Johnny Flynn's new album follows 2008's 'A Larum' and 2010's 'Been Listening'. Johnny and long-time collaborator / best friend Adam Beach (The Sussex Wit) chose a very different process to the workmanlike five weeks in a studio of previous albums. They produced it themselves; Johnny called it 'demoing with intent'. His thing about demos is that you usually prefer them to the finished thing. So they did their recordings in a number of different studios, in New York and London over the last two years. Those fresh, first drafts have become the finished album. Flynn adds that he can't even remember writing many of the songs this time round - "Normally I have loads of notebooks, but this just kind of happened."
The theme for the album is one of journeying, with the way as a teacher: a 'Country Mile' being an indefinite distance. The allegory is a through line for the record with each song making up the different elements of a life seen as one journey. They stand as a map or constellation; the 'journey' under observation includes those of the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the stars.
The title and opening track 'Country Mile' sets up the idea of striking out and taking off: ".nose to the road and I'm painfully free". 'After Eliot', which is loosely inspired by T.S Eliot, mourns a misencounter, a reflection on a relationship where the two people didn't see the same thing happening at the same time.
'The Lady Is Risen', which will be the first single, sees Flynn muse on the idea of divine love and its influence on relationships, a sentiment Flynn feels strongly connected to. The music for the song was written years apart from the lyrics and references old Southern soul records. 'Murmuration' - the collective noun for a flock of starlings, evokes images of escapism, flying with the birds and saints. It's a song you'd sing to get through a difficult time and owes a debt to Hank Williams, one of Flynn's hero's.
'Fol-de-rol' is a song referencing Flynn's love of South American folk music, but also Chicha; psychedelic Peruvian music from the 60's/70's. 'Einstein's Idea' is a lullaby written for Flynn's two-year-old son Gabriel. It's an attempt to explain the theory of relativity to a child, musing on the space between things, their attraction of those things to one another, and whether that space in fact binds us together. "The gap in between them is nothing to us / Our eyes cut the distance, as loving eyes must / From me unto you son, from dust unto dust". 'Tinker's Trail' is the tale of somebody who's travelled their whole life and is beginning to get tired, they've gone so far they don't know if they're "going to tomorrow or . headed home".
Album closer and the last song to be written 'Time Unremembered' is perhaps about a journey beyond this life - it conjures images of someone lost and reflects on the physical constraints of this life.
Softly spoken, Johnny Flynn is a somewhat unlikely star. Yet this multi-talented enigma that fronts Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit and has appeared in many of our country's most exciting, recent theatrical events: The Heretic and The Low Road at The Royal Court, Jerusalem, plus last summer's Shakespeare double-bill at the Globe and in the West End, Richard III and Twelfth Night (also starring Mark Rylance), has the whole world at his feet.
After a two-year hiatus from the live circuit, Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit will tour the UK this October, with support from Marika Hackman and Cosmo Sheldrake. The headline tour will include a date at London's Hackney Empire. Full UK, European, and US listings as follows.
Johnny Flynn Tour Dates 2013
Mon 29th July - Manchester Deaf Institute **sold out** (Johnny Flynn solo show)
Tues 30th July - Bristol Colston 2 **sold out** (Johnny Flynn solo show)
Sun 18th August - Green Man Festival (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Mon 16th September - New Orleans LA Mardi Gras World (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, w/ Mumford & Sons)
Tues 17th September - Woodlands TX Cynthia Woods Pavilion (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, w/ Mumford & Sons)
Weds 18th September - Dallas TX GEXA Energy Pavilion (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, w/ Mumford & Sons)
Fri 20th September - Bonner Springs KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, w/ Mumford & Sons)
Fri 27th September - Hamburg Reeperbahn Festival (Johnny Flynn solo show)
Sat 28th September - Berlin Independent Night (Johnny Flynn solo show)
Sat 5th October - Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Sun 6th October - Glasgow Oran Mor (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Mon 7th October - Manchester Club Academy (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Tues 8th October - Birmingham Institute Library (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Thurs 10th October - London Hackney Empire (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Fri 11th October - Oxford Academy 2 (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Sat 12th October - Brighton St Georges Church (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Mon 14th October - Bristol Anson Rooms (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Tues 15th October - Leeds The Wardrobe (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Weds 16th October - Dublin Whelans (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Thurs 17th October - Belfast Limelight (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Fri 15th November - Paris, France La Fleche D'or (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Sat 16th November - Brussels, Belgium Botanique/Rotonde (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Mon 18th November - Amsterdam, Holland Bitterzoet (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Tue 19th November - Cologne, Germany Blue Shell (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Wed 20th November - Munich, Germany Atomic Café (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
Fri 22nd November - Zurich, Switzerland Kaufleuten Zurich, Festsaal (Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit)
'Country Mile' tracklisting: 1) Country Mile, 2) After Eliot, 3) The Lady Is Risen, 4) Murmuration, 5) Gypsy Hymn, 6) Fol-de-rol, 7) Einstein's Idea, 8) Tinker's Trail, 9) Bottom of the Sea Blues, 10) Time Unremembered.