Here it is folks – our very first Ruby Assembly interview for 2012. We’re chuffed to present John Flanagan of John Flanagan and The Begin Agains, a bluegrass style band we discovered at the 2011 Queenscliff Music Festival. We were taken by a both their original songs, and their moving version of Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Summer Rain’. I’ve included a clip of John and his band singing this to get you in the mood for the rest of the interview.
We also have a giveaway – one copy of John Flanagan and The Begin Agains new CD ‘Meet Me In Between’ is up for grabs. All you’ve got to do is TAG yourself on the picture of John Flanagan and The Begin Agains on the official Ruby Assembly Facebook page. Dead easy! Winner announced 20th of January. Good luck, lovers. For now… here’s John!
1. What makes John Flanagan and The Begin Agains unique, setting you apart from other bluegrass genre bands?
Bluegrass is only one of many influences on our sound. There’s a contemporary folk/pop sensibility to the songwriting which connects us to a younger audience and an element of the folk singer/songwriters such as Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell which connects us to an older audience. We all come from different styles of music, and our tastes vary wildly, and it blends to create a pretty focused, contemporary bluegrass sound with an Australian voice.
2. What are your maddest ‘ninja skillz’ in writing lyrics and music?

According to at least one Begin Agains fan I write beautiful melodies with thought provoking lyrics. Personally the music comes easier to me than the lyrics. I just try to write music that I feel a deep emotional connection to.
3. How did your lightbulb moment in creating John Flanagan and The Begin Agains come about?

I used to play in a rock/funk band though the style of the songs I was writing became more and more folk and bluegrass oriented. I guess the ‘lightbulb moment’ was when a friend of mine said that the new songs I was writing were better than the stuff I had done with the rock band. Before that I hadn’t considered that my folk songs would have an audience of their own out there. 
4. What is your earliest memory?
Most of my early memories are from a 3 month camping trip from Melbourne to Cairns with the family when I was 5. I remember our tent getting flooded at one place in QLD and having to sleep on the cement floor of the recreation room. I even remember the dream I had that night which is pretty amazing.
5. What would your last meal be?
A vegan meal with avocado in there somewhere. Apart from that I’m not fussy as long as it is shared with  family and friends and with some nice red wine.
6. What kind of musicians do you most enjoy playing with? 
 Great players who you can have a laugh with and as little ego as possible.
7. What is your favourite sound?
It’s a tie between the sound of rain and the sound of the banjo  
8. Who would you most like to invite to dinner? 
I’m a big Ray LaMontagne fan though I don’t think he would be very talkative. I’d have to go for Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. I think my partner Jane and I would get along well with them not to mention the great jam we could have after dinner.
9. What is something unexpected that has come from John Flanagan and The Begin Agains?
Being part of a Michael Jackson tribute show at the Queenscliff Music Festival. That was unexpected but good fun and we’ll probably keep on playing our version of ‘Human Nature’ at future gigs.
10. What was the first concert you attended, and where was it held?
A show in which puppets of giant hands moved across the stage (or maybe that was my first dream). According to my mum the show was called Mumanchanch or something but I couldn’t for the life of me find anything about it from a google search.