This much I know: Brian Flanagan, singer/songwriter

I ran out of songs I enjoyed singing so I began writing my own.

I had started out as a singer. I grew up in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, and began singing traditional music in pubs. It developed as a passion more than anything else. I had various other jobs — working in pubs, furniture shops, even a bath factory.

But then, as a result of a broken heart, I picked up a guitar and wrote my first song.

Other people such as Nadine Coyle and Nathan Carter started asking me to work with them. When I eventually heard one of my own songs fully produced and recorded, it was heaven.

I’m delighted with the reaction to my song ‘The Rising’ which is halfway between a poem and an art piece.

It is a musical tribute to the heroes of 1916 and brings together many Irish art forms including recitation, traditional music, Irish dance and the lament. Michael Flatley narrates.

I tried to narrate it myself first, but my voice just didn’t have the necessary gravitas for the piece. When I first heard Michael’s version, I couldn’t get over the depth of his voice.

He also plays a traditional flute during the chorus, while his dance steps create a percussion crescendo for the song’s finale and Finbar Furey accompanies on uileann pipes and whistles.

I have built songwriting and music into my lifestyle. I don’t have to lock myself away for hours to write. I wrote ‘Pure Love’ when I was changing my son’s nappy.

I’m a dreamy character. I can be very flighty. I have learned to embrace this as being part of my creative process. I am disciplined at setting goals. How I get there is a different matter.

I do believe in fate. I met my wife Ruth when I was on stage in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. She was in the audience and told me that a tear came to her eye and she felt something for me the moment she saw me on stage. And, when I saw her, I just knew.

That was on Saint Patrick’s Day 12 years ago. We now have three boys of 10, three and one and live in Cloughduv in Cork in the middle of a valley. Ruth is a pharmacist.

I have a strong faith but am possibly not religious in the traditional sense. I wear a miraculous medal and the Lord is mentioned a lot in my songs, but it is an unconscious decision. I hope there is an afterlife but I’m not sure if it is the version we all dream about — walking barefoot on the beach at sunset.

I never set out to make music my career. At one point, when things were taking off for the first time, my personal circumstances changed and my family bloomed so music had to take a back seat and I concentrated on working in financial services for a while.

My biggest challenge has been the fight between my head and my heart. They fight quite a lot.

If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. It would be amazing to think like either of them. Even for a day.

If I could change something in Ireland, I’d change the whole political system. And, do we embrace our culture as much as we could? I don’t think so. I’m not sure that we support artists as much as we might, either. I know it’s a small market, but so many of our artists have to make it abroad.

I’m always nervous before I perform! I haven’t performed to big audiences as much as I’d like to have done so far.

My ambition is increasing. I have big dreams. I believe you should dream big, even if you only get three quarters of the way there.

So far, life has taught me that belief is the key to everything.

* ‘The Rising’ will be used on the soundtrack to the star-studded movie of the same name, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Fiona Shaw, Micheal Neeson, Brendan Coyle, Colin Morgan and David O’Hara which is due to be released next year.

The single is now available for download on iTunes, with all proceeds going to charities including Crumlin Hospital and Michael Flatley’s Foundation.


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