Once upon a time he was a vague twinkle in a Twilight fan's eye. Already proving that he is more than just a cameo in a hugely successful movie franchise, it was only a matter of time before Bobby Long stepped out of their shadows and starred as the main protagonist in his own show.
"God bless Bobby Long" mused the lead vocalist of Ivan and Alyosha as he peered into an audience made up almost entirely of women. Warming up the crowd at a recent performance at the Bowery Ballroom, New York, he sounded out loud what everyone else was thinking. Bobby Long's appeal as a twenty something singer songwriter, with a charming demeanor and nice hair to boot, had not gone unnoticed.
Shyly gracing the stage with a guitar solo alongside his second warm up band, Taurus, his modesty is a welcome breath of fresh air for an artist of his caliber. Looking like he was born to perform it is hard to imagine that he ever gets nervous, despite telling Joonbug about his pre-performance jitters; "It's an intertwined web full of nerves and worry before a show".
The audience doesn't appear to notice. Once on stage, Long whisks them away on a whimsical folk adventure, enhanced by lyrics such as; "I've already had the neighbors here/ Johnny Cash came round we split a beer" from his track 'Dead and Done'. He rhymes his narrative ballads with precision and care and it is apparent that his early blues influences are deep set. They run amok via a voice and style so raw that it feels vaguely reminiscent of something that you might have heard before. If you hailed from the Deep South circa 1930, then you might have.
In addition to dusting his compositions with captivating stories, Bobby Long also has a poetic flair that shines through in his arrangements. His penchant for combining ethos inducing lyrics with cleverly synced guitar playing accumulates into a concoction that silences the audience until all you can hear is a collection of irregular heartbeats.
Joonbug caught up with the man being branded the "New Dylan" to find out more about his influences, his album and his upcoming tour. Polite and soft-spoken, it's difficult to attribute the gravelly trademark voice to the same man. We promise you that it was:
Your debut album, A Winter Tale was released in February. It was quite a long time coming, how did it all come together?
I guess it was kind of a long time coming in terms of, I was on tour for a year a half first, but it was all deliberate if you know what I mean, it was planned. It wasn't like it was held up by anything. I was looking for places to record and then one of my friends was recording with Liam Watson, who is great, and I met him and got to hang out with him and then basically organized going in there just to play some basic demo stuff really. I went in on my own and did like twenty tracks; we got on really well and like a lot of the same music. Then basically that went well and I asked him to put together a band to record with, as I wanted to record with a band and it was time for me to start thinking about the album. This was probably about a year ago now, and then I had four days or so planned in between some tours. I went in there and we recorded five tracks and it went really well and then basically it just happened. Then we booked more and more time and we recorded eighteen songs and then chose eleven for the album. That was it basically, it just kind of took off and it was great working with him and the musicians were incredible that he put together too.
The album has been described as quite an emotional one, is there anything in particular that has contributed to the theme of the songs that you have written?
Not really, I think with the songs that I am writing at the moment, because I am kind of writing the second record, I think there will be more of a theme because it is over more of a concise period, or it will be over a more concise period of writing, but with that there were some older songs which were a year and a half old and some newer songs, so a wide range of different things flowing through it. I wanted it to be fairly, I don't want to say intense, but I wanted it to be fairly one on one, if you know what I mean. I wanted the main focus to be kind of my voice, the guitar, and the listener and for everything else to be kind of silhouetting it, alongside it, basically. But there wasn't one precise thing, if you know what I mean.
Has there been anything that has influenced the blues sound on the album?
I really like blues stuff, a lot. Whether its rock and roll bands who were influenced by the blues like Zeppelin, the Stones or like Canned Heat and bands like that. I really like Albert King and BB King and Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, Ed Bell and Howlin' Wolf and I think it was just something that just crept in for me, always being into the blues and all that kind of stuff.
What is the best performance that you have seen live yourself?
I don't know; I saw Neil Young play and I thought that was incredible. I have been lucky to see some really cool bands, Neil Young was incredible and Leonard Cohen was really incredible when I saw him. Arcade Fire too.
You've got quite a busy schedule lined up, but how have you found the feedback from your shows so far?
Yeah, they've been great, they've been really great. It's really important we put on a good show and make sure that when people come out that are investing their money in something that they're going to enjoy. It's been really good. I've had some really good feedback and people have really liked it so I'm really really pleased about that.
Is there anywhere in particular you're looking forward to going on your tour
Pittsburgh is always cool; it's always cool playing there. I'm looking forward to going back to Nashville; I haven't played there for about a year. There is [a good sound there] especially all the old stuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams stuff that I am really into so it's always cool to play within the mix of that. It's not really there anymore but the memories and stuff are still there.
You're also playing the SXSW Festival as well, do you prefer playing festivals or do you prefer playing gigs?
I enjoy doing a little bit of both; I played at the Mile High Festival in Denver which was great. It was a lot of fun and was quite a big production and then I played SXSW last year which was more kind of hands on and can mix with musicians which is great, you get to watch other bands. Everything in moderation. I like doing my own shows the most I think, because you have control and you can choose what songs to play and how long you want to play for.
Who is the best support band you have ever had?
I'm not sure, I can't pick that one out. Often than not, I'm the one doing the supporting, so it's tough. It's hard being a support band. I don't know I've had a lot, Taurus maybe? Were great, I really like them, there's a lot.
How about the best musician you have ever supported?
