There are a great many artists that have gained some success by discovering something that the listeners like and go with that on every project. Bobby Long is not one of those artists. His lyrics are deep and full of imagery combined with an amazingly listenable voice and musical mastery. His work is a combination of powerful songs singer-songwriter acoustic based music, to rockin’ band band performances. He is indeed an artist in every sense of the word and a very kind and generous man. Here is my interview with Bobby Long.
I usually start with ‘Give us a bit of your history.” But I think I will not ask that of you , of any artist I have ever chatted with your work reveals the man. So instead I will ask a question more to your shining ‘present’. What events happened in your life to have you be the person you are now?
I think I was raised by my parents to work hard and seeing them work hard every day put something in me. I find it hard to sit still and feel guilty if I’m not working on something. Musically, every time I see a great band or even a bad band sweating on stage trying to connect and create something, I want to make music.
You finished up a tour on August 23 and you are hot into writing and preparing to record another CD. You are certainly one of the hardest working people I have chatted with. Thanks for taking the time to share a bit. What compels you to work as hard as you do?
I just wanting to make a catalogue of music people would be into and that will reflect me. I feel that I’m constantly growing and changing, and the only way to reflect that is to have lots of my work available. It’s also a need for me to sing newer songs and write them so I feel fresh with what I’m doing.
I sat for several rich and enjoyable hours listening to ‘A Winter Tale’ and ‘Wishbone,’ the first having an acoustic-folk vibe with wonderful country and rock colorings, the second with a rock context with lovely acoustic-folk colorings. In each, there is great writing and your remarkable sandpaper-silk vocals. It was certainly startling when, after listening to ‘A Winter Tale’ to hear the first notes on ‘Wishbone’ – and, for me, courageous. Tell us of your vision and the decisions you made for these two projects.
On the first record, the idea was to capture the songs live and as naturally as possible with my acoustic guitar as the driving force. On the second record, I was trying to make it sound like a band and to be a bit more clinical in its sound and song structuring, etc. I just think it’s important to keep changing and evolving. I got to work with two of the best producers in the game in Ted Hutt and Liam Watson, and they have their own ideas, and the albums reflect that too.
After I listened, I noted that your website posts your lyrics. I read them all – but found myself engaged, entranced and enjoying them as poetry. Of interest to the readers, I’m sure, is that you wrote a book of poetry. Being a poet/singer/songwriter myself, I was of course incredibly pleased. Is there a difference in the way you come to writing poetry and the way you come to writing lyrics?
I guess they come from the same place, but I find that I have either the need to write one or the other. I loved doing the book, and I’m incredibly proud of what I did and I really want to do another soon. However, as of now, I’m back with the songs so the books have to wait.
What has to be in a Bobby Long song?
I don’t know really. Sometimes I feel like I wish I could take myself out of the picture because I’m not a good judge of my songs. I think that I feel I have a responsibility to tell or say something and to display myself within it.
You have released 5 CD projects – that is a great deal of creative work in a short amount of time. Your blog entries tell of you as a person who takes on your ‘job’ in a very workman-like manner. Are you compelled to write and perform?
Yes, absolutely. I feel more like I have to perform and write songs to keep myself central and in check. They’re my two favorite things to do, and I care about them more than anything.
My favorite, okay some of my favorite, songs are those you do that are ‘scene and emotion rich’ songs about war, subject matter that is very much a part of folk and Americana music tradition, as in ‘Two Years Old’ on ‘A Winter Tale.’ What is the fascination?
I guess I like the visual romanticism of being an old soldier in the trenches or holding a flag on a horse playing a bugle. Also, because I could never be one and don’t have it in me. I actually abhor violence and guns so much, but that stupid childish romanticism always pops in my head. The kind of romanticism where no one dies and everyone goes home. I actually got taken as a kid to endless World War 2 grave sites so I feel I have an understanding and a historical knowledge of the awfulness of war, and the pain and suffering too so I write about the romanticism of being an old soldier and the awful nature of the wars they fight.
You perform with a band and you perform solo. Is there a difference in the way you prepare and come to a recording project or the stage? To you personally – what are the merits of both?
Well, playing solo you have huge freedom, and I love that. Playing with the band you have the drums that more easily catch attention and imagination. I love both and feel lucky that I can do both.
For our singer-songwriter readers – would you give us a mini-workshop of your process of writing a song – getting it to the studio, to having the song in the can and ready to release to the public?
Well, I feel like I am always writing and have producer friends and wonderful musicians who are always willing to play so the hard part is financing it. That is the massive problem nearly every musician stumbles across. The industry is kind of on its ass and that’s not something to complain about—it’s reality. So basically writing your songs and playing them live to a point of being ready to record is your job. The other stuff is dependent often on favors and having money to do it.
Do you write differently for a band cut than you write for a song you intend to perform solo?
Often you just write songs that you like and apply it to whatever context you think will work best.
Here is the question I always ask; because it is a question I have asked myself over and over in my performing life. How do you see yourself as an artist?
As a growing one who is trying to write better songs and work.
How do you believe your fans see you?
Hopefully, as someone who loves music and is honest and sticks to his own road.
Is there something your fans and new fans don’t know about you that needs to be said?
Hopefully, there is a lot of stuff they don’t know that they can find out over time. You gotta have some mystery as a songwriter. I think Dylan said that.
What’s coming up for the amazing Bobby Long that we need to know about?
Making a new record and booking more shows!
That is something we all can look forward to. Thank you Bobby for a delightful chat; you most certainly have a fan in me.
Thanks so much
Photography by Sharon Weisz, ‘Wishbone’ cover image by Eric Ryan Anderson
All photographs and images were provided by the artist or the artist’s representative.
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