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Johnny Flynn: "I'd just had a kid and started having sever panic attacks"

Johnny Flynn on his role in the hit play Jerusalem, a troubled tour of the US and the problem of achieving a work-life balance…

Johnny Flynn: 'My panic attacks would happen at weird times, like at a gas station.' Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer


Hours back from a working trip to New York, hours away from a family trip to Wales, Johnny Flynn spends a precious chunk of inter-city packing time having coffee with the Observer in a park near his London flat. He's busy, the 29-year-old folk musician and actor – dual careers flourishing, and a very young son newly energised by the trip to Manhattan. "He found the joys of pressing buttons in lifts," says Flynn, who stayed with wife Bea and one-year-old Gabriel in a towering hotel, "which was fun".



Flynn was abroad to work on tracks for a new studio album, his third, due out next year. After the coming drive to Wales (a belated Easter visit to the Pembrokeshire home where he grew up) he'll begin rehearsing new Globe productions of Henry V and Twelfth Night. Before that, this week, he puts out another record, music he wrote for an American indie film called A Bag of Hammers. Flynn: take a break!


Actually there's a serious aspect to the workload. "When Gabriel arrived there was a couple of weeks of confused bliss, then I had to go on tour. I was pressured to do it; we hadn't toured the album in America and risked losing our record deal." Driving their own truck, Flynn and his band put in "8,000 miles, Seattle through Canada down the east coast, often travelling through the night with a gig at either end. Not sleeping, driving shitloads. I'd just had a kid and was really worried about missing that time with him. I started having quite severe panic attacks.


"It's debilitating. On stage, for whatever reason, they don't happen, I'm safe because for an hour I know what my job is. But they'd happen at weird times. Like, a gas station, and I'm suddenly grabbing the hot dog stand..." He can chuckle about it now; weeks writing and recording, mostly in a cosy basement studio nearby, have had a soothing effect.


"I see [the attacks] as a welling up of big changes that needed working out: having a child, getting married. I think lots of people go through similar things around these junctures in life."


He married Bea Minns in Wales last summer. "I borrowed a marquee from a festival organiser, playing his festival in payment." Meanwhile Bea, a designer with Punchdrunk theatre company, handled aesthetics. "There was a huge, fake family crest. We did the ceremony in the woods, where the weather's really unpredictable – a sudden sea mist came in. We set up a PA system and turned it into a rave."


Sounds weirdly similar to scenes in Jez Butterworth's play Jerusalem, the cast of which Flynn joined for its final months in October. It's got to be stressful, taking work on the acknowledged best-play-in-town? "Not a lot of rehearsal time," admits Flynn, who loved the job but inevitably suffered more panic attacks.


In Jerusalem Flynn played Lee, a young man readying to emigrate to Australia. At one point Mark Rylance's linchpin character, Rooster Byron, gives him a goodbye speech. "There was a time at the end [of the run] when Mark would start to well up as he's giving that blessing. He wasn't saying it to me, he was saying it to the show. He's strong, Mark, and his character Rooster's strong. To see that strength crack, it was kind of amazing."




It sounds like Kristen might have some competition for Rob's affections from now on


Remember that time Robert Pattinson sang some songs on the Twilight soundtrack? You know, waaaaay back before the films were a massive blockbusting franchise and dinosaurs still roamed the earth?




Well he did and they were actually pretty good, but after his acting career took off the whole thing seems to have got a bit sidelined. It's all OK though as Rob is supposedly considering getting back in the studio to lay down some new tracks.


Apparently Rob was inspired to get his guitar out after going to see his friend Johnny Flynn play a gig in LA last month.


A source close to the actor spoke to Hollywoodlife, saying: "Rob is a huge fan of Johnny. He's like a mentor to Rob.


To be honest, we thought the whole acting thing was going pretty well for R-Patz, but apparently he's keen to let his musical side out again.


"The two are hoping to record some music together. Rob has said that it would be a dream come true to perform with Johnny on stage someday."


"Music is Rob's true passion. It's what he's most passionate about - that is, second to Kristen!"


So basically Kristen singing Frere Jacques in rounds with Johnny is pretty much Rob's idea of a blimmin great party then.


After seeing Johnny, we can sort of see why.




New Music

Johnny Flynn recorded a session with Daytrotter featuring new music. Download it here



Johnny Flynn Debuts New Songs


It's been a spell since Johnny Flynn’s sophomore LP, Been Listening, caught our attention back in 2010, but it looks like the British new-folk Laura Marling pal has a promising follow-up in the works. First up, Flynn released an original soundtrack this month for the film A Bag of Hammers, which features a half-dozen new tunes among instrumentals. OST cut “Flowers In My Garden” has a loose, Irish-session feel, and is available to stream below or download for free here.

But what really caught my ears this week are a pair of songs unveiled at recent Record Store Day outings, especially “Einstein’s Idea.” Next to “Barnacled Warship” this one might be the most memorable Flynn piece yet. Check out some decent footage from his performance at Rough Trade East last week:




“Einstein’s Idea”



"Lady Has Risen"





Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4