By MICHAEL HIXON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—British singer/songwriter Bobby Long has completed his European tour and will return to the U.S. early in the New Year to promote his latest album, “Ode to Thinking,” which was released earlier this year.
Long recorded his third studio album with little more than his voice and guitar. Producer/musician Mark Hallman, who in his 30-plus year career has worked with Carole King to Ani DiFranco, played the drums, piano, bass guitar and organ, while working on the album at Hallman’s studio in Austin, Texas.
“What you’re hearing is pretty much a live recording,” Long said. “In terms of the songs, I’m trying to say something that’s really important to me, that lyrically I’m trying to put something across and trying to say something, whether it’s some story or expressing myself through words or documenting something, that’s really important to me.”
From his views on politics to relationships, Long considers “Ode to Thinking” his most honest album to date.
“(I’m) getting older and feeling more comfortable expressing myself fully and not hiding behind a wall of metaphor and stuff like that,” said Long about the album, which took him a year to write. “I can be a little more critical and I also have way more to say. I’m more annoyed than I ever have been in my life with what’s happening on a social level, politics … I’m at that stage now where I’m nearing 30, that stuff actually matters now, where maybe when I was 24 I really didn’t venture into that world too much and how it affected me.”
Music, the blues in particular, affected Long growing in near Manchester, England, but he was also influenced by folk and pop, like Bob Dylan and The Beatles, thanks to his father who also played guitar. But Long really didn’t discover playing the guitar until he was 16.
“I was pushed in those areas when I was younger, but I kind of rebelled against music in general, that’s when I started teaching myself guitar,” Long said. “I started writing and singing and I found confidence … it was more of an untapped thing. They all felt pretty natural to me. I’m not the best singer in the world, I’m not the best guitar player in the world, I’m not the best songwriter in the world, but somehow they all felt pretty natural.”
Long studied music for film at London Metropolitan University. At open-mic nights he polished his guitar playing and worked on his singing. He became friends with a pack of actors and musicians, which eventually led to his big break. He met singer/songwriter Marcus Foster when he first moved to London and he also became friends with songwriter Sam Bradley and aspiring actor Robert Pattinson, who is also a musician and singer, and went to school with Bradley. Long and Foster wrote “Let Me Sign,” which eventually became part of the first “Twilight” film. Pattinson sang the song in the film as well as “Never Think,” which he co-wrote with Bradley.
“It was a really great time and before we knew it, Rob was in that film,” Long said.
Long said he was “hauling ass” playing every night around London when he got that break.
“It happened really innocently,” Long said. “I wrote a song and the song was performed by somebody else in the film. I never played it, but it put me out enough in the shop window that I could continue that hard work under a light rather than in the shadows.”
Long first visited in the U.S. in 2009, where he toured and eventually settled in New York. After signing with ATO Records, he released his first album, “A Winter Tale” in 2011. His follow-up album, “Wishbone,” produced in Los Angeles, was released in 2013. During this time, he also published a book of poetry, “Losing My Brotherhood,” in 2012.
Long performed 200 shows a year for several years, but now he’s more selective about when and where he performs.
“I’m always surprised how much I enjoy it and how much I can put up with and the amount of time I can be gone … I look forward to it,” he said. “Some people, all they want to do is tour. For me, I really love the writing and making demos and trying to write songs, that’s where my real love comes. On a good day, it’s the best thing in the world. On a bad day, I maybe have a little less patience … but I still feel very lucky to do it and I definitely value it, just as important as writing a song.”
For more information about musician Bobby Long, visit musicbobbylong.com.