Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Interview with Johnny Flynn
We had the opportunity recently to interview UK folk troubadour Johnny Flynn, who's brilliant debut disc A Larum just hit American shores (to read the review click here). Following the release of his album Johnny has just embarked on his first full scale tour of the US with fellow UK singer Laura Marling.
Here's our interview with Johnny Flynn:
BTB- You have a very old school folk sound that harkens back to a much different time. Where does that originate from do you think?
Johnny Flynn-I'm not really sure. i like honest sounds - i like the sound of guitars fiddles banjos mandolins etc played in the way they used to be. i didn't set out to recreate anything. i guess i just filtered the music i like listening to through my own songwriting. and i'm sort of attracted to the type of song that sounds like it's been handed down and passed around - something that feels worn in.
BTB- I read that you spent some time in NYC years ago and it changed things for you musically? Can you explain?
Johnny Flynn- I was just really into the whole 'anti-folk' thing and blown away by the power of somenone like Jeffrey Lewis singing songs about very local (to him) things and that being connected to a much broader universal than say some pop star going "blah blah i love you" and it not being connected to anything.
BTB- You started out performing as an actor. What made you turn your attention to music?? & Is acting something that you would still like to pursue?
Johnny Flynn- I went to drama school and stuff and made a living from acting for a few years but i always wrote songs and played gigs and played in bands etc - i just did it all on a small, unpaid scale.... things began to lift off a bit musically and there suddenly wasn't any time for acting. but i miss it and am hoping to do some more soon.
BTB- How did you get involved with Lost Highway records??
Johnny Flynn- They'd heard the album a few months before it was due out in the UK and then we came to SXSW in Texas and the lost highway people came and saw us play a few times... and then they took us for a really nice meal, so we were like... no, really they are really really lovely and seemed to really understand where i/we was coming from and everyone in the band really connecteds with them all. and with their history of putting out records it seemed like the right place to be in the U.S. and basically we're really lucky that they took us on.
BTB- The title of the new disc A Larum? Where does that come from and why did you choose that title?
Johnny Flynn- It's the old spelling for Alarm. the 'larum' used to be a warning bell in towns and was rung to warn people of invaders or disease etc. i liked the idea of reconnecting society today with those old bells and the ideas of bells generally is poignant in religious contexts, ship's bells, all sorts of ways.
BTB- Can you take us thru the recording process of A Larum? How long did it take?
Johnny Flynn- It took about 5 weeks to record. we came out to Seattle to work with Ryan Hadlock, a producer who runs a studio called Bear Creek with his family. we had to go back in the middle of recording to tour for a few weeks, which was a good thing as we had time to listen to mixes and feel good about them. we generally recorded the basis of most tracks live and then did overdubs. it felt like a very organic process, cliche as it is to put it like that, as we did basically what we did live and then felt our way through building up the tracks without overdoing things.
BTB- How does your love of storytelling and the theatre affect your writing??
Johnny Flynn- Quite alot i suppose.i like exploring in a song, the kind of drama, the sort of push and pull that you might see in a well written scene from a play. and i think storytellling is in everone's cultural heritage, wherever you're from. so that means that if you imply a kind of story in a song (and songs being only a few minutes long you can't really go to far with it) that resonates with people.
BTB- One of our favorite tracks off the new disc is "Tickle Me Pink", is there a story behind that one?
Johnny Flynn- It's a song about letting go and accepting the way things are - to the point where you can die and you know it doesn't really matter. that's really the only story there...
BTB- You'll be touring for the first time in the U.S. w/ Laura Marling? What are you looking forward to the most about that tour?
Johnny Flynn- I'm actually here on the first day of that tour and it's all been good so far. we had breakfast at ihop and now i'm not sure i can move fast enough to get to the gig tonight on time. i'm looking forward to driving for days on end and seeing countryside i've only seen in westerns. and more ihops.
BTB- Do you have a favourite movie or book to read or watch while on the road?
Johnny Flynn- I'm enjoying reading 'bound for glory' the woody guthrie book, which seems like a relevant touring book. it's cool to be in the country where it's set but about 70 years later.
Listen to Johnny Flynn on Myspace.