs around town that paid me and then began writing my own material. I studied music in college and got familiar with Pro Tools, mostly just to record my own demos (badly).

What started out as a curiosity became a passion and now is a necessity on a daily basis. As well as producing bands and songwriters here in Belfast I also write and create masters for Film and TV. I’ve been lucky to have my music used in hit TV shows (including Bones, House, Lucifer, Switched at Birth, One Tree Hill and Nashville) and several major motion pictures (Safe Haven, Best of Me and No Postage Necessary). I’ve been a staff songwriter for a few publishing companies and have been fortunate enough to have worked in some fantastic studios throughout the years. Between writing for other artists, and creating masters for sync I also record and tour my own stuff.

My studio is in my home in Belfast so has its challenges. A lot of the time I’m either in the live room with the musicians or not far away. I’ve gotten used to the bleed issues of four or five musicians tracking in the same room, and when the musicians are aware of the limitations I think it calls for a different kind of performance. I like to get as much as possible on one take, other than things that I really want isolated like vocals or something strange on the drums that requires them really being hit hard.



Running and Shouting about Mics!

I first got onto the Aston train after a couple of conversations I had with a few dudes in Nashville. One of the guys had just been doing shootouts between the Origin and his locker of vintage and hard-to-find mics. He was running around town telling everyone to check these mics out. I took his word for it and drove down to the local Guitar Center and grabbed the Origin. I spent a week with it in different studios and home set-ups, went back and bought another Origin and a Spirit for good measure.

Something that stands out to me about Aston mics other than the great sound is the build quality. They feel strong, durable and it’s easy to see that a great deal of thought has gone into the design. With every new mic manufacturer releasing the same 60s and 70s era designs it’s refreshing to see a new approach to how a mic can look. The performance side of the Aston range is where it’s really at though. I’ve been lucky to try out my Astons against a plethora of tried and tested favourites of great producers and engineers I’ve worked with. The results are always the same. Time and time again we’ve favoured the Origin, Spirit or Starlight.

I’d have to say the coolest time I used one of my Astons was for my own record (No.79). We tried a bunch of condensers to cut my vocals on: an old U47, a 251 reissue, a vintage C12 and both the Spirit and Origin. The vocal chain was pretty handsome too. We used a 1073 into an old Gates STA-Level compressor through IZA converters. There really wasn’t a bad choice between what we had to use, but the Origin was the guy for the job. My vocals on the entire record were recorded through that mic.

Challenge Aston, Round 2

The latest curious challenge was between a stunning Telefunken 260 and a Starlight recording my old beaten-up Lowden acoustic. It’s a tough guitar to mic, not a ton of volume from it and when it does project it's mostly in the low mids. I was keen to hear how the Starlight would do on the vintage setting against the 260. It was slightly more detailed, less noise and the bottom end was tighter – another win for Aston. I can’t imagine recording an acoustic guitar now without a Starlight on hand.

I’m always trying to smooth off the top end or dull some harshness that I think can show up on transient material recorded in-the-box. A pet hate for me is the mandolin – I always end up compressing the fire out of the top end to seat it in a mix. Recently I switched out my AKG 414 for the Starlight on the vintage setting and all the annoying crispy stuff tucked back and the body of the instrument came forward – no EQ or compression needed.

So the Aston mics have become a definite go-to for pretty much every application in my productions. I also love that I get the chance to support a company making great products in my own back yard – there’s a pride thing at play.

Out-takes

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. “I think I’d like to try my hand at cooking for a living. I’d probably be terrible as I can’t really cook, but I love chilling with a cookery show and will give anything a shot.”

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. “I would love to see what Aston could do with a ribbon design – possibly active with extended top end and options for both high- and low-pass filters.”

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. “Beautiful, reliable, clean and trusted.”

Q. What was the first song to make you cry?
A. "Jeff Buckley’s 'Hallelujah'. I was maybe about 14/15 and I heard a few tracks from Grace at a friend’s house. His dad was playing the album on repeat, I asked him for a loan of the CD to check it out. Headphones on, got to track six and it blew my mind. It still does. It's such a raw, vulnerable performance. Something aches in me when I hear it but in a good way."

 

Credits

Q. What are you listening to now?
A. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Blake Mills lately, as well as Sean Rowe. Old favorites are Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and anything Mo-Town.”

Gareth Dunlop

 

 

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