John Flanagan is paying tribute to a ’70s folk great with The Songs of James Taylor

John Flanagan is paying tribute to a ’70s folk great with The Songs of James Taylor

Words by Anna Rose

The exciting acts of this year’s Darebin Music Feast just keep on coming.

Over eight days in October, the 23rd annual Darebin Music Feast will see a carefully curated selection of musicians come together to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the north Melbourne region.

Over half of this year’s events are free to attend, with more than a third open to attendees of all ages. Darebin Music Feast, as always, boasts a sensational breadth of music styles – from punk to jazz and electro to folk – and it’s under the latter genre that Melbourne singer-songwriter John Flanagan will showcase his talents at this year’s festival.

As an Australian folk musician who encompasses elements of Americana and bluegrass into his performances, Flanagan’s music combines timeless melodies and
contemporary folk with a raw, personal honesty.

Flanagan is preparing to add to the diversity of Darebin Music Feast and has cultivated a very special setlist for this year’s event. For years, he has had his own style of folk-rock singing and songwriting, frequently compared to the ‘70s folk style of the American great, James Taylor.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Flanagan to come together with like-minded musicians to perform the tribute, The Songs of James Taylor, as part of Darebin Music Feast.

“This has been something people have told me I should be doing for many years,” says Flanagan. “‘The warm vocals sound like James Taylor’ – I’ve heard that more times than I can count,” he laughs.

“I’ve thought about doing this for years – the show itself is a bit more than James Taylor stuff, and I’ll be joined by other musicians who add harmonies and other instruments.

“I thought I’d use the Darebin Music Festival as a chance to do something different from my usual gigs.”

Some of Melbourne’s finest musicians will join Flanagan, the collaboration coming about because of both a mutual love of James Taylor and similarities in their own musical style.

“A couple of musicians are from a band called Bush Gothic, who play all around the Australian folk scene,” Flanagan explains. “I’ve got a double bass, piano and violin, three-part harmonies – it was just a matter of finding musicians that I thought would fit the sounds of a James Taylor kind of band.

“These guys, I love what they do in their band – I know they can do a beautiful job with the harmonies and backing, definitely.”

With Darebin Music Feast aimed at people of all ages and with eclectic music tastes, it’s safe to assume that there’ll be those in attendance who’ve never even heard of James Taylor – so how does Flanagan hope to appeal?

Among the variety, Flanagan still hopes the band will be special. “There’s a lot of people who love James Taylor out there,” he says. “I spend most of my time playing original music, which is great; to share original music, to share something unique and special – but it’s also fun to play music that’s by people you love.

“The familiarity where the audience knows and loves the song, it just means you have a nice atmosphere where there can be singalongs, there can be a connection of people with the same love and interest coming together for a night. There’s something special in that.”

With well-known hits like ‘Something in the Way She Moves’, ‘Carolina In My Mind’, and ‘Country Road’, and some not so well-known songs from the discography of a man with a more than 50-year music career, Flanagan says there will be plenty of variety in the band’s performance. “It’s going to be a bit of a mix of songs, lots of variety in there, for sure!”

The Songs of James Taylor will be performed as part of Darebin Music Feast on Thursday October 24 at Wesley Anne. Tickets via the venue website or on the door. Darebin Music Feast is happening from Sunday October 20 until Sunday October 27. Find the full program at