Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Full interview with Mick Flannery

Full interview with Mick Flannery, who played in Dolan's last Friday. For thoughts on the live gig, see further below..

MUCH has been written about Mick Flannery’s reticence, the almost shy nature that he has, which sits in direct contrast to the emotionally frank and descriptive songs that he sings.

Contrasts abound with this young singer, his frank lyricism at seeming odds with his stonemasonry background. Flanney is himself hewn from something solid, his gravelly growl capable of soaring to great heights - his music diverse and encompassing, possibly reminiscent of a young Tom Waits.

We say possibly because it is almost impossible to pigeon hole the Cork musician, whose second album White Lies has been chosen as one of the ten best Irish records of last year, nominated for the Choice Music Prize. He is also nominated for a Meteor Award, but you get the feeling that he is probably less concerned with that honour.

But Flannery doesn’t seem overly concerned by anything, interestingly so for a man signed to a three album deal with EMI, who has (we think) massive potential, which is only beginning to be filled with this album.

Is this reticence a sort of act or front? Not world weariness, but just a refusal to deal in any of the music industry’s bullshit, a buffer against bluffers, if you will.

Although he released well-received debut album Evening Train in 2005, it was with the September 2008 release of White Lies that people began to sit up and take notice, and the last few months have been a whirlwind, as Flannery recognises.

“Yeah it has been interesting anyway - hectic. I didn't expect anything, I didn't really think about it - I just kind of drifted along, I suppose I'm still drifting along, which is probably a bad idea, but we'll see how it goes.

I suppose there are a couple of more people coming to the gigs, it could be word of mouth - maybe it is the record company, I don’t know. It would be easy to be overawed by the whole thing, so I try not to think about it too much.”

Behind the wall Flannery has constructed around himself lurks the easy humour of a joker, self-deprecating to a fault, but engaging. It is clear he wasn’t used to talking about himself when he got into this game.

“Yeah, I'm starting to get used to it now and I don't know if I like that either. This is grand now because you didn't start the conversation with (adopts tone) 'Mick Flannery - your rise has been described as meteoric, how does that make you feel?’” he laughs.
“I'd be very quiet most of the time. I suppose it is easier for the two of us if I talk. I can't say I look forward to interviews, but I don't mind them. It's a strange thing, I don't know you like, and it's a one way conversation, I'm not asking you questions. I wouldn't know where to start, we'd have to be sitting over a few pints."
Laughter punctuates this little speech, and talk moves to the album, which was recorded after he signed with EMI. “The record company lads wanted me to use a producer. I had never looked into producers before, what they did or what their role was - they said it gets things moved along, it's good to have an extra pair of ears around. It turned out anyway that I didn't know who to pick - the only person I would pick was Rick Rubin, and they weren't getting me him,” laughs Mick.

“Anyway, they got me this lad and it didn't really work out - to my mind anyway, he was more pop-orientated. We didn't really see eye to eye. It was uncomfortable and a big contrast to the previous time we recorded, because that was with a family friend in Cork.

Dublin was totally different. It felt like we were in a cave, starting at four in the evening and working till four at night - and there was often problems and tensions. That didn't work out that well so we had to go and re-record a couple of things with a different guy. I ended up getting a producer credit. I had been fighting my corner with this other guy all the time, so it ended up with me trying to call all the shots anyway, because I wasn't a huge fan.”

Although he says the end result was “close” to what he wanted, he says he can’t listen to it, laughing at his own seeming pretensions.

“I can hear the uncomfortableness in my own voice listening back to it, I can just imagine the scene as it was when we were doing it, me in front of the microphone, blood boiling and ready to punch someone. So I didn't listen to it much and I haven't in a while because we have been playing it so much.”

The contrast between recording his first record, which failed to make a huge impact, and the travails of recording his second are apparent. But is clear that that was necessary to produce this astonishingly diverse and personal record - even if this hasn’t yet dawned on Flannery.

He laughs when I suggest that he is only pretending to be grumpy - “Ah, when it suits me” - and I question him about the indifference he expresses, and if he set out to impress people in the beginning.
“Well, I would have set out to impress people alright - you're not going to want to leave people disappointed. But, it wasn't for adulation or for my own ego or anything like that, I just enjoy it.”

1 comment:

El Chalkerino said...

Good stuff, sounds like an interesting enough lad. Even if he is from Cork.