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Mick Flannery’s new beginning starts now

Thursday, 18th July, 2019 10:29am

When singer-songwriter Mick Flannery answers my call, he is fresh from a busy week fulfilling promotional obligations in support of his new album.

The Blarney native is coming off the back of a string of launch shows on Leeside, taking a brief pause before again going out on the road in Ireland and the UK.

12 years on since he first arrived on the scene, there’s no doubting the fact that Flannery, now based in Clare, is a mainstay in Irish music. Not long after our interview, the news comes through that his new record has debuted at number one in the Irish charts, making him the first independent Irish artist to do so since January 2018.

Simply self-titled ‘Mick Flannery’, the artist’s sixth album is framed by Flannery’s deftness in conjuring up melodies, written with a gruff edge reminiscent of the singer’s US-centric influences like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.

Its concept, telling the story of a musician who becomes ensnared by fame, notoriety and excess, is one that could only have been credibly explored by someone with first-hand experience of the music industry. It’s a powerful and elegant addition to the collection of a man with a storytelling ability matched by few others on our isle.

There has been one major shift behind-the-scenes, however; this is Flannery’s first full-length release after five albums on major labels.

While he says he “stayed fairly stubborn” during his days on EMI and Universal, Flannery admits there was always a level of compromise he knew was necessary, such as the need for a radio hit.

“I did some compromising on maybe one song per album. I understood the need for some sort of hook.

“I’ve actually done a little bit more of that off my own back this time. Maybe because nobody was telling me to do it,” he chuckles.

While his label days ended prematurely after his last record, 2016’s ‘I Own You’, Flannery is gracious in his refusal to blame anything or anyone for how things turned out.

“I tend to try and do what I want to do, which doesn’t tend to marry well with people who want you to do what they want you to do,” he muses.

Over the course of the last decade, Flannery has overcome complicated label transitions, prolonged periods of writers’ block and is well versed in the ins and outs of the business.

He acknowledges the difficulty of balancing the often intimate process of creating art and the cold, impersonal nature of the music business, which he calls “a weird mix of worlds”.

“You start out as just someone that likes writing songs on their own, and then you start to mix it with a commercial, capitalistic industry and it gets murky.

“Then people around you who had heard your songs first tend to prefer you never messed with that industry at all, because there’s no way to know how much influence is being put on you, or how into it you are, or how much you are willing to be capitalist. That’s what people don’t trust, I suppose. It’s understandable, but it’s hard to navigate.”

With that in mind, the transition from major label signee to independent artist appears to have gone relatively smoothly, the new album’s chart-topping success the latest in a string of recent triumphs following the musical adaption of Flannery’s album ‘Evening Train’.

Based off his 2008 debut, a conceptual tale of two brothers, jealousy and conflict, the production opened to rave reviews at The Everyman last month, finally coming to fruition thanks to a collaboration between Flannery and Clare playwright and former UCC student Ursula Rani Sarma.

He’s established a core following this past decade, not only in Ireland (he has a headline Cork Opera House date lined up for September), but in countries like Germany and even in the US, where he will play later this summer.

At this stage of his career, was it a deliberate decision to self-title his new album?

“So I was going to go with ‘Wasteland’ after the first track on the album, but then Hozier named his new album ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ so I didn’t.

“But the self-titled thing works alright for me. We were talking about it, you know, being the first album without a record company, a new manager, a couple of new things going on, like a few co-written songs, which I hadn’t really done before.

“Maybe I just wanted to believe that there was some sort of new beginning here too. You know the way you kind of have to kick yourself into telling yourself you’re not a 35-year-old washed up piece of sh*t?” he cackles humorously. “I have to tell myself that!”

Did he ever think he might become the real-life version of the character in his record, consumed by trappings of success?

“I think I had overblown expectations for the last album that never came to fruition. Maybe that’s why this album happened in the way that it did, because I built something up in my head thinking that record was going to do something more than it did. And I think I did feel a little bit deflated afterwards.

“So maybe I just magnified that feeling for this album, and all the foolishness that was going on in my head. You’re kind of setting yourself up for a fall having all these expectations. It’s a recipe for disappointment.

“I feel very fortunate, though,” he admits.

“For the amount of sad music I write, I’m quite a happy person. I’m very content with the amount of luck I’ve had in my life. I’ve made some mistakes, but everyone does.”

I joke that if hid disappointment prompted a follow-up as strong as his current record, it must be a good, thing right?

He laughs down the phone: “Bring on more failures!”

Mick Flannery plays Connollys of Leap on 28 July. Tickets are €25 and are available from His new album ‘Mick Flannery’ is out now.

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