A Little Bleak of What You Fancy
Heard the one about the stonemason who knocked Madonna off the top of the charts? Ahead of his Liss Ard headline slot Mick Flannery reflects on his success, his pathological inability to celebrate it – and plans for a stage version of his first album.
Monica Heck, 31 Jul 2012
That’s Cork native Mick Flannery’s name, right there at the top of the Sunday headline list at the upcoming Liss Ard festival. It’s a fact which seems to come as a bit of a surprise to the singing stonemason. He’s a little scared and full of honest self-deprecation about the potential mood-dampening effect of his introspective music. “Usually the headline act is a celebratory type deal where everyone goes home happy. I’m going to ruin these people’s weekend,” he laughs.
Nothing of course could be further from the truth. For a start, Flannery is on home turf in Cork. And, whle there is an introspective quality to his music at times, there is something wonderfully uplifting in the sheer quality of the songs, the melodies and the stories that Flannery distils on stage.
His star in also surely in the ascendant. This is the man who beat the Queen of Pop herself to the No.1 spot in the Irish charts with his new album, Red To Blue. Not that he’s gloating. Suggesting that the general Irish reaction to any type of success is to be embarrassed, he dismisses the whole thing in typically cheeky, melodious, Cork tones. “Before you’d stick your head out and say, ‘Yeah look at me’, you’d say, ‘Ooh, sorry about that Madonna, didn’t mean it. I was only havin’ a laugh!’”
Flannery says he never set out to court popularity. “I tend not to dwell on the successes too much,” he says quietly, “in case I get my hopes up. I tend to make everyone sombre around me. But everyone was delighted, it couldn’t have gone better, like. Especially considering the type of music it is. It’s not exactly top chart material.”
So how does a singer-songwriter take on the Madonna juggernaut and win? Flannery points to the fact that he’s been doing a lot of live gigs over the past two years, steadily building his fan base and winning over the unconverted. ”Those I didn’t scare away may have gone out and bought the album,” he quips. He also observes that the singer-songwriter phenomenon is still strong in Ireland. Ireland, he adds, does produce its fair share of “self-involved miserati”.
Needless to say, Flannery’s brand of “misery” has a far wider appeal than he pretends. American country singer Shawn Colvin included a version of ‘Up On That Hill’ on her latest album, All Fall Down. “It was a lovely feeling to be honest,” he says about the first time he heard it. “I was actually visiting my parents in France and my mother downloaded it from the internet and was playing it. It was a big deal for her, ‘cos she’s a big fan of Emmylou Harris and you can hear her singing the backing vocals on it.”