How Dubai gave voice to this Irish singer

Gari Deegan tells Maan Jalal moving to Dubai has reignited his musical career

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Published: Tue 31 Aug 2021, 6:55 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Feb 2023, 8:39 PM

With the summer season nearly over and outdoor venues opening up, you need to a) make sure you’re vaccinated, b) wear your mask and c) check out Gari Deegan live on stage.

The singer/songwriter was a finalist on The Voice Ireland in 2012 and has since toured Ireland performing alongside artists like John Legend and Olly Murs. Despite enjoying his time on the road, Gari decided to make the move to Dubai, on a bit of whim, to see where his music can take him here.

And Dubai hasn’t let him down. “I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people who have given me some amazing opportunities,” Gari told City Times. “Dubai is such an international hub and when the good times come, the opportunities are endless if you put the work in, and put yourself out there and look for it.”

Gari has definitely been busy. Since moving to Dubai in 2013 he’s hosted and performed at some pretty big events such as The Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, the BBC Good Food Awards, the Moto Grand Prix of Qatar, Dubai Rugby Sevens and lots more.

Soulful, entertaining, effortless and entrancing, Gari’s presence on the stage feels authentic whether he’s singing an original or a cover.

Gari is currently working on an EP which he plans to release later in the year but make sure to check out his Instagram to get a taste of what you could see live.

We caught up with Gari and chatted about the facets of music in times of Covid, reality TV and social media.

Starting Out

“I was obsessed with singing. I always sang and I annoyed everybody. Everyone hated me in my house because I never shut up (laughs). So I always knew I wanted to sing.”

Musical Influences

“I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder. I love singers with soul like Jennifer Hudson. If we were in the car on a family drive, my mum used to have Dolly Parton and I’ve often got told that sometimes, when I sing, there’s a country element in there. I do love country music and Irish artists, like Mary Black. Both my parents love Whitney Houston too, so I listened to that a lot.”

Soulful Sound

“I’m definitely a soul, R&B and pop kind of artist. People used to always tell me that I don’t sound like a white person — especially an Irish white person (laughs). I don’t know where that came from, because my family all love music but I’m the only singer, bar my aunt. My mum used to dabble a bit, but I’m the only one who pursued it.”

Reality TV Music Shows

The Voice was enjoyable but there was a lot of stress with it. I remember part of our contract was we had to set up a Twitter account. Once you came off a live performance, you went straight to this engine room and you had to check and interact with tweets. They warned us, you’ll have 99% positive tweets about your performances, and you’ll have 1% nasty, horrible stuff. Everyone used to scroll past the good stuff and look for the bad, to see what people were saying. That affected a lot of people. I used to laugh at it. It didn’t affect me too much. But the whole process was stressful. You’re manipulated quite bit. After that I was like, no, this isn’t for me.”

Social Media and Music

“I go through phases with social media. It’s very important for work. I get most enquires through Instagram. I try not to take it too seriously. Some people are obsessed with it. Lately I’ve been trying to spend less time on it. I try to keep it as real as possible. You see a lot of people not being themselves. Where as I like to think that what you see on my Instagram is me — whether you like it or not.”

Covid & The Creative Process

“A lot creative people and musicians on social media said that they haven’t been motivated during lockdown. It’s weird. You’d think that Covid and lockdown would create more motivation but it killed my motivation. I had all this time but for some reason… I was doing covers at home but I don’t know why I didn’t have motivation or inspiration. I did write one song.”

The Making of a Good Song

“A song has to be catchy, it’s got to stick in your head. You want to hear it again, straight after you listen to it once. Good melody, good beats, good lyrics. The best kind of song for me is the song that triggers emotions. Whether it’s a sad song or a happy song, if it triggers the right emotions — that’s a good song.”

On Songwriting

“Obviously you’d need inspiration. But for me this comes out of nowhere. I could be driving a car, walking down the street and a melody pops into my head. I could be humming, and I’ll take my phone out and record it, put some lyrics to that and take it to some good musicians and then make it a song.”

Dubai and Music

“Moving to Dubai was the best thing I ever did for my career. I don’t think I’d have the same opportunities anywhere else then I would here. My career definitely took off in live music and recording since I moved here. Especially in terms of variety of events and gigs and even media coverage and different brands I’ve worked with, that wouldn’t have happened if I stayed in Ireland. Dubai has definitely been great to me.”

Good Luck Charm

“I have a weird routine before I get on stage. When I was about 20, my mum bought me this silver chain that I used to wear around my neck. There was a cross on it and we’re not a religious family or anything but I developed this habit of grabbing the cross with my fingers as a good luck charm before I did anything. I used to always wear the chain, always. But years later, I lost it; it fell off my neck somewhere and I never found it. I was devastated. But to this day I still reach down (laughs) and pretend to grab the cross before I go on stage, even though there’s no cross there anymore. I grab the imaginary chain on my chest. I’m a weirdo (laughs).”

Feelings on Stage

“If I ever get nervous on stage, I’ve trained myself to turn those nerves into excitement. So I get excited on the stage. It all depends on the crowd as well. In Dubai you can have different types of crowds. But, if it’s a good, big, fun, receptive crowd, I absolutely love it. The more interactive, the better. One of my favorite things to do is interact with the audience. I often go down and mingle with them while I sing. I love going up to the tables and having a laugh. I like to immerse myself with the crowd. I love it. I get excited. Live performances for me are the best thing.”

New EP

“I would definitely describe the sound of my upcoming EP as soulful pop music. I have a song Tonight which I’ve been meaning to release for a while but Covid put a thump on recording and all of that, but it will be ready soon. Tonight is basically about, if you’re out on a night out, in a bar or a club, like life used to be, and you meet someone and you have an instant connection and you click and you know instantly that you’re supposed to be with that person. And you can feel the energy from both sides. Both people know that they’re supposed to be together and basically it’s all about hoping that tonight it’s going to happen between two people and you hope that this person is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.”

Tonight will be out in early October and the EP will follow hopefully by Christmas.