When I think of indie folk-rock, Cleveland, Ohio, isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind; however, Ray Flanagan is changing that notion with his latest dual-single release, “You Don’t Hear Her/Twin Flames.”
Getting into the music scene as a guitarist for bands and artists in the Northeast Ohio music scene, Flanagan has blossomed into an intuitive songwriter over the course of the past several years.
Sharpening his songwriting during the pandemic, the singer-songwriter began releasing self-produced singles starting in January of 2021. Each release is done in pairs, with two original tracks reaching his growing audience monthly. November brings us “You Don’t Hear Her” and “Twin Flames”; the second to last “digital 45” that Flanagan will release for a while, or perhaps forever.
By combining influence from greats of the past and sounds of the present, Flanagan is able to evoke easy-on-the-ear nostalgia in his sound. With inspirations like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Dylan among others, Flanagan’s music is melodic, heartfelt, and thought-provoking.
We got to ask the Flanagan about his unique monthly releases including his two latest, his dream co-write artist, and more.
So you’ve been doing something quite interesting since January of 2021, and that is releasing a “digital 45” (two singles) every month. Can you talk about what led you to do this? Has this been exhausting? Rewarding? Both?
I started messing around with home recording during the pandemic. In December 2020, I put out an EP called Our Year in Purgatory, which I made in my bedroom. It sparked my creativity, so I decided to record a song and release it on the first of the year, which also happened to be Bandcamp Friday.
I basically decided to release two new songs on every Bandcamp Friday, and it came about pretty naturally. It wasn’t exhausting, it was mostly inspiring and satisfying. I learned so much, and while I basically look at them as a collection of pretty cool demos, I’m proud of the work I’ve done and it has made me a better communicator of my vision to the people I’m working with.
Did you write/record most of these songs before committing to this, write strictly new songs, or a mix of both?
Mix of both. I didn’t premeditate too much. I just went with my gut instinct every month, and that spontaneity is the reason I was able to do it every month in an inspired way.
Do you always release songs that pair together either lyrically or musically?
The fun thing with two songs is, they can have everything to do with each other or nothing to do with each other.
So your latest installment features the tracks, “You Don’t Hear Her” and “Twin Flames.” What can you tell us about these two tracks and how they may or may not correlate?
They both feel like November songs to me. “You Don’t Hear Her” more because it’s election season, and “Twin Flames” because it’s a month when people are born. Both decidedly human reasons. They don’t really have anything to do with each other in terms of why they’re being released together, or why one is the A-side and one is the B-side. They both tell their own stories.
How were the songs recorded? Were there any “a-ha” moments of sorts during the recording process that shaped the way the final product turned out?
I worked with my longtime friend Jim Stewart at his studio in Cleveland, OH. “You Don’t Hear Her” is just a live guitar and vocal. “Twin Flames” started with a live guitar and vocal, and then my brother Russell Flanagan played drums on it. Then I overdubbed the two electric guitars and bass, and Russ added Fender Rhodes. No, “a-ha” moments to speak of, I honestly had a pretty clear idea of what I was going to do with them and just tried to carry that out.
Do you plan to release some kind of compilation album with all of/most of these releases?
I will have them all up on my Bandcamp. I have my 2021 singles as a compilation on there, I will probably do the same for the 2022 ones. I may do one big one that has all two years worth in one place.
What do you hope people think or feel when they hear Ray Flanagan’s music?
What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?
The innate drive to create that nature gifts us all, the thrill of completing the next artistic challenge, and love.
Of all living present-day artists, who might you most like to do a co-write with, record with, and/or tour with? Why?
Bruce Springsteen. He’s one of the biggest connections I have with my dad, and my brother. I’ve learned a lot from his music, from how to write, to empathy to music history. Bob Dylan or Neil Young would also be dreams of mine. To that point, I’d love to make a record with Daniel Lanois. You asked!
What might the rest of the year and into 2023 look like for you either musically or otherwise?
December will see the last of my monthly singles, “Come On Sugar” / “My Whole Life Changed”, which I recorded with my band The Mean Machines at Suma Recording Studio in Painesville, OH. We are throwing a Monthly Singles Party at The Winchester Music Tavern in Lakewood, OH on Saturday December 10, 2022 to celebrate me wrapping up two years of monthly singles.
I am ending the singles project at the end of this year to focus on making a full-length record next year. I plan on doing more traveling in 2023 and bringing my music to other places in the world. I’ve put in my 10 years of cutting my teeth in bars, restaurants, farmers markets, and local venues. I am always learning and trying to grow, and I feel ready to reach some new folks and conquer some new personal challenges!