20 Years A Musician, Mike Flanigin Reflects On Firsts

Aug 15, 2015
Originally published on August 18, 2015 2:52 pm

Mike Flanigin has been a working musician for two decades. His first gig was at a Holiday Inn in Dallas, Texas, followed by a stint in the house band at Antone's in Austin. And for eight years he made his Hammond B3 organ growl and purr for the crowds at the Continental Club Gallery.

In that time, Flanigin has rubbed elbows with the likes of Kat Edmonson, Jimmy Vaughn, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Gary Clark, Jr., all of whom play on his upcoming debut album, The Drifter.

Most of the album is made up of Flanigin's original songs — like "Nina," which Edmonson sings and which is dedicated to his daughter.

"[My daughter] is the love of my life ... I'm hoping later in life she can put that record on and smile," Flanigin says.

There is one cover on the album: the title track, "The Drifter," which comes from the first blues record Flanigin ever owned.

"I went down to the little record shop that was next to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, walked in and said, 'I'd like to buy a blues record,'" he says. "And they said, 'Well, we have one!' They just had one. I said, 'Well, I'll take it!'

"It was [Clarence] 'Gatemouth' Brown meets Roy Clark, and it was called Makin' Music. Well, I ran home and put that record on, and 'The Drifter' came on, with that intro. And it scared my pants off."

Flanigin spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about The Drifter and what it's like to make a debut record after 20 years of gigging. Hear the conversation at the audio link above.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Mike Flanigin's been a working musician for two decades. His first gig was at a Holiday Inn in Dallas. Then he played in the house band at Antone's in Austin. And for eight years, he made his Hammond B3 organ growl and purr for the crowds at the Continental Club Gallery. You play a keyboard in Austin and you rub elbows with the likes of Jimmy Vaughn, Gary Clark Jr., Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Kat Edmonson. They all play on his debut album that comes out next Friday, "The Drifter."

(SOUNDBITE OF MIKE FLANIGIN SONG, "THE DEVIL BEATS HIS WIFE")

SIMON: Mike Flanigin joins us from the studios of KUT in Austin. Thanks so much for being with us.

MIKE FLANIGIN: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: So 20 years - what took you so long to release a debut?

FLANIGIN: (Laughter) Well, people used to ask me all the time, why don't you have a record coming out, especially in a day and age where everybody seems to have two or three records at least? And...

SIMON: Yeah, whether you're - whether you're a musician or not, yes.

FLANIGIN: The waiter has three CDs.

SIMON: Right, exactly. Yeah.

FLANIGIN: The short answer is I felt like not until now that I really had anything to say. I had gone through kind of a rough spot in my life, but I had a lot of great times during that era along with the rough times. And so I just started writing songs about that. I would write a song and imagine Kat Edmonson singing it.

SIMON: (Laughter) How convenient?

FLANIGIN: Right?

SIMON: Yeah. I do that, too. And I - actually, I imagine Kat Edmonson reading my, you know, grocery list, but...

FLANIGIN: (Laughter) Well, I asked Kat to sing a song, and she did. And that started the ball rolling.

SIMON: Let's - let's not delay and listen to Kat Edmonson singing a song about your daughter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NINA")

KAT EDMONSON: (Singing) Nina, just when I say your name, the stars fall from the sky.

SIMON: I think there is a lot of tearing over the bagels and cornflakes in America this morning hearing that. Oh, my word, to hear Kat Edmonson sing a song for your daughter.

FLANIGIN: She brings the real emotion. I wrote that song - it sounds like a really sad story, but it kind of is. I was living in a one-room garage apartment. It was wintertime, and the heater was out. And it was around Christmastime. I had been used to seeing my daughter and tucking her into bed and seeing her all the time. And I had been separated, and so things had changed, and so I wrote that song. I felt like I didn't have anything to give my daughter at that time in reassurance except that song, which was me trying to tell her that everything was going to be OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NINA")

EDMONSON: (Singing) And you will know, and you will see it will always be that I love you.

SIMON: So are things OK now?

FLANIGIN: Oh, great. She's the love of my life - both my children. And she's a senior in high school now. And I'm excited that her song will be heard. But I'm hoping later in life, she can put that record on and smile, you know? Yeah.

SIMON: I want to listen to the duet you do with your friend Jimmy Vaughn, and this is "All Night Long."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL NIGHT LONG")

FLANIGIN AND VAUGHN: (Singing) All night long. All night long.

SIMON: The liner notes say this song is, quote, "dedicated to all the working musicians in bars and clubs who play all night long."

FLANIGIN: That's true. There's a gig that we play at the Continental Gallery here in Austin, and it's two hour and 20 minute sets. And Jimmy plays that gig a lot with me. And we sing some on the gig. We sing some songs. We play instrumentals. And I wanted a song that would be just, like, the gig, which is we sing at the beginning and we play in the middle and we sing at the end.

SIMON: (Laughter).

FLANIGIN: And I wanted it to reflect that, and that song really does. And it reminds me of all the gigs we've played up there. People ask, when's your gig start? How long do you play? And I always tell them all night long.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL NIGHT LONG")

FLANIGAN AND VAUGHN: (Singing) All night long.

SIMON: All the songs on the new album are originals except for the title track, "The Drifter."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DRIFTER")

BILLY GIBBONS: Folks, this is about a poor boy, just a simple, old country boy.

SIMON: So this has a kind of growly monologue and vocals and guitar from Billy Gibbons - ZZ Top. Let's listen to a little, if we could.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DRIFTER")

GIBBONS: (Singing) The devil rode a big, black stallion, traveling on a cloud of flame.

FLANIGIN: When I was a kid growing up in Denton, Texas, I, one day, decided I wanted to get a blues record. So I went down to the little record shop that was next to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and walked in and I said, I'd like to buy a blues record. And they said, well, we have one. They just had one. And I said, well, I'll take it.

SIMON: (Laughter) Yeah.

FLANIGIN: And it was Gatemouth Brown meets Roy Clark, and it was called "Making Music." Well, I ran home and put that record on, and "The Drifter" came on with that intro.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DRIFTER")

CLARENCE BROWN: (Singing) So he start riding a black stallion with blood-red eyes, flame flying from his nostrils, and called himself the drifter.

FLANIGIN: And it scared the pants off me. I was so scared listening to that song. So I loved that record as a kid. And then I forgot about that record for decades. And I had met Billy Gibbons, which I thought I never would meet Billy Gibbons to begin with, but we stroke up a friendship. And so I asked Billy if he had ever heard this song, and he had not. And so I sent it to him, and he loved it. And we went in the studio and cut that song. It's funny. It's come full circle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DRIFTER")

GIBBONS: Here come the devil.

SIMON: Mike Flanigin. His debut album, "The Drifter," comes out next Friday. He joined us from KUT in Austin.

Thanks so much for being with us.

FLANIGIN: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.