Wilmington singer-songwriter John Flynn will release a new record this week, and he will celebrate the effort in conjunction with a benefit for an organization that he has worked closely with for over a decade. I caught up with Flynn to get some background information about the new album, his experience recording it, and why he chose to make his release show about more than just his music. Read our interview below, and listen to John on the air with me on last night’s Philly Local show.
Helen Leicht: You have a new CD called Poor Man’s Diamonds. How long did it take for you to write these songs? Do you journal?
John Flynn: Most of the songs came in the past two years… I actually think of songwriting as a form of journaling, so I guess I DO journal!
HL: I know you went back into the studio with Harvey, who we know as Harvey in the Morning. I know Harvey as an on-air host – what is Harvey like as a producer?
JF: He’s great to work with! Generous and truly passionate about music! We have a lot of shared aesthetics, but he has an absolutely encyclopedic musical mind, and a much richer sonic pallet to draw from. He’s also a hell of a musician and plays like half of the instruments on the CD! It’s also really comfortable because he really believes in my writing! Of course none of this mutual respect is apparent in the studio… we both take great delight in ceaselessly mocking each other!
HL: You have your CD release concert happening this Friday June 27th. It’s not only a celebration of your new music but it’s a benefit concert for New Beginnings – Next Step. You have been involved with this program for a few years. How and why did you get involved with this program?
JF: When I’m not on the road, I volunteer running an offender support group called New Beginnings at Gander Hill State Prison in Delaware. I’ve been doing it for about ten years. A friend of mine recruited me (against what I initially thought was my better judgement)! The group attempts to create a safe space a couple times a week within the prison population for offenders to really tell the truth. It’s very humbling work and took a long time to establish the trust necessary for anything real to happen. But it DOES happen! Each week I hear tough, intimidating looking men speak from places of real fear, pain or regret, and in doing so help each other begin the incredibly difficult and courageous internal work of changing their own lives.
About eighteen months ago a couple of my guys were being released and asked me to find a way to continue the work outside the prison. That’s how New Beginnings-Next Step got going.
NB-NS tries to provide ex-offenders with some vital provisions like bus passes and food vouchers, even short-term emergency shelter, and specific items of need, like clothing, bedding, or (in one case recently) even something like a used computer.
The need right now is absolutely dire, and the recidivism rate is obscene. If we’re going to give these men any real sense of possibility, we’ve got to kick in some hope. That’s why I decided to do the benefit this Friday.
John Flynn brings his benefit concert and CD release show to Wilmington Friends’ Meeting House in Wilmington, DE this Friday, June 27th. More information can be found here.John Flynn