The pandemonium of recent history has afforded Saluda, NC based songwriter Michael Flynn a much needed pause for reflection. Amidst the dizzying cocktail of societal shake-ups – and the subsequent restructuring of personal values – the artist and composer isn’t the first to have found inspiration in the ruins. On Monday, Under the Radar shared the first single, “Damage,” from Flynn’s forthcoming EP, endlings, which reckons with his commitment to musical artistry despite the evolving role it continues to play in his life. Set for release on Friday, February 4, the five track collection packs an impressive range of emotion in just under 20 minutes, and examines a deeply personal set of deliberations through the lens of today’s complex social landscape.
Just before the turn of the New Year, Flynn submitted a song to the internationally-touted NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition. The annual showcase, which culminates in a live finale event in Flynn’s backyard of Asheville, NC, allows independent artists the opportunity to compete for a grand prize package that includes a fully funded EP recording project, a vinyl pressing deal, and more. With his new song “Damage,” in tow, Flynn’s leap of faith paid off in the best way imaginable – securing him as the 2021 Grand Prize Winner. Although the forthcoming EP predates the NewSong opportunity, fans can now look forward to two back-to-back releases by Michael Flynn in the coming months.
A tender, piano-driven ballad, “Damage” offers listeners a timely reflection on beginnings. Despite his longstanding tenure as a performing artist, Flynn still recalls the optimistic ambition of starting something anew. In fact, Flynn’s first serious band, Slow Runner, a popular Charleston outfit that fell into the embrace of the major label circuit, was the main inspiration for the track. Nestled carefully at the forefront of the new record, “Damage” sets the stage for a deeply introspective bout that runs the gamut of mid-life meditations.
When the needle drops on endlings, the faint pluck of a banjo resonates in the distance as “Wishing Tree” cracks open. The haunting, slow-tempo arrangement is Flynn’s response to the growing challenges of making and selling art in the modern age – thematically resembling Gillian Welch’s modern classic, “Everything is Free.” With deep amber harmonies from banjoist and multimedia artist Hannah Seng, the foreboding number kickstarts a powerful story arc that carries the rest of the record.
Following a short instrumental interlude with “Andrew Henry’s Meadow,” the record finds a jovial reprieve in “Weights and Measures.” The brightly tinted sing-along, which more closely echoes Flynn’s 2020 full length release, Survive With Me, proposes the idea that life can still feel like a spirited adventure, even after we lose our proverbial rose colored glasses in the trenches of adulthood.
Closing the curtain on endlings is a sweet-tempered nod of solidarity, “To the Birds that Live in Cages,” which empathizes with anyone trying to find solace in a merciless system. Brief yet potent, the EP’s final offering strings together the notions of evaluating priorities in the face of a changing world, maturing through adversity, and coming to grips with one’s successes and failures as equally crucial opportunities for growth. Flynn shares,
“The EP is called ‘endlings’ because these songs were written during a period when I was really reflecting on my life in music and how long it has now lasted. Most of my friends and fellow songwriters who I went to school with and started out playing shows with in sad bars long ago have for the most part (one could argue wisely) moved on and grown up and are doing useful things like being chefs and nurses and teachers. An ‘endling’ is a creature who is the last of its kind; whose death will mean extinction for its species. It’s not entirely apt though, because arranging and performing these songs with my bandmates (Jonathan Gray and Hannah Seng) has been one of the most creatively inspiring projects I’ve ever been a part of. They reaffirmed my belief in the power of music to speak to emotion in a way no other language or art form can. So while I have stubbornly outlasted many peers, I also feel like I just washed up on the shore of a new world, a whole novel’s worth of story unfolding with each step inland. I’ve never made a record like this, a small and intimate and unvarnished family of songs that couldn’t just sit and wait to be included in a larger release.”
With such relatable introspection, the release of endlings proves that the impact of the pandemic, however vast and far-reaching, has bequeathed a universal call to revisit one’s values in the hopes of achieving self acceptance. And while these notions are not unique to recent events, the timeliness of such reflection weighs heavily on the collective spirit. Earnest, deeply vulnerable, and poignant as ever, Flynn’s most recent work spans the breadth of the human experience in ways that most artists would require a lifetime to achieve.
endlings from Michael Flynn is set for digital release on Friday, February 4. The single “Damage” is available today via all streaming platforms.
endlings Track Listing
Andrew Henry’s Meadow
Weights and Measures
To the Birds that Sing in Cages