It's Friday night. You walk down to your neighborhood pub for a couple of pints and to listen to some live music. As you settle onto your stool and order a hop-fresh IPA or a crisp kölsch the tunes start. You recognize the song and start to sing along. Is it a top-40 hit? Kind of...but from 1664. It's "My song is love unknown" originally written by Samuel Crossman and performed and arranged by New York based artist Blake Flattley.
Flattley has been performing and singing for over a decade and says he loves three things: a great song, a great drink, and spending time with great people. "Why not have all of them in one place?" he asked. So was born the idea of the "'There Will be Rest' Pub-Sing-a-Long Tour."
Releasing his newest album, "There Will Be Rest" -- a collection of re-arranged hymns and original music -- earlier this year, Flattley is now raising funds to host a series of pub-sing-a-longs all over the U.S. in celebration. He said, "the idea is this: we gather together in local pubs, sing some hymns, enjoy some great beer and hear some of my songs that you may be familiar with." The key is getting people in cities across the U.S. to support the tour. Flattley launched a Kickstarter campaign to get him across the nation.
Below is an interview with Flattley about his music, his motivations, and his . You should definitely check out his music and consider having him to come to your favorite watering hole for a sing-a-long and some suds for as little as $5!
Tell us a bit more about your album and what you are trying to do with it...
I've been playing in clubs for a long time, and now, though I'm still playing clubs, I've been playing in a lot more churches outside of my own. I kept getting the question, "which of these cds have the music you just played during the service?" and the answer was none. Eventually, I had enough people ask and the timing was right. I'd been in New York City working with my church for about two years, and I connected with some fantastic musicians. It was a strange thing, I would throw out a musical reference and get a response back of, "I've played with them"(Sufjan Stevens, The Welcome Wagon, The Lone Bellow).
Once I set to work choosing the songs for the record, the theme really flowed out of my experiences in New York. The mantra of most New Yorkers seems to be that they are tired and busy. Not busy like most, where they say they are busy almost as some sort of status symbol. New Yorkers are busy because the rent is high and they have to take every gig they can to make ends meet. Its a matter of being able to make it. The title and title track, "There Will Be Rest", flowed out of that. I wanted to create a record that both sonically, and lyrically, embraced that theme.
Why a “pub-sing-a-long” in particular?
I like the idea of a pub sing because it in some ways unites my two worlds. There's also the folklore behind so many great hymns about how they were written with bar tunes and then brought into the church. Though that is largely believed to be myth, I still like the concept. I don't want to take myself too seriously, and I like singing with people and enjoying their company over a good beer so, why not?
What do you imagine this is going to look like?
We'll gather together in local pubs and for about the first forty five minutes we'll sing some great hymns. I'll invite some of my friends along the way to join in with leading the singing. I'm putting together, essentially a digital lyric sheet for everyone, so if they don't know the hymn, they can pull out their phone and scroll through the lyrics. During the second set of the night I'm planning to sing some more of my arrangements as well as some original music that people will still be encouraged to sing along with. To be clear, it won't be a church service.
When are you heading out? Where are you going, or would like to go?
I'll be kicking off the tour in January, heading out to the North West and then kind of bouncing around the country from there. I'm planning to essentially head anywhere there is a critical mass of people who show they are interested by supporting the kickstarter campaign. My thought is to head to Texas, California, Arizona, maybe the midwest and then of course a few East Coast dates.
Are you going to shut down the pub that night or just go for it with the crowd? For that matter, how do crowds react to your religious music?
Really, anyone that wants to sing and have a good time. I don't want to shut down the pub but instead, sing with those that are there. Some people may not be into it and that's ok.
It's interesting, I thought I was carefully splitting up my "religious" songs from my "secular" songs but once I started mingling them, I realized they're not all that different. One of my main goals as an artist is simply to make good art that explores the human experience. Religion is a part of that.
Tell us what you are doing with music and ministry in NYC. How does this project tie in?
I'm the director of worship and arts at Our Saviour New York. We're a church of two parishes, one in Queens and one in Midtown Manhattan. We do a ton with local artists, sponsoring songwriter rounds, holding artist showcases for storytellers, bands, comedians and we just recently started exhibiting visual art. We love to engage with our community and experience what they're creating and to see how we can support and encourage them. I also play a lot throughout the city at various venues, not typically singing hymns. In addition to all of that, I've got some new musical projects in the works, but its still a bit too early to get specific.
This project was really just an idea that I thought would be fun. A kind of experiment.
Why do you think people are flocking to pub-hymn-sings, TheoPubs, and brewery-based missional communities?
I think for many people going to church is weird. Not in the sense that the experience is weird but they feel a weight of expectation. To perform in some way. A pub doesn't come with the same expectations. People can be a little bit more who they really are. You can hopefully do that at church as well but it just takes some folks a little longer.
What’s your favorite beer?
Its funny, the other day I went to Trader Joe's and they have the option to fill a six pack with whatever loose beers that they have. When I got home and was loading them in the fridge I realized that for every beer I had purchased I could remember who had introduced me to it. That being said, my favorite beer currently, I actually first got to try thanks to you, Sixpoint's Bengali Tiger (we also currently have this on tap at OSNY).
Speaking of favorites. Have people tweet at me with their favorite hymn @BlakeFlattley