Roll away the stone
Mick Flannery isn’t into self promotion, but he takes creation very seriously – whether it’s shaping a chorus or chipping away at an emerging form in stone, writes JIM CARROLL
A WHILE BACK, a Ukrainian stonemason used to work alongside Mick Flannery in the workshop where the Blarney singer-songwriter earns his crust. Aside from producing exquisite albums such as Red to Blue, Flannery is also an experienced stonemason who turns out fireplaces, gates, fountains and other pieces.
“The Ukrainian lad used to call me ‘Mickey, Mickey, no speaky’,” says Flannery, remembering his workmate. “He used to always say ‘speak and we listen’ or ‘too much thinking, you go crazy’. He had my number all right.”
Flannery leans back in his chair in a Dublin hotel lobby and grins. All the advance word about the singer-songwriter points to a silent, taciturn, grumpy, shy individual. Yet he also knows how to tell a good yarn against himself, when the occasion calls for it.
It’s safe to say that Flannery does not conform to type. For instance, since Red to Blue was released earlier in the year, he hasn’t been doing the dog with live shows up and down the country.
“I did loads and loads of gigs for the last album and it was too much. It was headless chicken stuff,” he explains. “Every two weeks, you’d get a call telling you about a couple of more gigs and you never knew where you stood. This time, I said to Lorcan that I wanted to do it differently and that’s what has happened.
“I still do the bit of stone work and we’ve a fair bit of stuff on for the summer so I can’t always go and drop everything to do a radio thing that comes up. If I was left to my own devices, I’d say I’d have to be forced into it.
“It’s a kind of apathy where I’m content to drift through whatever is going to happen and not have expectations. Some of the lads in the band would be talking to me about things I should do or people I should talk to over in England who might be able to do something for me. But I have absolutely no interest. I just go ‘yeah, yeah’ and do nothing about it. I don’t know why that is.”
Yet there are some things which Flannery treats with the utmost seriousness.
“I love the songwriting. The creation is the nicest part: it’s something you always have and you can use it to work through stuff that’s in your head. You have to take it seriously if it’s going to be any good.
“The rest of it is vanity, I think. You see someone on a stage and think ‘I can do better than that fellow’.
“I did a post-Leaving Cert music course in Cork and we did this exercise in the songwriting class where you put random words together to come up with a verse and chorus. It was like a competition and I remember wanting to be the best at that. I aspire to the level of the people I think are the best writers. There’s no point in doing it otherwise.”