An Interview with Connor Flanagan

Hey hey Heights readers! As you know, I’m a sucker for the arts. I love good music, dance, art, literature, and anything that shines forth truth and beauty. During my college years (I feel like that makes me sound old …), I had the privilege of meeting many talented artists who never ceased to amaze me by their talent and their desire to use that talent to make the world a better place. My friend, Connor Flanagan, is a musician who does just that. Connor writes music that touches the soul, that makes you think, that helps you pray, and that makes you want to be better. Not only are his songs meaningful, but they are well-composed and of high quality. Connor was gracious enough to grant me an interview to find out more about what inspires him and drives him to keep creating marrow in a world that is spiritually starving.

Also, note his beautiful description of journeying up the mountain of life to the Lord. 😉 To the heights, friends!

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Hey Connor, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Currently I am living in Minneapolis, MN. However, I am originally from “Farm Flanagan”, a small farm in Richfield, Ohio, about 20 minutes south of Cleveland. I am the second oldest of 5, with an older brother, a younger brother and two younger sisters. My dad is a pilot for United Airlines (“Capt. Denny the Friendly Pilot” as we affectionately call him 🙂 ) and my mom works at home taking care of all things “Farm Flanagan”. We love our Irish heritage and there is never a shortage of tea when there’s a Flanagan around. I attended Catholic school up to and through college, where I attended Franciscan University to play Basketball for their new NCAA Div. III program. The Lord really used my time at Franciscan to instill within me not only a desire to write music, but more importantly a greater desire for Him as well. 

What ignited your interest in music?

I have had a love for music my entire life. I grew up playing the Irish tin whistle, moved on to the flute and eventually picked up guitar in middle school. Since then guitar has become my main instrument, although I do brush off the flute every now and then to play a tune. We grew up going to concerts all the time, and I was alway captivated by the musicians and their talent. So from a very young age it has always been a dream of mine to become one. 

What role do you think music has in the life of a Christian?

I think music plays the same role for a Christian as it does for anyone else. Music has a way of disarming our hearts, tapping into emotions and feelings that we normally keep guarded. Regardless of genre or style… any music that can move us to a place of authenticity is moving us one step closer to our Creator. I also think that music is inherently relational. I write music in hopes that people will relate to it. While on the road, I form relationships with bandmates, with fans, etc. As a musician, I am crafting and creating a community, one in which my music will thrive (hopefully) and bring people together. Our God is inherently relational as well, longing for us just to give Him one moment of our day. I truly think that the community and relationships that music creates here on this earth reveals the longing that exists within all of us, christians and non-christians, to matter, to be part of something greater, to know our purpose. It is my prayer that we all respond to this longing with a greater desire to know the One who can fulfill our every need. 

What is your writing process? Do you plan to sit down and write, or is it more spontaneous?

A lot of both. I write at the end of every day, along side a nice hot cup of tea of course. Whether it is a good song idea or a bad one, I try to put something down on paper, it keeps my mind fresh and my creative juices always working. I will set aside a block of time to write, but often I will just be driving in the car, falling asleep at night, in a meeting at work, or in the chapel… an idea will come to me and I’ll have to jot it down fast. iPhone Voice Memos have become my best friend.

How would you describe the style of your music?

Singer-songwriter (although I’m not sure what that evens means…aren’t all musicians singer song-writers?) Worship, Hip-hop, Acoustic… can you tell I have a hard time classifying myself? If you listen to my music, on one track you’ll find a hook with a an upbeat hip-hop vibe followed by very rhythmical verses, and on another you’ll be drawn in by a prayerful worship song exploring the depths of Christ’s love for us. Playing guitar & writing music have always been a way for me to process the movements of the Lord in my life. So when it comes time to record an album, I don’t write to fit in any musical style, I write to draw you in to my journey, and hopefully show you how Christ is not a choice, but a necessity. 

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Who are some of your musical icons? And if you could play a set with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?

