“It’s the story of two characters, and their relationship, the euphoria, struggles, jealousy and insecurity”. ‘In The Game’, the progeny of a musical marriage between Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill aka SON. Two of Ireland’s most authentically visceral songsmiths, this is a seductively crafted collection of 14 songs, charting the poignant story of a disintegrating relationship.
Mick and Susan : Baby Talk
“It’s a concept album borne out of the song Baby Talk, the arguing couple setting the tone for what follows”. Baby Talk with over a million streams won ‘best original song of the year’ at RTÉ Radio 1 Awards 2020.
In The Game depicts an emotive landscape of desire and despair, seduction and sorrow, longing and regret, delivered with potent power by two performers who inhabit the characters profoundly. So how much is autobiographical?
Susan : “my songs always contain elements of truth, but not always my own truth! Sometimes lyrics are the narrative of a friend’s life, or my own relationships, romantic or otherwise.”
Mick : “we didn’t have a strict storyline, so we moulded some songs we had, towards the theme of the couple, and others we co-wrote and retroactively applied a storyline”.
Mick and Susan : Trouble
How natural was it for you to collaborate in this way.
Susan : “the co-writing was very smooth … I’d shared a stage with Mick before, and our voices blended so well, it was a perfect jumping off point. When we co-wrote Trouble, it convinced me that we had similar musical tastes, a great start. Some tracks have a conversational quality, both characters singing their separate realities before landing together on a chorus. We played around with arrangements until it made sense.”
What have they learnt from each other during the co-write process?
Susan writes in a way that leaves air in her songs for the music to occupy, a space without lyrics where the song can breathe and the listener can reflect, that idea is worth stealing!”
Susan continues “Mick has a wonderful ability to inhabit the fictional role of the characters that he’s writing about whether he’s conjuring fictitious scenes or empathising with something true to life, he sits fully into the story allowing the lyrics to pour straight from the heart. It can be tough pulling from your own experiences, dramatic as they sometimes can be, it’s often difficult to represent your own story when you are deep within it.”
Mick and Susan : In the Game
The rapport and trust between Mick and Susan is key to authentically inhabiting these songs with heart and depth, so are new collaborations on the horizon ?
Susan: “I’m working on a new album that’s very personal to what I feel and see around me. I hope to boldly say things that I’ve avoided voicing before, in a world where we’re hugely self-monitored; I’d like to break those self-imposed barriers”.Mick continues “Susan and I are working on songs for her upcoming solo album and I’ve enough written for my next solo album and I’ve gathered a strange batch of songs to do with chess and chess players, my lockdown obsession!”
Managing the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, Mick and Susan have performed prestigious, albeit audience-free streaming concerts including the Cork Opera House and the ‘Other Voices’ virtual festival. In October, they performed with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra featuring exquisite new orchestral arrangements of their songs. So how does it feel to be back performing in front of live audiences?
Susan : “it’s great to play to audiences. It’s bizarre remembering the empty rooms, the blaring silences, camera crews in the place of dedicated music lovers, the importance of live music is beyond words, it’s definitely an essential service.”
On Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd December,
Mick and Susan will bring their intense fictional relationship to the Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris… from softly weaving whispers to rasping anger .. it promises to be an emotional roller-coaster.
Listen Mick and Susan :
– Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill performing Baby Talk | The Late Late Show | RTÉ One
– Mick Flannery & Susan O’Neill ‘Trouble‘ (Official Video)