When Hudson Valley musician Ian Flanigan wants to write a song, he goes to Phoenicia. He likes the quiet of the Ulster County town, which he retreats to for the natural serenity of its rippling brooks and verdant forests.
“I go there every other day,” he admits. “It’s where I like to be and where I like to write music.”
Phoenicia isn’t too far of a jaunt from Saugerties, where Flanigan grew up. It was there that he first picked up a guitar – at age 11, no less – and later fell in love with music as a teenager. Since then, he’s plunged headfirst into singing and songwriting, so much so that it’s become integral to his raison d’être. Music is his mode of expression, his way of processing, and his toolkit to connect with the world around him. As he composes songs, he reflects upon the experiences in his life and the emotions surrounding them. He channels those feelings into words, melodies, and lyrics and ultimately creates the indie folk music that the Hudson Valley loves.
“It’s mostly the place in life that I’m at,” Flanigan says of the inspiration behind his songs. “It’s what I’ve gone through in the past or what people around me have gone through. I’m feeding off the people around me and learning from their experiences as well.”
Most recently, Flanigan funneled those experiences into Give Me Color, his new, five-track album of songs he hand-selected from 15 of his latest compositions. Released on September 6, 2019, the record is a shining example of the artist’s soul-filled, folk sound. It’s also a reflection of his current place in life, a positive one which celebrates community, love, and support.
“I wanted to release something positive that would leave you with a good feeling,” he explains. “I spent the last year writing these songs, and it was a big collaborative effort to see [the album] come to life.”
Collaborative, it was indeed. Flanigan worked alongside Justin Guip, the three-time Grammy-winning engineer and producer behind Levon Helm and Hot Tuna, to craft an EP that resonates across genres. He also relied heavily upon Ayla Rector, his girlfriend and co-founder of Nightcap Entertainment, the couple’s entertainment consultation group.
With its happy and sweet track list, Give Me Color is an upbeat progression from Flanigan’s other albums, which include Shades of Blue and Lead Feather, along with Ian Flanigan Trio Live Woodstock, NY, a compilation album engineered at The Colony in Woodstock. While the artist’s signature indie folk sound remains a constant throughout his albums, the message changes, jumping from wistful escapism to unshakeable homesickness and the vivacity of love. All the while, his smoky, husky voice hooks unassuming audiences, who can’t help but fall for his easy, foot-tapping refrains and magnetic melodies.
Speaking of those audiences, they live everywhere from his home base in the Hudson Valley to further afield in Texas and West Virginia. Locally, The Colony in Woodstock and The Falcon in Marlboro are some of his preferred venues for performances, due largely to their communal aura and intimate design.
“Being a solo musician 90 percent of the time, I feel I can connect better and engage with the stories behind the songs in a smaller venue,” he says. That being said, he appreciates the energy of larger venues, along with the opportunities that those spaces allow him to vary his set list and react alongside the crowd.
“A show is all about the people who come and the time you have with them,” he observes.
To celebrate the release of Give Me Color, the musician scheduled local performances at The Falcon and Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in September 2019. After that, he made his way to Texas for a few shows and the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival. Although life on the road comes with its own set of challenges, Flanigan welcomes any opportunity to share his music with audiences both old and new.
“Wherever people are willing to have me, I’ll go,” he says. “I feel really grateful to be playing music at all.”
Whether on tour or at home in the Hudson Valley, Flanigan will continue to work on new material for his next album. He has quite a fair stock of lyrics and melodies already, and he hopes to use them as a foundation upon which he can collaborate with other artists.
“We have some seriously talented people in the Hudson Valley,” he enthuses. “I’d like to collaborate and produce [with them].”