The Washington Post

Johnny Flynn acts to fund his true passion: the folk music he’ll play at DC9

Johnny Flynn prefers spending time on the road playing music to his other job: acting in movies. (Shorefire Media)
Johnny Flynn prefers spending time on the road playing music to his other job: acting in movies. (Shorefire Media)

It’s easy to assume that anyone who works as both an actor and a musician is trying as hard as possible to get noticed. That’s not how Johnny Flynn, the South African-born actor, poet and singer/songwriter, sees it.

Flynn views acting as a job and a means to an end. His work in small, independent films (“Something in the Air,” “Lotus Eaters”) finances his true passion: playing dusty folk-rock music with his band, The Sussex Wit.

Indebted to both Bob Dylan and the modern anti-folk movement, Flynn’s third full-length album, last year’s “Country Mile,” is full of fast-strummed guitar and anthemic organ and horns. You only have to go as far as the title track, which subtly builds in intensity before a climactic burst of horns, to get the idea.

For Flynn, 30, neither acting nor music is meant to put him on a path toward riches and fame. It’s an attitude he’s had since his earliest days as a musician, when he was in his late teens, living in England and playing in bands with his pals.

“I didn’t really have any commercial aspirations,” Flynn says. “I was really principled about it. I thought that as soon as you had some kind of goal and result in mind that it would kill it. … I kind of still do feel that way about it.”

Now, however, Flynn, who comes from a family of actors and performers, is inching toward the spotlight. Roles in the upcoming films “Song One,” with Anne Hathaway, and “Sils Maria,” starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Kristen Stewart, mean a new level of star power. And his solo concert Sunday at DC9 sold out well in advance.

Yet success is something Flynn is still coming to terms with.

“I get a kick out of turning things down,” he says, of acting gigs.

Still, his anti-commercialism stance — something that comes from anti-folk’s punk-like do-it-yourself ethos — has softened in recent years. And regardless of what the tour and the films do for Flynn’s career, there’s one thing he’s planning to keep constant in both his music and acting.

“Whether or not we get known,” he says of his band, “the thing I’ve worked quite hard at is taking each thing really seriously.”

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; Sun., 8:30 p.m., sold out; 202-483-5000. (U Street)



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Christina Cauterucci · January 16, 2014