Michael McCullagh is a Belfast-based musician, co-host of the Mad Notions Podcast, actor and screen-writer behind web series The Also Rans, and a self-confessed bin-hoker. Fresh off the back of his sold-out single launch and series finale, we caught up with the man of many talents to learn about his current and upcoming projects, and to find out what feeds his constant creativity.
Michael McCullagh began his musical career as many do; at a family funeral playing “the famous old Irish air ‘Wonderwall.’” The Irish indie songwriter has since been writing his own music and gigging throughout the years, riding the highs and lows that come from a career built on music. He talks about the varying venues and gigs from the past with humour; “I enjoyed playing the Ulster Hall a few years back, but my ultimate career highlight was playing to literally no one in Crumlin a few months back. Even the bar staff were out the back.”
With that said, Mick and his band (Son of the Hound) recently played to a packed-out venue, filled with an enthusiastic crowd singing along to his newly released single, drinking Barp (a cocktail of Harp and bananas – invented by the man himself) and celebrating the successes of the six-part series The Also Rans.
“The single launch/wrap party in Voodoo was the best gig I’ve ever experienced. A few people said it had the feel of a family reunion or Christmas party. I liked that.” This comes as no surprise with reviews coming in from GiggingNI who declared it ‘the gig of the year’. Now, the pressure is on for Mick to perform his magic again. “If I’m running any more gigs they’ll be my own. That way if it fails I’m the only one who takes the hit. I know, I’m a hero like that. I’ve the series two wrap party to think of now…”
The gig was testament to the popularity of The Also Rans (which Mick has hinted will now have a follow-up second series). The show follows a couple of Belfast-based musicians who have never quite made it, pulling together a new band for another shot at fame and glory. The writing is inspired by Mick’s personal experience as a struggling musician in the city, making some pretty dodgy life decisions along the way. “I may or may not have ate a kebab from a bin once. But it was my own bin and had only been in there overnight. (On an unrelated note I’m vegetarian now.) I also have been in those meetings were the word ‘brand’ is used more than ‘band’. It’s all real, just a little exaggerated.”
It doesn’t exactly sound glamorous, but Mick talks candidly about biting the bullet to pursue his creative aspirations despite hard times; “The process is being late for rent, living on 17p Lidl noodles and grinding your teeth in your sleep worrying about the bills. I wouldn’t recommend it. The most important lesson I ever learnt was taught to me by a shoe. It said, ‘just do it’. If it’s not perfect at least you tried. Nothing worse than waiting for the right moment. There never is one.”
It’s this candid approach in speaking about his experiences that inspired the weekly podcast Mad Notions, which he produces with fellow musician Nathan O’Regan; “Mad Notions began because we thought it was funny how all us musicians are lying to each other, making every opportunity look like it was just falling into our laps. We realised it’s much healthier to open up and admit that no one has a clue what they are doing, everything’s a struggle and if we all agree to that we can move forward together.” He describes the podcast as “A sweary, ill researched hour’s look into musical myths and legends peppered with stories and anecdotes about the very unglamorous life of low-level professional musicians.” The pair have been touring with the show since the beginning of summer, performing live podcasts and garnering more public attention with each passing episode.
Keeping on top of a music career, a screen-writing project, and a podcast could be enough to break a man; but it’s clear to see that Mick has true passion and talent, feeding a drive and motivation that demands success. “Trying to spin all these plates while making sure you’re working enough to cover the bills is tough. But here, no one’s forcing me to do it – so I can’t really complain.”
Find out more about each of Mick’s projects on social media by searching @sonofhound, or check out The Also Rans Series 1 Playlist via the QR code below.
Written by Megan-Cáitlín Dallat
Images by Colm Laverty
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