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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.
Next Saturday marks the 100th birthday of the man who charted the course of American folk music as we know it, Woody Guthrie. In celebration, a roster of regulars from the Philadelphia folk scene are converging on the World Cafe Live stage tonight to pay tribute in song. Led by long-standing West Chester folk trio Mason Porter, the bill will feature Hezekiah Jones, ubiquitous harmonica player Bob Beach, local troubador John Flynn, piano-playing storyteller Ben Smith, host of The Folk Show on WXPN and regional folk guru Gene Shay, and many more. Members of the Philadelphia Folksong Society receive a $2 discount at the door, and a portion of the show’s proceeds will benefit the Lansdowne Folk Club. The Woody Guthrie 100th Birthday Celebration With Mason Porter and Friends takes place at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, tonight at 7 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $10.
Singer-songwriter John Flynn has a new album, The End Of The Beginning that features guest appearances from Kris Kristofferson, longtime singer-songwriter and studio sideman (for Bonnie Raitt and others) Freebo, Native American singer-songwriter Bill Miller and Joshua Yudkin. The album was recorded and mixed by Harvey, who some Philadelphia radio listeners may remember as “Harvey In The Morning” when he was on WIOQ from 1977-1989. Harvey also plays a number of instruments on the album and sings background vocals on “Crazy As Ever” that you can download for free. Below the download, watch the video for “The End Of The Beginning” featuring John’s duet with Kris Kristofferson. John performs this Saturday evening, January 28th at World Cafe Live. Go here for more information and tickets.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from WXPN and The Key! The last several weeks we celebrated the holiday season by offering a twelve original seasonal songs. WXPN’s Helen Leicht asked local bands to write and record original holiday songs for the third year in a row which the bands have offered as free downloads. Thanks to all the bands for these wonderful songs. You can download the entire sampler as a .zip file here.
The 12 Days of XPN Philly Local Christmas Sampler
Find Vienna – “Christmas Is For Our Hearts”
Gillian Grassie – “When the Night Gets Long”
Summer Fiction – “Christmas Eve for Two”
Matt Santry – “The Xmas Song”
Atomic Square – “Christmas Time is here”
Scot Sax and Suzie Brown – “Coming Your Way”
Angel Band – “I Want A Present”
JD Malone & the Experts – “Best Day Of The Year”
Kingsfoil – “The Valley, A Christmas Song”
John Flynn – “Christmas Balls”
Ben Smith – “I Got A New Tattoo For Christmas”
Ali Hoffman – “Evergreen”
From Flynn’s YouTube channel:
Singer-songwriter John Flynn’s new holiday single, Christmas Balls, is a comical cautionary tale about the perils of combining egg nog with small caliber weapons. This affectionately told true story about an inebriated dad who is forced to redecorate the family Christmas tree after using it for target practice with his son’s new BB gun has been a staple of Flynn’s live holiday performances for years! Now almost as a public service message in this time of “making rather merry” Christmas Balls is available to adorn the yuletide airwaves, and for download through all fine digital outlets. (iTunes, Amazon, etc.)
Christmas Balls was produced by Harvey (formerly known to Philadelphians as “Harvey in the Morning”) along with WXPN’s Robert Drake. It features Flynn backed by “a rollicking little band, some sleigh bells and a flash-mob of friends, family and Philadelphia celebrities” (WXPN’s Kathy O’Connell; Fox 29′s Sue Serio; WMGK’s Debbi Calton; the Phillies’ own John Brazer and Tom Burgoyne — a.k.a. the Phillie Phanatic; WIP’s Joe Conklin and many others!
John Flynn pulled out all the stops for this Christmas song. Titled “Christmas Balls,” it is a true Philadelphia collaboration. The song is an original composition recorded and mixed by Harvey, featuring john, Harvey and Joshua Rudkin. The choir includes john’s wife, son, and daughter as well as Kathy O’Connell of WXPN, Skip Denenberg, Sue Serio of FOX29, Debby Calton of WMGK, the Phillie Phanatic and more.
Visit John’s website and look for his new album “The End of the Beginning” January 28th, and the CD release party at the World Café the 28th as well. —Nick Bookbinder