As Myra Flynn describes it over the phone, her search for a producer for her next record sounds a little bit like speed dating.
"I've been working with one to two producers a day, doing some recording to get a feel for whether or not I have chemistry with them," Flynn says. But it may be the location of the studio hops rather than their pace that makes Flynn's latest adventure so notable. She's speaking from Los Angeles, the home base of her new management team, which is setting her up to cut a new record over the summer and promote it with touring and appearances after a fall release.
LA is the latest move up the professional ladder for Flynn, who grew up in Randolph and spent the better part of the last decade building a career in Vermont as a singer and songwriter — but not in the acoustic Americana vein of many of her compatriots. Instead, Flynn focused on increasingly polished explorations of neo-soul, producing three solo records between 2009 and 2013. Hardworking, determined and above all realistic, Flynn eventually came to the conclusion that if she wanted to go big with her career, staying in Vermont wasn't an option.
In 2011, Flynn made the move to Brooklyn. The relocation meant the chance to jump full-on into the East Coast's most vibrant music scene and get a bit closer to the national media spotlight. But, says Flynn, Brooklyn also forced her to step up her game.
"The challenging nature of being lost in the city and being up against people who are really great musicians was important," she says. "Trying to rise above that level was something I needed and really appreciated. Not that there weren't challenges in Vermont, as well. But I needed to go to Brooklyn to get to the next step."
According to Flynn, her New York move paid dividends almost immediately. Shortly after arriving, she met a group of musicians she describes as "the band members who are going to be best friends and with me for life." One of those musicians, Plushgun drummer Matt Bogdanow, produced her last record, the soulful, rock-tinged Half Pigeon (2013).
If Brooklyn forced Flynn to change things up a bit musically, the borough's denizens willingly accepted her approach to songwriting, including the expression of her Irish and African American roots.
"The music has changed, because the musicians have changed," says Flynn. "But my freak-of-nature, weird way of writing songs and my influences all still work. The Vermont folk influences. The Celtic influences from my father. The soul that comes from my mother and my family. People appreciate it as long as it's raw and vulnerable and real and you 'leave it all on the stage,' so to speak."
Despite Brooklyn's charms, Flynn's desire to "be where the work is" pushed her away. She considered Australia, and even visited there, but decided it would mean starting from scratch — something she didn't want to do. On her way back to the States, she stopped over in LA, where an email to a musician she admired led her to her current team. Although she hasn't moved to LA permanently — she still maintains her apartment in Brooklyn, and stays with an aunt and uncle when in LA — Flynn will spend July and August in the studio cutting her new record. And while she's excited about the hunt for a producer — which included a recent stop at Babyface's Brandon's Way studio — choosing a studio is just the first step in the process. After that, she'll have to line up musicians to work with. She's quick to point out that decisions in that regard will be made in collaboration with the production team and won't be entirely hers. That said, she'd love to bring at least one Vermonter to LA for the sessions: pop master and frequent collaborator Gregory Douglass.
"Gregory produced my sophomore album," Flynn says. "He's absolutely one of the most talented people I have ever met and I would love to have him with me wherever I am."
As for songs for the record, Flynn doesn't rule out writing new ones. But she'll likely draw from the vast archive she's already assembled.
"I've got hundreds of songs in the bank," Flynn says. "It's just a matter of whether or not they will fit the project. The idea here is to take the recording quality to the next level."
Helping her produce a new record isn't all Flynn's new management team will do. They'll be on the lookout for any number of opportunities, from licensing tunes for film and commercial work to booking tours. As she explains it, "Their job is to assemble a team for me that sticks. That's the new model. I want to encourage everyone to take this route, instead of holding out for the lottery ticket of a record label that might not offer that same team-like support and might be more like, 'Sign here, we'll shelve you until the market feels right.' It's quite nice to have people looking out for my best interests."
Meanwhile, for those Vermont fans who miss seeing Flynn perform live, they'll have plenty of upcoming opportunities, including this Friday, May 16, at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge opening for her longtime idol, Melissa Ferrick, and Saturday, May 17, at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction with fellow neo-soul singer Res. Flynn has 23 gigs booked for June, including shows in Burlington, Montpelier, Shelburne, Plainfield and Randolph. And sometime in the (somewhat distant) future, she intends to return to her home state on a more permanent basis.
"I still consider Vermont home, and I miss it every day," Flynn says. "Someone in the music business once told me, 'Vermont is so great, but you have to earn it to be able to go back there and do music and just relax.'
"I love that, because I want to go back to Vermont and just chill out with my family and friends, but I feel like I need to do this hustle for at least five more years. Then I will have earned the right to go there and live permanently again."
The original print version of this article was headlined "LA Story"