Flynn: "It's funny, because I feel like I was a lot more comfortable back then with those sorts of things. If someone asked me to go on the high street now and sing I think i'd freak out a bit."
Alice Gee | 19/07/2022
As I check in with Irish artist Flynn, I take a moment to look back at when I first heard him perform at an open gig in Kingston that I used to organise and perform at. With it being a good 6 years ago, I get the chance to look over the changes that his career has seen since. Since our first meeting, Flynn has reached new heights signing a record deal and collaborating with artists like Lost Frequencies. Something I’ve never asked Flynn that I’m interested to hear about is his musical beginnings.
“I was never good in school. So the only subject I was ever good at was English. I was always interested in creative writing so I kind of just molded the two together. Once I finished school, I moved back to England, to Bristol, and I played as many open mics as I could. And that's where I met you. I was trying to be heard by anybody who would listen. I later went and I did a year in college, it was an access to music course so I got meet other performers. I started releasing some music independently, with some friends of mine at the time. I was on that whole hustle thing, just busking and gigging. Slowly things started to kind of work out and I got to feature with Lost frequencies before I signed a record deal taking things to the next level.”
Seeing the natural progression has been a joy, especially seeing him announce his record signing on social media pre-pandemic. Having mentioned the reality of hustling as a young artist I wondered whether he felt connected to those who stopped to listen to him when busking?
“It's funny, because I feel like I was a lot more comfortable back then with those sorts of things. If someone asked me to go on the high street now and sing I'd be like, no thanks. But back then I just went for it, not that I was hungrier. I'm as hungry as I've always been. But it was a different sort of hunger. I was up for anybody to be there, just as long as somebody listened. Whereas now I suppose I'd prefer to be in the venue. But I do miss that a lot. I’ve missed the busking days over the past few years even though it was quite a daunting thing to just set up a speaker and a guitar and just start singing your songs to anybody who would listen you know. But it was rewarding for passersby to stop and take interest.”
To go from busking to collaborating with the notorious Belgium DJ Lost Frequencies in a matter of years is quite the achievement. But I wondered whether it had been daunting for Flynn, or whether it was something he felt ready for?
“Funnily enough, it was something I felt ready for, I think when you manifest these things, and you think about them so much in advance, and they happen, you just sort of go into autopilot. I was very nervous, especially playing Tomorrowland but it was an amazing experience, everyone knew the song so I didn’t feel anonymous. Although I had to make sure I nailed it, it just made me want it more. It's always those little payoffs that make the hard worth it, it’s the little wins you get along the way that keep you going. What’s nice is we’ve remained friends. We're working on something now. So, whether it comes out or not, it’s been a nice way to build that relationship.”
Having experienced his collaboration with Lost Frequencies go viral pre-pandemic racking up millions of streams, then signing a record deal, I was curious whether the pandemic slightly tainted a magical moment.
“I guess it was bad timing alongside good timing. Because if I hadn't signed that, I probably wouldn't have signed a deal. I think that was my time. But because of when it was, I had to sort of sit on the fence for a long time. I’ve been in limbo for a long time, but now we're finally coming out of the pandemic I'm starting to release music again. While it was difficult and it wasn't exactly the record deal experience that I hoped for, sitting in my bedroom not being able to promote the records that I've just put out, I’m glad we're finally back to it. I've lost a lot of momentum, I'm not going to lie but I’m feeling positive.”
I think in the grand scheme of things from an outside perspective, I think anyone would have worried about gaining the momentum lost from the pandemic. It’s something we both quickly touch on, all those in a similar situation. It’s something that I wonder if being with a label has helped with when getting back on track and gaining momentum again rather than being independent.
“There are pros and cons. There are a lot of artists that suit independent labels and artists who are more suited to major labels. For me, it's hard to comment on it because I haven't had the full experience yet. But at the same time, it's always nice to have a big company like Sony behind you. It's nice to finally have that validation and to feel you're like a real musician. It's funny because people don't take it seriously until you've signed a deal. Like you could have 100 million streams, but they'll say when are you getting a real job. But as soon as you tell them, you’ve signed a record deal, even if you have 10 streams, people think that you've made it, which is not the case. I guess I'm very aware of the failure rates of signed artists as well. I'm pessimistic in some ways. But being signed to a record label has been amazing. It's given me a lot more strength behind my project. There are a lot more eyes on it, as well. It does balance out as you do lose a little bit of creative control but that's a sacrifice you make to record under a label, especially a major. But you see I'm in this for the long run, not the short term. So, I'm going to enjoy where I'm at right now. I'm going to take advantage of what's being given to me at the moment.”
It's good to hear and see the position that Flynn is enjoying, with it seeming even more exciting as we move away from the pandemic, almost like a new beginning. Having just released his first single since the pandemic, ‘Elephant’ I ask whether Flynn found writing it therapeutic especially marking the start of a new chapter with Sony.
“I think all of what I put out always comes from a personal place. I always try to write something that I've experienced or something I've gone through because it's always easier to perform it when the songs are out. It's also therapeutic for me, it does help release any stress or any build-up from trauma that you've experienced. The idea behind the song is all about the voices in my head, the elephant in the room being me, and my problems. We had this where we'd get an elephant mask that's kind of what the whole video is based on the elephant in the room. Elephant was a weight off my shoulders when I put it out I felt like it was something that I needed to say. I'm very happy that it's out. People are receiving it well and are relating to it.”
As we touch upon the weight he’s felt lifted off of his shoulders from releasing ‘Elephant’, I ask how mental health has played into his day to day life and if talking about it has helped him feel like he’s tackling the stigma that men face when being open with how they feel.
“For me, it's been a full-time job. It's been a job on top of the music, navigating what it is that goes on in my head. But for me, I’ve always struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. I know, it's a very common issue, a lot of people suffer. But at the time, I thought I was the only one. I grew up in like rural Ireland, where people didn't really talk about their problems, the generations before them, their parents, or grandparents, especially men. In Ireland, it’s chest out and be brave like a ‘man’. I think nowadays, it's something that people are more open to talking about. But when I was going through it it wasn’t so common to talk about your mental health. The thing that helped me manage everything was just understanding what it was that was making me feel that way. Reassuring myself that I wasn't dying. And that's what this song is about, it's about speaking about your problems. A coming-of-age story of me trying to like, figure out who I am. If you've got something going on, you should try and talk about it. The difference that talking to someone can make, no matter how large or how small a problem. Often when you speak to someone, a lot of the time you realise that people are going through the same thing. It's taken me a long time to get my head around how I feel, what it is that makes me anxious, and why I panic. But I've managed over the years, to take control of it. I know the triggers and I understand them a lot more. I understand myself better now, but it's taken a lot of energy. I’ve suffered a lot with my mental health. Luckily, I think I've come out the other end of that.”
As he moves towards the other end, and onto a new chapter there seems only one last thing to focus on, new beginnings and what’s next for Flynn.
“I've got an EP coming out this year. So we're releasing a lot more music. I have two more singles and then some gigs to come as well. I have my first headline in Dublin on the eighth of June. It's been a long time since I've been able to just enjoy being an artist. So I'm going to just enjoy being an artist, I'm going to enjoy releasing music. I want to try to be happy and just not stress so much with what’s going on. So I'm going to try and take things in my stride.”
To be able to touch base with Flynn, with what seems to us as a long overdue catch-up, comes with an irrefutable sense of relief and positivity for what’s to come. With our prayers of the pandemic coming to some form of a close, Flynn seems set to focus on the chapter, with an even bigger focus on being content and enjoying the ride.
Words: Alice Gee