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Johnny Flynn

Since first appearing in the latter half of the 2000s, English singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn has successfully navigated dueling careers as a folk-rock luminary and an in-demand actor across film, television, and theater. Occasionally, his two disciplines merge, as with his popular theme song to the beloved BBC Four series Detectorists and his portrayal of David Bowie in the 2020 film Stardust. Neither a singer who acts nor an actor who sings, he is the rare Renaissance artist equally adept and respected in both of his chosen fields. Since debuting with the acclaimed 2008 album A Larum, Flynn and his longtime band the Sussex Wit have amassed an artful catalog of releases that combine poetic, almost Shakespearian lyricism with English and American folk traditions and a driving electric sound. Flynn's albums have consistently charted in the U.K. Top 100, with standouts like 2013's Country Mile and 2017's Sillion adding new layers to his distinctive sound. After several years devoted primarily to acting, he collaborated with celebrated nature writer Robert MacFarlane on a pair of albums, 2021's Lost in the Cedar Wood and 2023's The Moon Also Rises. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Flynn moved to England at the age of two and has been active in the arts since his childhood. A pair of music scholarships guided his early schooling, and in addition to playing violin, trumpet, and guitar, he also sang in the choir. He later nurtured his acting abilities at London's Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Despite his classical training, Flynn had a deep fondness for folk and blues music and developed a rugged and propulsive fingerstyle that has become a staple of his dynamic approach. His professional career as an actor preceded his musical rise, but after a few years of television roles and Shakespearian theater, he earned a record contract with the Vertigo label and recorded 2008's A Larum. Backed by his group the Sussex Wit (which also includes his sister Lillie Flynn), the album was a significant critical success and earned favorable comparisons to classic U.K. folk-rock like Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch. An EP followed in 2009 as Flynn became associated with the rise of indie folk and specifically Britain's nu-folk revival, touring alongside acts like Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons. In truth, his music was more nuanced and layered than much of what the scene produced, and over subsequent albums like 2010's Been Listening and 2013's Country Mile (both released on the Transgressive label), he outlasted the tag. During this period, he and the band also composed the score of the 2011 indie film A Bag of Hammers. While starring in the romantic comedy series Lovesick, Flynn was given the opportunity to contribute the theme song to another television program, BBC Four's gentle comedy Detectorists. His poignant theme song proved to be one of his most popular tracks and elevated his musical status in advance of 2017's excellent Sillion. Shifting back to acting, Flynn took on a number of period pieces including roles in a serial version of Vanity Fair and a film adaptation of Emma. He also starred as David Bowie in 2020's Stardust, a biopic focused on Bowie's pre-Ziggy Stardust period. For his next album, Flynn and acclaimed nature writer Robert MacFarlane collaborated on a set of original songs. Released in early 2021, the resulting Lost in the Cedar Wood was one of Flynn's loosest and most intense recordings. Later that year, he composed the noir-themed score to the heist film The Score, in which he also starred. Meanwhile, he and MacFarlane continued their songwriting collaboration and readied a second album, The Moon Also Rises, which saw release in 2023.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo


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