Johnny Flynn is a singer songwriter from London, playing with his backing band ‘The Sussex Wit’. He’s also an accomplished actor, touring the world performing the works of Shakespeare.
We’re here at Birmingham’s Glee Club, an early date on Johnny’s first headline tour, and Johnny has spared Soundsxp 10 minutes to have a chat.
SoundsXP: I’ve never seen you play live before, what can we expect?
Johnny Flynn: Generally our shows change to suit the venue but it can range from quite reserved to fairly raucous, on this tour as it’s our first headline it’s great to call the shots. It’ll be nice here tonight to play to an audience who will be intently listening to the words, tho I’m not second guessing the audience. Be prepared to see us regularly changing instruments!
SoundsXP: This is a comedy club and you’ve lost your first support act, can we expect some stand up from you to fill in?
Johnny Flynn: (Laughs!) Errm, no!
SoundsXP:Men can’t multitask, we’re told…so how do you juggle your artistic life?
Johnny Flynn: It’s definitely not multitasking, I really have to concentrate hard on each task in hand, to give full intention to each thing. When I was touring with the Shakespeare play I really enjoyed being exposed to such rich language, and living up various social dramas within the cast. And that’s brilliant for songwriting, observing others as I try to make all my songs relevant to my life. That’s not to say I treat everything as a case for a song, but I do try to commit the lessons I’ve learned to songs.
SoundsXP: Acting versus Music…if you had to choose?
Johnny Flynn: Very difficult, at the moment my priority is music, getting the record deal with Vertigo last year and finishing our first album just before Christmas. I don’t want to give up acting, and I’ve done a little telly thing the other week, a small part in a tv series called Kingdom. I’ll probably go back to do some acting with the theatre group soon.
SoundsXP: You toured with NME darling Jack Penate recently, how was that?
Johnny Flynn: People seemed to enjoy it at the time, Jack’s an old friend of mine, and it was great, anyway, to be with him at a time when it was taking off for him. It was a pretty big tour, I never saw our musical difference as being a difference, people are used to shuffling music nowadays, you know listening to al Green then the Inkspots one after another. Another band, The Metro’s were with us and I think people who attended those gigs got quite a diverse package. There were loads of really young kids, making it an all ages tour, and we went down really well. A lot of my fans are really young, which is good as I don’t write for a specific audience and a lot of them have sent me some really nice messages on MySpace.
SoundsXP: I’ve heard today you’ve got some exciting tour news, can we share it?
Johnny Flynn: Yeah, I heard last night I’ve got the support slot on Duffy’s coming tour as well as Laura Marling, so I’ll be back here twice in a week in March.
SoundsXP: Duffy’s been getting loads of really good airplay, and so have you enjoyed that? What’s worse seing or hearing yourself perform
Johnny Flynn: [Laughs] seeing myself on TV is the hardest…I can hardly watch it, I see everything and I can see whether I’m achieving what I knew I was trying for. Hearing myself on the radio is fine, you have to hear yourself in the studio, and quickly get over any problems with hearing yourself.
SoundsXP: You write some lovely, milliganesque poems and include them with your releases, then don’t write related songs. Is this intentional?
Johnny Flynn: Lyrics are created through the music and help the listener when they’re hearing the song, I wanted something more immediate, more humorous for people to enjoy before the music. In my own mind the poetry in say, The Epic Tale of Tom and Sue, is related, but I can see how you might think it isn’t. For the album, I was thinking maybe a short story may fit in, after credits, of course…I’ll see what I can fit in.
SoundsXP: I assume you’re planning an album; can you give us any details?
Johnny Flynn: Yes, it’s called A Larum the old fashioned word for alarm, which would be like the town bell which would’ve been sounded to warn of sieges and the like.
SoundsXP: Is that significant?
Johnny Flynn: I like the poetic lilt of the olden spelling and sound, and it’s also quite present day, I think. It also works well with the artwork for the album.
SoundsXP: You do a lot of your own artwork, don’t you?
Johnny Flynn: Yeah, but we’re also setting up an artists community website where people can upload drawings, maybe to include on the album, if we have time
SoundsXP: Will Johnny Flynn be the talk of the festivals this summer?
Johnny Flynn: The album is out May 10th, so we should be at a few, I really love the smaller ones, so you can hang out with the people you know…I hope to play the Green Man festival again this year, it’s probably my favourite
You can catch the rest of his headline tour in February:
The Albert Brighton 6th
Luminaire London 7th
Louisiana Bristol 9th (with Fireworks Night)
Clwb Ifor Bach Cardiff 10th
Graduate Cambridge 12th
Auntie Annie’s Belfast 13th
Roisin Dubh Galway 14th
Cyprus Avenue Cork 15th
Crawdaddy Dublin 16th