Distinguishing himself from his peers with his acutely personal storytelling, Corkonian Mick Flannery is much less forthcoming with I meet with him ahead of his Galway Arts Festival Big Top gig. Reticent and prone to drifting off mid-sentence, Flannery’s nonchalant and deadpan approach also yields some insightful and occasionally hilarious anecdotes.
The 29-year-old began playing the guitar and writing songs aged 15 “just for a hobby” and says he originally chose to study music at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa to “see how bad I was compared to others”.
Having received some positive feedback, Flannery wrote what was to become his breakthrough record ‘Evening Train’ but says that he was “cripplingly nervous” while promoting the album and “was always worried about what my brothers would read in the paper and beat the s**t out of me for saying”.
Since then, the singer-songwriter has grown a little more accustomed to the trials of being a musician and follow-up 2008 album ‘White Lies’ was an astounding success, going platinum and earning Flannery a legion of dedicated fans for his intricate musicianship and beguiling vocals.
He received an equally warm reception for 2012’s ‘Red to Blue’, but says the shift from writing fictional prose on his first release to autobiographical songs on the subsequent records was a difficult one.
“It was daunting. You get used to anything though. Eventually you don’t even think about the person that the song was written about any more. You could be singing some emotional shite and you’d be thinking about a biscuit. You just do it so often, you can’t be there every time. You’d just go mad,” he says.
The self-deprecating Flannery admits that he now hates to perform many songs from his first album including ‘Your Martyrs Role’ and says he has discarded many songs because they “weren’t good enough, or boring, or self-involved”.
He also describes himself as disorganised and a techno-phobe, “apparently everyone has email immediately on their phone so people think I’m a d**head because I only reply every three or four days”.
However, when back on the topic of music, Flannery is on surer ground and waxes lyrical about Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, The National and the enduring lyrics of Bob Dylan, “people could understand what he was talking about from generation to generation so it lasts”.
Now living in Berlin, Flannery is currently working on material for his fourth album and hopes to enter the studio in September. He says that he is considering a stripped-back approach for the new record with “no violins or fiddly bits” and is enjoying the creative process, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s original or not, because it feels original to you and it feels like something that might keep you company for a while until you finish it”.
But fans can rest assured that there won’t be any major changes to his melancholy sound as he reveals he only turns to songwriting to express the “black darkness in your core”.
“If I’m having a good day, I don’t bother with music then. I don’t need to sing. I suppose it’s just a product of the type of music I like. If I was an Abba fan, things would be different!”
Mick Flannery plays the Galway Arts Festival Big Top with Josh Ritter and guests on Saturday July 20. Tickets priced at €33.50 are available from www.galwayartsfestival.com.
Other Galway Arts Festival gigs this week include vintage soul vendor Matthew E. White at the Róisin Dubh tonight, Wednesday 17 July, (Doors 7pm, tickets €14/€12), Frankie Gavin and De Danann at the Radisson Live Lounge on Thursday 18 July (9pm, €25), Grizzly Bear and The Strypes at the Festival Big Top on Friday 19 July (7.30pm,€33.50), Hot 8 Brass Band at Róisín Dubh on Sunday 21 July (8pm, €25), and Hudson Taylor at the Róisín Dubh on Monday 22 July (8pm, €14).