Since the release of his debut album Evening Train in 2005, Mick Flannery has been making massive strides on the Irish music scene. In his latest album I Own You, the Cork native gives his own stance on many of the social issues affecting the world today.
Mick began showing a keen interest in music from an early age, claiming to have penned his first song at the tender age of fifteen. His family home had a heavy influence on his musical tastes, introducing him to folk and blues. In a 2008 interview with RTÉ he noted that it was “at those family nights there was a good bit of Tom Waits, a bit of Dylan. Most of the singers would be female, my aunts, and they would sing Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell”. Other influences include Nirvana, and it was Kurt Cobain’s performance of “The Man Who Sold the World” on the MTV Unplugged album that drove Mick toward a career in music.
Flannery wrote his first album while undergoing a music and management course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork. He spent three months living in Williamsburg, New York testing out his new material in the clubs and bars around Brooklyn however he quickly grew tired of the New York music scene, saying that it was “a bit up its own arse”. Evening Train received positive critical reviews with many pointing out its “astute and sophisticated lyrics” and its “strong, imaginative melodies” The RTÉ Guide described his voice as “Tom Waits meets the howling of a grizzled freight train hobo”.
After signing with EMI Records and performances on RTÉ Two’s Other Voices, Mick released his second studio album White Lies in 2008. This led to a top ten position on the Irish charts, his first headline show in Vicar street as well as duets with the likes of Lisa Hannigan and a performance at Electric Picnic. White Lies continued to display Mick’s incredible song writing and story telling ability. Songs such as “Safety Rope” and “Goodbye” stand out from the rest with their romantic yet heart breaking lyrics and imagery.
Goodbye- Mick Flannery (2008)
Mick saw continued success, with his next two albums Red to Blue and By the Rule both going to number one in Ireland. Songs like “Boston” and “The Small Fire” followed in the footsteps of some of the great songs from albums gone by. Despite the constant praise of his work and being one of the most sought after singer songwriters in Ireland today, Mick remains an incredibly shy individual. He has admitted to experiencing crippling stage fright before some performances and steers clear of social media. Very introverted, he also chooses to remove himself from the Irish singer songwriter circles admitting “I’m a sour bollocks. I wouldn’t be the life and soul of any party. I’d be sitting in the corner”.
However, the release of his latest album I Own You perhaps marks a transition in Mick’s attitude and style. Anger and rage seem to have taken over from sorrow and pity as the dominating emotion in this his fifth studio album. Songs of loss and betrayal are replaced with lyrics about broken society and a world gone mad; “50% of this album is more socially aware, containing social commentary which is new to me, if a little scary, and is ultimately less self-involved than my previous releases.”
It was during his brief time spent living in Baltimore in the US and the arrest and death of local man Freddie Gray that seemed to set off this new sense of social awareness; “They put him cuffed in the back of a van and took him for a trip around the city and this trip happened to kill this man… If you can imagine the arrest happening to you, you’re arrested without charge and they just take you…”.
In an interview with RTÉ he discussed the musical influences for the album which include the likes of Kendrick Lamar; “I listen to Eminem alright. His music was so lyrically-based that he almost forsook a lot of his arrangements and production… whereas Kendrick has a very good mix of both – his message is clear but the delivery is so enjoyable. He has is a motif on his album about the abuse of power. I think that it’s great that he’s as successful as he is. It harks back to the more to the more responsible elements of hip hop, none of all that 20-inch rim talk”.
The albums dark outlook on life comes as no surprise but as Mick continues through his musical career the tide is certainly beginning to change. As he grows older his mind set is shifting; “The human condition part of coming into your thirties, you’d just forgotten to give a f*** about yourself… so you don’t see yourself much as an individual anymore. When you hit your thirties, your ego takes a little dip”.
Despite his style evolving this certainly doesn’t take away from his ability to portray a story for his listener. The story now is more important than ever.