Q+A with Saugerties musician Ian Flanigan


We stumbled upon Saugerties musician Ian Flanigan during a preview of the Hudson Valley Balloon Festival over the summer, and were entranced by his soulful fingerpicking and sweet, honest songwriting. Named Hope Rocks’ Artist of the Year, Flanigan balances his husky Mumford & Sons-esque voice with delicate, heartfelt strums on his latest EP, “Give Me Color,” a proclaimed “collection of songs dedicated to all the women in my life, for their love and support.”

HVNY caught up with Ian before the release of “Give Me Color” at the Falcon on September 6:

1. What does this new EP mean to you?

Ian Flanigan (IF): What it means and what it represents are two different questions ... Every song on this EP represents, in its own way, overcoming some struggle or hardship, each song painted in an uplifting light. And to me, it’s meaning is more for bringing positivity to trying times — be it change or growth, both inward and outward —and finding that positivity in the ones you love.

2. How did it feel to play during the 50th anniversary of Woodstock weekend?

IF: I felt incredibly grateful to be included, it was great to see so many local musicians on the bill as well. Growing up in an area where the original festival is so celebrated, it’s a real honor to have been a part of the anniversary at the place where it all started.

3. You’re a Hudson Valley native, how has growing up in this area influenced you + your music?

IF: ...the land and the mindset. It’s a great place to be a kid and to raise a family. It can be tough to spend your early 20’s in any small town. I’ve been leaving and coming back either moving entirely or just for shows since I was 17 and every time I come back I feel a deeper appreciation for it.  We have a very special kind of land out here that’s close enough to anything you need. It’s a direct shot to main veins of travel across the country, and airports are close by. Where in 10 to 20 minutes you can drive and also be totally isolated in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. The Hudson Valley has always inspired my music ... giving me space to write and having communities that do support the arts. I don’t come from a musical family but we had a few painters and I was raised with the understanding that being an artist or a musician was as noble of a career as anything else and that the arts are an essential part of life. I can only speak for myself but I’m very grateful to call the Hudson Valley home.

4. What/who are some of your inspirations?

IF: I’ve always been into acoustic music. Always.  I had an Eric Clapton album “Unplugged” when I was a kid. That solidified a lot of what I wanted to be one day. I was a big fan of the Brushfire Records scene which was Jack Johnson’s label back when I was in high school. There have been plenty of genres that inspire and influence me but to be honest, I’ve never listened to catalogues of music. I’ve always just been writing and trying to do my own thing. A lot of my influences are from the local musicians that were around me growing up and while performing. My guitar teacher Chuck Missasi was my main influence for my guitar playing. He and I spent years together and I’m planning on going back for lessons this winter with him again.

I worked with Jimmy Eppard for about 7 years building bass guitars at Spector... picking up little licks from him. His insight towards music was inspiring. Martin Sexton’s live show also really inspired me. Also, Joey Eppard’s music inspired me a lot when I was first getting into writing. The whole Eppard family has influenced me a lot. I’d confidently say they’re one of the most talented families to ever exist.

The Paul Luke Band was a big influence and brought me up over the years into a ton of different audiences. They’ve been together for 40 years and I’ve been lucky to play with them on and off for almost 7 years now.

5. Any advice to share with local, budding musicians?

IF: I’d say go to as many open mics as you can and go out to meet and support other artists shows as often as you can to try and build your community and collaborate. That way you can grow/create your audience by working together. It’s all about community. Without that, being a musician can become very isolating and lonely. And without that support it can be hard to find the confidence you need to be heard. Doubt can really kill your art.

If you’re a songwriter my advice is always work a day job that takes your body and not your mind, preferably with as few distractions.  Light labor jobs are the best you can do your job and write your next song in your head. You have to be able to write all the time.  I record instrumental tracks I’m working on with my cell phone in order to listen and write wherever. If you have to interact with people all day it can be hard to get much work done. It’s not about making a lot of money, it’s about creating the best music you can push yourself to make. Stay grateful for the work even if the job isn’t what you dreamed, because it’s funding the dream. So work hard and stay humble.

I’ve learned there’s no one right way to pursue a music career and there is no universal bar for “making it.” Everyone has a different vision of success or happiness. There is a niche for any art/music in this world, you just have to find it. Music is all I’ve ever truly pursued and will continue to pursue. So I’ve never tried to have another career to fall back on and I never will. However, I would never advise a young artist to not peruse a different, more lucrative career as a fallback, or a way to fund your music career.  I just know not having a safety net has kept me pushing and working harder than any thing else could. I’m never too far away from having to go pick up side work. I might have to this winter! But again, it’s about writing the best music we can while we’re alive and whatever it takes to do that is what you have to do.

For complete tour dates and more info, visit: www.ianflaniganmusic.com

Ian Flanigan EP Release Concert
Friday, September 6 • 8pm • The Falcon Underground, Marlboro • No cover • Event info: LINK

The Hudson Valley has always inspired my music ... giving me space to write and having communities that do support the arts.
— Ian Flanigan