I grew up listening to DC Talk, Jars of Clay, & Rich Mullins, so I still have a great love for all of them… especially Rich Mullins. The sincerity, prayerfulness, and passion that he approached the Lord & his music with continues to inspire me. In the more recent times, Mat Kearney has become a big time favorite of mine. Jason Mraz, Noah Gunderson, Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee are all favorites as well. If I could play a show with anyone tomorrow, I would have to say Mat Kearney. 

You travel around a lot to play shows at various conferences and venues. What’s your favorite part about performing live at these events?

It’s just awesome to see and hear how my songs have impacted people all over the country. Rarely do I ever think that what I write is going to be “good enough” for anyone to enjoy, let alone purchase, and then listen to more than once! However, when I sit down late at night to put a song together, I always desperately pray that whatever words I put on the page… “may they bring joy, hope, light, love… to someone somewhere”. But then to actually experience that first hand is incredible. I go before the Lord daily & just laugh, I can’t believe He has given me such an incredible opportunity to reach people and share my love for Him. 

You have a new album coming out soon! Tell us about the inspiration behind this album and its title.

Wow, this is the first time I’ve actually been asked to put this it into words. Let’s see, the album is called “MOUNTAINS”. Over the last two years I have really come to notice the importance of mountains in scripture. Mountains are home to some very beautiful & life giving moments: The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:20), The test of Jacob’s Faithfulness (Genesis 46), Moses Receives the Law (Exodus 19:16-19), The Resting of Noah’s Ark (Genesis 8:1-6); yet they also serve to be the ground upon which the greatest offering and sacrifice of Love ever known took place: The Crucifixion. As I began praying through these passages, I started to realize a similarity to all of these stories: God our Father is present at the top of every mountain. Whether it be in great glory or in great tragedy, He is there, waiting for us to draw close to Him and acknowledge His presence. We all have mountains in our life, mountains that we wish the Lord would just move for us. If our mountains are moved for us, we are missing a tremendous opportunity to encounter Christ at the top. We are missing a tremendous opportunity to have our faith strengthened through struggle and trial. I propose that rather than moving mountains, we climb our mountains. Through the strength and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we climb our mountains… we conquer our fears, rejoice in our successes, master our emotions, purify our hearts and overcome our sin, reaching the top, and resting with Him in peace & joy. 

So that is what you get in this album; you get a collection of songs that will call you out of where you are and challenge  you to grow in faithfulness and begin the journey up the mountainside. 

What’s your favorite song on this new album?

It changes monthly. Currently it is a song called “These Broken Walls”. It’s about the authentic life that I discovered while studying abroad for four months in an old Carthusian Monastery in Gaming, Austria. It’s about freedom, joy, finding life, experiencing God in all things, trying to live more fully for him. Im really excited about it. 

However, there is a song on the album called “I Believe”which is a pretty consistent favorite. It more or less serves as the cornerstone for the album. It really sparked the theme development & vision for this album. 

What do you hope to inspire in people through this album?

I hope to encourage people in their journey of faith, strengthening their desire for God and their willingness to pursue Him; their willingness to pursue Him even when it’s hard, when it’s dark, when it’s dry, restless, boring. I want people to pray “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” after this album, with more sincerity and heart than ever before. 

Finally, what is it about music that lights you up and sets your heart on fire?

Music gives me the opportunity to explore my own heart and soul in a way that many people never will. It then presents me with the opportunity to create; to create something that has no limits, that has no boundaries; something that will hopefully express fully who I am, who God is, and draw people into a closer relationship with Him.

One of my favorite author’s, Henri Nouwen, once said: “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair & hope, at the disposal of those who want to join the search but do not know how.” This pretty much sums it up. Music gives me the opportunity to invite people into my journey in a very unique way. I hope and pray the come to find Christ here. 

Isn’t he amazing?! Don’t miss out on his music, friends! you can learn more about Connor here, listen to his sweet tunes on YouTube, and keep up with his adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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