Student Spotlight: Thomas Flynn ’22 writes and produces his own music

Flynn has pioneered a solo career that builds on his background as a music major and performer in a campus band.

by Joe Daher | 9/30/21 2:05am

9-30-21-thomasflynn-courtesy
Source: Courtesy of Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn ’22, one of a handful of fledgling Dartmouth musicians releasing music on Spotify, would not describe his work as a hobby. Over the past year, he has already released two albums and several singles. 

“It's just like a habit,” Flynn said. “It's something I have to do. It's something I really want to do.”

His most recent single “Self K(no)w Self” — released this August — features a soothing guitar refrain contrasted with an unsettling descending chromatic passage. Flynn’s whispery and ethereal vocals supported by the presence of a detuned piano in the background impart a sense of longing and nostalgia.

A longtime classical and contemporary player, Flynn traces his musical roots back to the piano. Now, he is a biology and music double major who still avidly practices his instrument.

“I used to watch him totally rip piano in the Choates,” said Frances Mize ’22, who has been a close friend since their freshman year.

Additionally, as the keyboard player for Moon Unit — a pop rock band that regularly performs around campus — Flynn has established himself within the Dartmouth music community. However, Flynn said that he sees his personal music project as separate from the music classes he has taken at the College as well as his time with Moon Unit. 

Contrasting with his dynamic role in Moon Unit — playing guitar, bass or drums or even singing for the band — Flynn’s personal music project is a one-man show. He writes the lyrics, composes the melodies, records the vocals and produces for each of his songs. 

Additionally, Flynn is involved in the designs of his own album covers. Flynn’s sister drew the cover for his last full album “Intones” whichand he then modified and digitized the color palettes. The cover of “Self K(no)w Self” was painted by Max Barrett ’22 and features two humans caught in an embrace, connected as one. The raw handwritten style of the album covers combined with surreal vibrant color palettes reflect the emotional rawness of Flynn’s  music.

When it comes to songwriting, Flynn says he relies on his intuition more than anything.

“It’s not really like a super conscious process honestly,” said Flynn. “It’s how I like to spend my free time. Usually, it'll be like some kind of guitar or piano or melodic fragment that I can elaborate. I want to create something that feels genuine.”

Flynn draws inspiration from indie and folk singer-songwriters as well as psychedelic electronic production.

“I like a lot of different styles of music,” says Flynn. “Amen Dunes, Nick Drake, Adrianne Lenker, Marvin Gaye, you know The Beatles — classical stuff.”

Abigail Lambert ’22, who is both a friend and a fan of Flynn’s, described his music as unique, with both humor and a serious edge.

“I definitely see some Alex G inspiration in his music but he also [has] this classical piano background that complicates his style and adds another dimension to some of his songs,” said Lambert. “It makes sense if you know Tom — he thinks and cares deeply about the places and people he surrounds himself with.”

Lambert’s favorite of Flynn’s repertoire is “Welcome,” a single released earlier this year. 

“You’re listening to this indie-type acoustic sound and then all of a sudden he mixes in this beautiful piano melody,” she said. “I remember him working on it last year and hearing different renditions. It’s cool to see how the song — and really his songs in general — grow with him.”

Mize said her strongest memory of Flynn’s music is connected to his 2020 album, “Cold Brook” — which she associated with the strong emotions brought about by the pandemic.

“I remember really listening to [“Cold Brook”] a lot during the pandemic when I was stuck at home and driving around… and crying a few times,” said Mize. “You know, his music has made me cry a few times — which is kind of funny when it’s one of your best friends making it.”

Flynn dipped into production on a whim two years ago. He said it is probably the most challenging and time-consuming part of the process, noting that intuition alone is often not enough to navigate. 

Flynn and Barrett, the drummer for Moon Unit, experiment with production together. Barrett has also released two albums of his own on Spotify, and most recently an EP titled “DL1.”

“Once you start making your own music, you realize how hard it is to put all the elements of a song together,” Flynn said. “When you’re listening to music you don’t realize all the parts that go into it. That is definitely what surprised me the most.”

Despite the unforeseen difficulty of producing his own music, Flynn continues to steadily create introspective and individualized music. 

“Every time I get to hear one of Tom’s newest songs, it feels like getting to know him a little more,” said Lambert. “He’s definitely gotten more open with his music and the way he shares it.” 

Flynn admits he is proud of his most recent releases in their final form. Going forward, he said he wants to continue developing his individual style.

“I'm trying to make another album of music in the next two months or so, and then after that, just keep on recording and keep on just doing the same thing I'm doing now,” Flynn said.

Frances Mize ’22 is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

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