On an April night in 2011, people gathered at a music venue in Birmingham, Alabama to hear the music of a British singer-songwriter. Some people were there for the first time; others were seasoned fans. A then 25-year-old Bobby Long took the stage with only an acoustic guitar and a bunch of compelling original songs and captivated the crowd with both his music and his charm.
That was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Bobby Long in concert. At the time, a song he had co-written was included in the soundtrack of the blockbuster film Twilight, and he had just released his debut album, A Winter Tale. He would continue to make a name for himself as a songwriter to be reckoned with on the release of Wishbone, his second album, in 2013.
Long started to build an audience for his music when he was playing pubs in London while attending University. With his move to the U.S., his fan base has grown steadily as the result of constant touring both in the U.S. and internationally. In 2014, Long took a leap of faith in those fans and turned to PledgeMusic, a crowdfunding site that helps artists raise money for albums, touring and other needs. His third album, Ode to Thinking, was successfully funded by the campaign and was released by Compass Records in 2015. Last year, Long once again turned to his dedicated fans for support for his fourth album, and thanks to them, he is currently recording his new album.
Not only has he found success in his music career, but he has also published two volumes of poetry: Losing My Brotherhood, released in 2012 and his latest book, Losing My Misery, which arrived in December.
I was able to ask Long some questions about his poetry, music and his upcoming album:
Check out Kymber Hill’s interview with Bobby Long below:
KH: You have successfully funded the recording of your next album thanks to a PledgeMusic campaign, which you were also able to do for your most recent album, Ode to Thinking. How does it feel to know that your fans are behind you and this platform to ensure new music is released?
BL: It’s pretty humbling, and it’s so important for my career that I am able to do it. It allows me the luxury of time and to be able to pay people for working on the record with me, which is essential. I have great people working with me on the recording.
KH: It must have taken a huge leap of faith in your fans to get you to try using PledgeMusic the first time around. Were you ever worried that you wouldn’t meet your goal?
BL: Yes, of course. I was really nervous because although I think it’s a great platform and the way of the future, you can never be sure if people will latch on. I think what’s really important is that people who pledged for my album are now looking at other artists in similar situations. People get it and understand what PledgeMusic can do. It’s not a path of desperation or greed; it’s a way to keep music with the people like you and me and away from the money and guys in white sneakers who control the money.
KH: In past interviews, you have mentioned that you were in a rock band when you were younger. You also have mentioned that you weren’t really excited about playing acoustic guitar. What made you switch over from the electric guitar to the acoustic guitar? And do you still try to incorporate electric guitar into your songwriting/performances when possible?
BL: I switched to acoustic guitar because it just fit more with the songs I was writing at the time. I think I was a bit short-sighted back then, and now I really view them as equal options that offer different ways for me to play. On my new record, I’m playing mostly clean electric so it really just varies on the song.
BL: My dad plays guitar and would sing a bunch of songs that were significant to me, and they all came from that era. I think it was the words and the simplicity of the one man and a guitar that had a real effect on me. Being in a band is hard, and you have to find others to work with. I don’t really work well with others so that concept was a big attraction.
KH: You received your degree in Music for Film. Is this something you have been able to apply to a film project, or something you would like to try in the future?
BL: I’ve had songs in films and just recently have written songs for short films, which has been great. I love film so it’s a big thrill being able to lend your music to it.
KH: Ode to Thinking has some songs with political undertones, especially evident now given the deep divisions in the United States and the divisions in the UK that prompted the decision to leave the EU. Do you think your study of American folk music and the impact it had on society helped you develop some of these songs?
BL: I think the spirit of those songs, especially round the civil rights movement, stick with me but I’m not a big protest song guy. Aside from “Strange Fruit” and some Woody Guthrie songs, I’m not someone who will put on a CD of a protest singer. But I think it’s a real art to both nail the message and the music so that both speak to the listener. I’m not sure I can do it. I prefer more subtle songs that leave an air of mystery and interpretation to the listener. Saying that, I do love Rage Against The Machine, and I believed them. I didn’t necessarily believe everything that someone like Joan Baez said. It gets watered down and meaningless after a while.
KH: You’re not only a talented musician with three albums released, you also have released two books of poetry. In your newly released poetry book, Losing My Misery, you include a poem titled “Kill Someone,” which is also a song on your album Ode to Thinking. How do you decide which poem to turn into a song or which song gets added to a poetry book? Does your writing process differ when it comes to songwriting vs. poetry?
BL: Sometimes it’s both, and sometimes it’s very obviously one or the other. I wrote that one like a machine gun, and it came falling out of me, and I like both speaking and singing it. When I’m writing music or poetry I tend to have only one hat or the other on at a time, and the separation keeps the other lit and firing.
KH: You are currently working on what will be your fourth album. What can your fans look forward to hearing on this new album?
BL: Hopefully, great songs and sounds. I’m really happy so far, but then I always am. I really like recording, so with every record I’m making, I’m at my happiest musically, but this album feels more personal and of my direct hand than the others. I’m working with one of my best friends, Jack Dawson, and another fine gentlemen called Dave Lindsey, and it’s a co-work-together album. I have written nearly all of the parts, and the better musician of the three of us gets to play them.
KH: You are typically easily accessible on social media. Do you feel this has helped to expand your fan base?
BL: Sure. Even though I’m accessible, I’m not active all the time. I have to remind myself to post a picture or check my messages and I should be better at it. It’s a good tool, but if it’s your best way of speaking out or documenting, I think you’ve got to spend longer writing songs.
KH: Many people have credited you and your music as giving them inspiration to follow their dreams or have helped them through a difficult time in life. Do you ever feel any pressure from hearing those remarks from fans?
BL: No, that’s just great. Pressure is having no money and having to provide for your family or being sick. If people feel that way about my songs, then I just feel happy and grateful.
I have never felt any pressure with songs or music, especially writing. It’s my joy and one of the only things I can do naturally without having to analyze too much. Not that it’s always good or even average, but it’s honest and I love it.
KH; You’ve toured all over the world. What has been your favorite experience while touring? Where else would you like to play that you haven’t played before?
BL: I would love to go to South America as I have people in places like Brazil who message me a lot, and they have set up Facebook pages so I would like to visit them.
KH: If you had to suggest one of your songs to someone who has never heard your music before, which song would you suggest as an introduction?
BL: I’d suggest that they to listen to something off my new album that isn’t out yet. But you can pre-order it from PledgeMusic!