LAST NOVEMBER, Ray Flanagan suddenly found himself out of work.
After being able to carry on through the spring and summer of 2020 thanks to outdoor performances, the Cleveland singer-songwriter grew more nervous as winter approached.
“I ended up being in lockdown for the entire winter until I could get vaccinated,” says Flanagan. “I was doing programs and teaching projects with Roots of American Music and Project DREW, but I really had an itch to create and do something entirely different.”
With newly purchased audio and studio equipment, he began learning how to record songs from his home in Lakewood. Over the past year, Flanagan has released new music every month, all of which have been singles with A-sides and B-sides, a process that’s allowed him to stretch his artistic muscles.
“It has truly changed my whole outlook on everything I do now,” he says.
On the first Friday of each month, Flanagan takes advantage of Bandcamp Friday — which gives musicians a bigger percentage of revenue — by releasing his new music on YouTube and other streaming platforms.
His creative successes have allowed him to experiment with the sounds and music he makes. So far, he has no plans of slowing down and said the project will continue into 2022.
The project has also encouraged him to collaborate with other musicians, such as his brother Russ Flanagan, multi-instrumentalist David Alan Shaw and bassist Joe Botta. These sessions, he says, have taught him everything from technical engineering and sound dynamics to the collaborative and communicative process of music recording.
“I didn’t need any crazy microphones or interfaces because it’s ultimately about learning how to use the equipment you have at your disposal and bending it to your use,” says Flanagan. “It’s also just been about learning how to communicate with other musicians and not being afraid to compromise or keep the peace for the sake of the art you’re creating.”
Of all the songs he’s recorded so far, “The Man Upstairs,” a track where Flanagan uses his voice to mimic different instruments, has done the best.
“I was surprised because it is so strange and stands out from other songs I recorded and produced in the past since starting it,” says Flanagan. “It just showed me that anyone can really get into music.”
Lately, Flanagan has slowly garnered a few gigs and returned to the stage to perform in front of local crowds. But he remains grateful for the experiences he’s had over the past two years.
“The pandemic has been a blessing because it has allowed me to recenter myself and reconnect with my creativity,” says Flanagan. “I’ve been alone so much and not needing to please anyone else; it’s helped me find a direction and discover what I want to create with my art.”