Singer-songwriter Bobby Long still doesn’t quite know what hit him. One minute he’s making the rounds of open mic nights in London testing out his original material in front of generally ambivalent audiences, and the next he’s selling out club dates in far-off America. Pretty heady stuff for a 24-year-old who only began writing and performing six years ago and whose most recent goal was to graduate from college.
While his meteoric rise to instant recognition can be attributed to the inclusion of a song he co-wrote in the soundtrack of the blockbuster film “Twilight,” Bobby Long’s music has a way of rising above the film frenzy and speaking volumes to a receptive flock. “There’s something about his humble, apologetic humor that endears him to audiences, and something about the honesty and vulnerability of his music that captivates and moves them as well,” wrote Liz McClendon in Blast Magazine of one of those early club appearances in New York City. “The contrast in the two makes for an absolutely great performance.”
Bobby Long was born in Wigan, near Manchester in Northern England (“into a red house,” he says) and moved when he was two years old to the town of Calne in the countryside of South West England known as Wessex (think Thomas Hardy country). His musical parents provided a constant flow of music in the house, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the blues. “I’ve always loved music, but it didn’t start to hit me how much I loved it until I was about 16 and was given a guitar and started writing songs,” he recalls. Playing along to old blues records, Bobby, who had tried cello at an early age, fell in love with the guitar and quickly joined a local grunge band, playing lead guitar.
A short time later, he began writing his first songs (“they were rubbish,” he says), and after completing his studies at 18, Bobby moved into a friend’s house for a year, working on a construction site to save up for a move to the big city. He enrolled at London Metropolitan University, settling in a small apartment in east London, where he quickly became a regular on the open mic circuit. Often playing five shows a week, he learned how to sing while showcasing his finely-crafted, original songs. At one such appearance, he met his soon-to-be manager Phil Taylor as well as fellow musicians Marcus Foster and soon to become mega-acting star Robert Pattinson.
“I was playing open mic nights in London, and he [Pattinson] was playing at one too,” recalls Long. “There was a mutual appreciation for our music.” Long and Foster began to write songs and perform together, and it would be a song they co-wrote—coupled with their friendship with Pattinson—that would create the unforeseen break Bobby was working towards. Pattinson, who went on to star as Edward Cullen in the film phenomenon “Twilight,” played Long and Foster’s composition “Let Me Sign” for the film’s producers. It was the perfect fit for a crucial dramatic scene and is sung by Pattinson himself in the movie.
Almost immediately, some of that (twi) light began to shine on the music of the unsigned musicians who had composed the song, and their shows in London began to sell out. Within two months, Long signed a publishing deal with SGO Music in England and Bug Music, the largest independent publisher in America, and made plans to capitalize on the huge interest coming from America by scheduling a short tour in April, 2009 that took him to New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.
Fueled by the support from “Twilight” fan sites, the nine scheduled shows quickly sold out and spawned interest in his two-month Dangerous Summer tour of North America. He issued DIRTY POND SONGS, a collection of 10 songs recorded in his bedroom that he calls “a big EP,” (“You can even hear traffic sounds from outside my bedroom window on some of the tracks”) to be available at shows and via the internet. Bobby’s debut single from the collection, “Left To Lie, reached #1 on the iTunes “Unsigned” chart and #8 on the Folk chart. Other songs on Dirty Pond Songs include the plaintive “Who Have You Been Loving” (“When the world holds out its flag/the sun will fall across the plain/I will hold out my hands and take the blame”) and the anthemic “Dead and Done,” while the haunting imagery of songs like “Being a Mockingbird,” “The Old Shamed Face” and “The Bounty of Mary Jane” showcase Long’s talent for telling a good story in song. “A Passing Tale” evokes images of early Bob Dylan, while “Penance Fire Blues” is performed with near defiance. Rounding out the set are “The Rattle and the Roll” and “So Tear Me Up.”
The tall (6’2”), shaggy-haired Bobby, who cites his influences as ranging “from Dylan to Elliott Smith to chopping wood in the night with a rusty spoon,” graduated from university before the summer tour and will continue touring until the end of the year. “I would be happy to play every night and try out new songs,” he says. “It will help me start thinking about what I want my first album to sound like.” He plans to begin work on that project very soon.
That demand has spawned a fall tour beginning next week in New York to continue until the end of the year. Bobby Long will play the B-Side Lounge in Boulder for the first time on Tuesday, November 17 and return to the Hi-Dive in Denver on Wednesday, November 18.