FLINT, Michigan -- Erik McIntyre feels he is just getting started in Flint. The Fenton-raised folk musician has found a place for himself among the tapestry of Flint music talent and is “happy for what Flint is giving me as a community,” he said. “You really feel the impact and support of your neighbors and friends here, compared to a larger city.”
McIntyre is no stranger to Flint, teaching music at the Flint Institute of Music for a number of years. Working at the FIM followed returning to Michigan after college and a stint in AmeriCorps. The young musician began playing around the city with a number of bands back in 2018 and moved to the city from Ann Arbor in January of 2019.
“Really it’s hard to find a place where you can go play in the back of a coffee shop and have regulars spout off about your next gig,” he said, laughing as he muses about sitting back in Good Beans Café, “You’ll just randomly hear ‘Oh, they got the Frenchtown Playboys at Soggy tonight!’ You miss those moments a lot when things are shut down and you’re shut off from people. Or just running into neighbors, friends or random people around that tell you they saw your show and really appreciate it”
Those connections to other creatives in the community are rewarding for him.
“It’s great when you connect with other musicians and they see your hustle behind the scenes and all of sudden you hear about all this amazing music happening here,” he said.
Beyond furthering his network during quarantine, McIntyre says he was at first surprised to learn that “Flint really has its own unique thing going on.”
“From the Outfit, to Eclipse Band at the Golden Leaf, you have so many of your staples here and talent, and the more you meet other musicians, the more you support them, the more they come out and support you … if you’re not aware of all the talent here, you’re missing out,” he said.
That is not to say the time during the pandemic has been easy, but time away from the road helped McIntyre experiment and find new avenues of inspiration.
“For a while there it was always go-go-go where it’s on to the next town or show, you end up really feeling the grind,” he said. “The time to slow down was especially helpful in the spring months to work on different things, so when everything started to open up a little in the summer, I was trying different things but I could tell people were really appreciative.”
While McIntyre describes his musical taste as “eclectic,” he is a practiced multi-instrumentalist with a deep love for soul, blues, rock, and jazz. Yet, it was during his time serving in AmeriCorps in New Orleans, where he cemented his love for 1920s and 1930s folk jazz. Particularly around the sound of Django Reinhardt, a Belgian-born, Romani-French jazz composer and musician.
Studying storytelling and creative writing in college, McIntyre recalls a moment 10 years ago that brought him closer to the folk style he loves, but also is indicative of his approach to his guitar.
“When I was in New Orleans, I got this definition of music that stuck with me, all because I saw this guy in a club,” McIntyre said. “I just remember asking this old, grizzled music man, what his upbringing was and what he thinks about music?”
The musician, he recalls, broke it down quite simply: “Music he said, has two parts, ‘the muse and ‘the ICK’, the muse is the creativity and freedom, energy and expression that comes along when you’re playing, but the ICK, is the mechanics, the work -- practice, technique, and the book learning,’ and that definition has always stuck with me.”
While reflecting on his experiences over the course of both quarantines from the spring to winter, Flint plays like a new love interest in the narrative, “You think you know the place, because growing up I would always come through here, but the people and culture here have a way of surprising you,” he said.
The pandemic has changed and impacted lives the world over, McIntyre said there was a benefit to quarantine, that it helped him to think about his work, both from the muse, to the ICK.
“For a while there I was always on the go, with very little down time, and quarantine really forced me to slow down, and do a lot of reevaluating, from what I’m playing to how I am doing, to exploring new things like singing, piano and clarinet,” he said. “There’s been growth and new friendships, and time to experiment with my music, but more so there has been this room (his living room), in this last year. This time to really focus in on what I play and what I really want to do.”