MRF & This Love! (Exclusive Interview)

         MRF – the Boston based musician has been hailed as one of the premier jazz artists of his generation. What is unique and makes MRF shine is not fitting the typical mold rather he attacks it with attracting a new class of listeners. I stumbled upon MRF’s (Mike Flanagan) music recently and found that it spoke to me especially a track entitled; “Trying.” The accompanied music video is heartfelt and the words inspiring and it is a beautifully written and recorded song that speaks to all people/couple’s no matter who they are. It is no surprise that he has garnered several OUTmusic Awards along with having chart topping hits on both Billboard’s Heat Seekers & iTunes Jazz Chart US.

           MRF’s previously released two albums; Elevator Music (2010) & Mob Music (2013) with both getting critical acclaim and assuring his name as a mainstay as a quintessential artist. The 3rd album which available now is entitled; Yasko Sensei which is another home run and is reaffirmation that MRF is here to stay and opposed to others releases material to be proud of rather than churning it out as a factory with many fillers. A Performing/Recording Artist, Saxophonist, Pianist, Songwriter/Producer, Composer/Arranger, Music Director and Educator is one person to listen to and know!

Official MRF Sites:
iTunes/Spotify: MRF

           MRF, let me first start this interview off by saying how much of an incredible   musician you are and an inspiration for many. You release music that I can tell speaks from your heart and is very topical which is conveyed to the listener. Thanks, once again for joining “The Beat!” to become one of our “Artists In Residence” and taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me for this interview.

·         All three albums you have released being; E levator Music, Mob Music, and your brand new; Yasko Sensei are all well received from both the fans and within the industry, what is your thoughts as to the success of each?

I have to say, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without my ‘village’. I am fortunate to have really incredible and loving people in my life and they have rallied hard for my music. Elevator Music was very much a first album but I learned a lot. Mob Music, to this day, is my pride and joy. Yasko Sensei was the only way to truly attempsht to show gratitude to the woman who showed me everything about music and artistry. Throughout all three albums, I have  shown a lot of vulnerability, maybe even too much sometimes ;)

·       Speaking of your albums let’s talk about your brand new album; Yasko Sensei, tell us about the story behind the name and why the choice of material on it?

Yasko changed my life with her artistry. She is the reason I became an artist/musician from the time I was 15 and first heard her, I have aimed to connect with music as well as the listener, at the level she always did. She passed away in September 2015 after a long fight with cancer. This album had to happen and we needed to make music together one last time before she could no longer play. We recorded 3 tracks, and fortunately she is on all 3 of my albums.  

·         You place a lot of effort when it comes to a release of an album such as the material, the message being delivered, recording sessions and more, in this day and age that artists have the need for exposure 24/7 such as releasing a single a day all year, what drives you to beat that mindset?

I have never been able to mass-produce. It’s never felt right for me. Music is my outlet, so I’m very cautious when I go to create. I try to keep audiences engaged with live performances and keeping a presence on social media, but I make sure when I am putting out a project I convey how important it is to me.

·         MRF you inspire and are a role model for many, personally why do you think this happens and do you agree or disagree with our culture placing “role model” status to all people such as singers, actors, athletes?

     I absolutely have artists that I consider my heroes, so as long as the person wants to  use their voice to inspire and spread awareness, I am all for it. When I have received messages from people expressing that my work spoke to them, it makes every challenge and struggle along the way to get that art made and released, that much more worth-it. 

·         You have released such powerful and moving singles such as; “Trying” “This Love” “Tender” “I Just Wanted” along with covers such as; “What If God Was One Of Us” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” why do you think these songs seem to hit listeners so much? You seem to release singles that are exactly what the listener’s need at the time (such as what is going on socially in the world etc), is this something that you look at or is by pure coincidence?  

I was staying true to me throughout all of that music. The songs from Mob Music were very much where I was at the time and I wanted to be honest about that. I think maybe that authenticity is what allows people to relate to it.
 Though, in the case of “What If God Was One Of Us” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, those came about because we had spontaneously performed those live and after experiencing those songs through our filter, I knew we had to get them recorded.

·         Being an openly gay artist, do you find that has been a more difficult journey for your career and with how the industry dealt with you?

Having to even consider how pronouns will be received when writing about the person you love, is troubling. That was something that always struck me. Back when I was writing Elevator Music, it was very difficult not knowing how writing about love found/lost with another man would even be received in the studio.
After that, from Mob Music on, I worked with incredible people that were in the art with me 100%, no matter what decisions I made. But things are very different now in many ways, and that’s a beautiful thing 
·         What would you say to artists that are either out or on the verge to about being within the music industry?

Now, I think anyone can find a fan-base no matter what, you just have to put the work in. I think the music industry is tough to break into and turn out a sustainable career, no matter what. It’s a constant grind and often times you don’t know if and when your milestones are going to happen.


·       Do you find there are many stereotypes that executives and labels try to still give to artists like yourself? How have you rallied against it if it were not being true to yourself?

The minute you start to gain some traction, people start knocking on your door, but often times with the intention of putting their hand in the pot (which, if you’ve just put out an album, isn’t filled with anything anyway. Haha) So, that gets interesting.
      It is so essential to keep both your vocals in the best condition along with yourself mentally/physically, how do you address all of these areas?

I love meal plans and geeking out on nutrition, especially to co-inside with training etc. For me, omitting alcohol was a huge key to feeling at my best physically and energy wise.

·         Speaking of keeping yourself in the best condition, what is a must when touring to have before hitting the stage?

I just need to eat, especially if traveling/touring.

·         What is one thing that you must have in your house? You must have one item perhaps in the kitchen that you cannot do without.

Clorox wipes. I want to be the Clorox version of Mr. Clean when I grow up. I use them to clean everything.

·         Do you have any projects in the making that we can look forward to in the music album arena?

My ace Rallye and I are in the works of putting a new project out. Outside of that I have been playing on other artists’ projects for now. 

·         I am getting tired just thinking of the whirlwind of a year you are having! What are some other projects on your horizon?

I am taking a little break. I just got engaged and am moving to NY in June, so there’s a lot happening, but there are still lots of upcoming performances and sideman projects.

·         Is there something that you have as of yet conquered in your career that you still have as a “must?”

 I am looking forward to touring with more artists. 

·         Walk us through a typical day in the life of MRF, what are some things you do to stay tip top shape both physically and mentally for your work?

I cook breakfast every morning (same thing every day, for the most part).

·         I am sure you have people you admire, whom are a couple and why?
Dixie Chicks, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, artists that all showed America itself when it was necessary to do so, despite whatever backlash.

·         Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with musically? I can think of some great singers that would be vocally perfection with you and I am sure you do.

D’Angelo would be a dream collaboration 



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