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TOSS: Musician Flemingway drops groundbreaking episodic album

BY VEENA RAO

Musician Flemingway has a lot to unravel in his groundbreaking album, “TOSS,” where each song is like an episode of a TV show with a central plot and developing narrative. In this exclusive Q&A, Flemingway details the unique concept of the album and its unconventional release strategy with weekly song drops. He also dives into all that went into the four-and-a-half years that it took to create his glorious masterpiece.

Toss is an “episodic album”. Can you elaborate on this concept? How did you maintain a cohesive storyline while allowing each song to stand on its own?

What I mean when I say episodic album is that each song is like an episode of a TV show. There’s a central plot, and I’m narrating the events as they transpire as the character in “TOSS”. You have to listen to it in chronological order for things to really click. In the early stages of the album, say late 2019, I had a few songs that I’d been working on that I thought were pretty good but nothing extraordinary. As I kept working on those songs and with the inception of a few more, suddenly things started to make sense to me. It was like the songs had come alive and were speaking to each other. And this was in a stage where the album was mostly just music. I could feel that there was a story to be told.

‘Dry My Eyes’ and ‘Louder Than I’ were the most pivotal songs that led to the album becoming what it is. Especially DME. I remember when the idea for ‘Dry My Eyes’ was taking shape, I pretty much knew what the story was going to be. And when I wrote the riff for LTI, I knew that was how I was going to end. By the end of 2020, I had the order set and the silhouette of the songs done. By then I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

The release strategy for Toss is unique, with one song coming out every Friday. What inspired you to present the album in a serialized format?

Firstly, I wanted the release process to feel like a season of a TV show. And second, I wanted every song on the record to have its time in the spotlight. I worked to make every song the best it can be, and into what I call a perfect snapshot, so I think giving each song its space gave the fans an easier time digesting the music.

“Fade Away” was chosen as the opener for TOSS. What criteria did you use in selecting the order of the songs, and how does the arrangement contribute to the overall narrative?

I started writing Fade Away in September of 2019. I wrote the initial idea in about 40 minutes, but by then I’d already decided that this was going to be my grand introduction. This was even before I had the whole episodic album concept. It just felt like the beginning of something epic.

The lyrics of Fade Away portray a complex emotional scenario. Could you delve deeper into the inspiration behind the lyrics and the specific emotions you aimed to convey through the track?

T’was a cool September night when I was sitting back, reflecting on the status quo. I had a situation I needed to handle which kept me busy for a while, but it was something I couldn’t speak about. Again, I felt a story begging to be told. So Fade Away was born. It’s about this unique circumstance where you don’t want to lose that fire with somebody but at the same damn time, can’t keep standing there listening to her beat around the bush, so you sing to her in harmony asking her to just say it.

TOSS took over four-and-a-half years to complete. Can you talk about the challenges and rewards of working on a project of this magnitude over an extended period?

Making an album is a lot of work. Making an album on your own is almost too much work. It’s a good thing I love every part of it. There were days I spent 24 hours in the studio and the next day I’d wake up looking forward to spending 25. But for the longest time, I felt like the album would never see the light of day. There was just so much to do, and it had to be done perfectly. In 2021, a technical glitch nearly erased three years of my work. Learning from this, I became obsessive about backups. Despite facing another hard drive loss in 2022, meticulous backups saved the day. When it comes to the rewards of this game, just doing it every single day is a reward in itself. I love this game to its core. Every day I wake up and I can’t wait to get cracking. This is my dream job. And of course, the feeling you get when you literally dream something into reality is second to none. When you’ve been thinking about something for so long and you finally see it materialize, it’s euphoric… I recommend it 😉 And then comes the love from the fans, hearing them sing your lyrics back to you is a magical feeling. I remember when Fade Away came out last year, it was surreal. And when the deluxe edition of “TOSS” came out a few days ago, it was something special, to finally let go of something I’d been holding on to so tightly for so long.

As the sole creator behind TOSS, writing the lyrics, vocals, recording, and production, how do you balance these different aspects of the musical process, and what do you find most fulfilling about having complete creative control?

I’m always looking at the bigger picture. I think it’s something innate. I just do what needs to be done at any given moment. Although I love every piece of the puzzle, I always have the bigger picture in my head and I work accordingly. I love being solely responsible for everything. Having ultimate self-accountability. If things don’t go right, I’ll gladly accept responsibility, assess the road and shift gears. Maybe change vehicles. If things do go right, I’ll gladly accept all the applause.

What messages do you hope listeners will take away from TOSS as a whole?

I hope they toss that damn coin.

It has been your quest to create something different and unique. What sets your album apart from others in the music industry?

The episodic album is definitely a novelty. I look forward to exploring these uncharted waters. And I don’t think I’ve come across an album as eclectic as “TOSS”. I tell people it’s Pop music, but really it’s 4 or 5 different genres that are indispensable to the storyline. For example, the first song ‘Fade Away’ and the last song ‘Louder Than I’ are dramatically different. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they’re from different albums. But once you hear everything in between, it all makes perfect sense.

Listen to TOSS

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