Bill Flanagan is picking up where he left off 30 years ago. In the mid-’80s, he sat down with Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger and 25 other legends to ask them about the inspirations behind their songs and getting to the core of their artistry for a book called Written In My Soul. In the spirit of that project, he has joined SiriusXM’s new channel VOLUME to host an hour-long program of the same name.
In addition to his work as an author, Flanagan spent 10 years as editor of MUSICIAN magazine, followed by 20 years at MTV Networks, where he created and produced shows such as VH1 Storytellers and CMT Crossroads. He is best-known for his essays on the Emmy-winning CBS NEWS SUNDAY MORNING, where he has been a contributor since 2001.
On VOLUME, Flanagan will once again interview the greats and allow the audience to meet a different side of his favorite musicians.
“The thing I hope happens with Written In My Soul is the people listening get to know the artists in the same way I do. When you do short interviews for TV or something, you do your five minutes or your 10 minutes about the new project, and then when you’re done, you go out to dinner with the artist, and then the real conversation starts,” he explains. “So this is gonna be an opportunity to get that dinner conversation into a place where everybody can listen in.”
He continues: “These will be career-spanning conversations about creativity, influences, accomplishments and challenges. The goal is to follow the through-lines, what is constant through the music, what themes does the musician keep coming back to? We want to get at what gives each musician his or her own unique voice.”
And while Flanagan has been interviewing rock stars for years, he brings a genuine level of excitement, curiosity and sometimes even nerves to the artists he speaks to in the studio.
“What I found interesting about interviewing great musicians is that it’s always a little intimidating to meet someone whose poster you had on the wall when you were a kid,” he says. “I would never get intimidated, as much as I love them, by Bono or Chris Martin or Jay Z because I was already a grown-up when I met them. But if it’s Dylan, if it’s Paul Simon, if it’s the Stones, if it’s McCartney there’s that moment where you go, ‘Whoa! It’s the Ed Sullivan Show.’”
So how does the veteran writer prepare for the interviews he’ll conduct on Written In My Soul? By going to the most important source — their body of work.
“I usually just go to the records to prepare for an interview. I don’t really like to talk to other people around the musician, and I don’t really like to read other interviews that they’ve done,” he says. “I kind of find that the best questions come from when you go to the work itself because that’s where you find out not what you expect somebody to say, but what they’re really talking about.”
Flanagan thrives off getting musicians to open up in a way they haven’t before to other interviewers. He knows how to “work his source,” and he’s excited to unfold new layers of everyone’s favorite idols on air.
“I think the spirit of Written in My Soul has carried through the best work I have done in the last 30 years. Now with the radio series, it’s come full circle,” he says. “This is going to be a chance to hear the greatest living musicians talk at length and in depth about their lives and their work. I am very grateful to Roger Coletti at VOLUME and everyone at SiriusXM for giving me a place to do this and the time and space to do it right.”
Written In My Soul airs monthly on VOLUME, Ch. 106.