I enjoyed being on tour with Michael Franti, musically kind of we're very very different but he was a really nice guy and so was his band. I really enjoyed supporting Rodrigo and Gabriela a lot. They would probably take my pick because I like their music and I think they put on a great show and it's very very original. That was probably my favorite.
You're from Wigan, but you grew up in London. How do you think growing up with the London music scene has impacted on your music tastes?
I don't know, I think maybe I was influenced by friends and stuff listening to certain kinds of music that was popular there or had come from there. But nowadays and even when we were probably younger, the music seeped over from all kinds of different places. In the sixties they were listening to blues from America and they were listening to jazz and all this kind of stuff and all those records made it over. I don't think it's quite like that any more being influenced directly by your surroundings. You can access any kind of music you want nowadays, you type in jazz fusion on the internet and you're going to find some bands that you can easily download or listen to online. It's the same with everything else. Unless you do come from an area, like when I was living in London, the whole punk scene I really got into. Which was a big deal back then, I had friends in punk bands and we used to go to this place called 'Dirty Water Club' and watch loads of old punk bands play and I was influenced by that. I guess that was the closest thing I have to be influenced directly by my surroundings.
You did your thesis on American Folk Music, what was the reason behind choosing this? Is this one of your favorite genres?
I just think it was just on my mind that day. I guess it is one of my favorite genres at that time and in terms of tying it in with something that was happening in society, they were side by side for a very short period of time and it seemed like a good thing to write about. But I definitely do like that period and I found it interesting.
Are there any current bands that you are following?
There is a lot of different people I listen to. Bands like Taurus, Chis Morrissey's band, my bass player, I really really like and the Madison Square Gardener's too, and another of my friend's bands called Mother Feather who are really really really cool and put on a great show. There is a whole lot of people, and I played with the Secret Sisters' too who are really really great singers. There's a whole bunch of good music out there.
You're spending a lot of time in New York. How do you think the music scene differs there?
I think it is incredibly strong, I actually think it is stronger here than anywhere else I've ever been. I think I've luckily fallen into some good friends and stuff and I've found some good places to go. I just think there's more of those good places in New York, with good music and there is not a snobbishness with the musicians at all and just incredible musicians who play. I watched this band play last night and the drummer was playing with the Allman Brothers earlier on and has just come down to play at this bar for fun, that is so cool and very rare and they all hang out together. There is a really nice community feel and I feel they have that in New York, with the kind of music that I listen to anyway. I never quite found that in London so I'm very impressed by New York.
What is your favorite venue in New York?
I like a lot. I like the Mercury Lounge, and places where I used to play a lot, the Rockwood too but I think probably the Bowery Ballroom. I played there last and it was just a really cool venue and it sounds great on stage. The people that work there are nice and absolute professionals so it's really easy playing there. A lot of great people have played there too.
Anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I think I would like to may be do, there is a singer who sang on my record, there are two actually! There's one called Nona Hendryx who's done it all and doesn't need to do anything for the rest of her life because she has been there and done it, sang with all the best people and she used to be in LaBelle and has her own solo thing. I would just love to play guitar, do a little soul album with her, with me and my friends playing. I would just play guitar and be her band on a little tour, because she's just an incredible performer. She sings on 'Penance Fire Blues' and I've always just killed it and so happy she's on there, but incredibly insecure when I hear my voice up against hers because she's so amazing. And then there's another singer called Lay Low who sings on the record, she sings on 'Being a Mockingbird' and another track and I would love to, I thought our voices went well together, and I would love to do an old country record with her. Just singing duets, she's great in her own right and has a really good album called 'Farewell Goodnight Sleep' and I was really lucky to have her play on that. So I would like to work with those two, I think it would be just a lot of fun.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully five albums deep, and hopefully living in New York still, that would be great. Hopefully just hanging out with my friends and touring and having a good time. And having read some good books and listened to some good music and some good shows I guess.
How much does it annoy you when you get asked a question about Robert Pattinson?
[Laughs] It doesn't happen all that often anymore, but I suppose people have to do their jobs I guess.
Do you ever get nervous before performing?
Yeah every time I do. Like doing one off shows I find really difficult because it bothers me the whole day you know, I feel nervous the whole day. Yeah I do all the time and sometimes for the bigger shows I don't and then I get nervous that I'm not. It's all an intertwined web full of nerves and worry before a show. But once I get up there, after a little while I start to feel kind of, just slightly looser.
Do you have any really bad habits?
Yeah! I smoke, stay out late, I'm fairly intense with stuff. If I'm doing something I do it. If I play football I play for six hours, I play until I can't move my legs anymore. If I'm eating, I'll eat until I can't walk. I just throw myself into things, which doesn't often leave much time for anything else, or for anyone else. Which isn't good sometimes.
You get quite a lot of feedback on your Facebook and Twitter, do you read them?
Yeah sometimes I do, not a whole bunch but sometimes, yeah. Like once a week I scan over some of them, I think sometimes people think that I don't really, but sometimes I do and I see things on there that people have said that they obviously haven't intended me to see. Something about "Oh, I tried to lick his face" and I find that funny because they truly think I live in a cave. If everyone can see this then I can see this, I haven't got a separate, you know, I own a laptop and my friends do! But I do sometimes. It's nice to get good feedback and it's nice to see what some people are [saying]. I've got a lot of nice people who are supporting me so it's nice to go on there occasionally and respond to some.
His debut album, A Winter Tale is already held in high regard worldwide and his live performances are already being critically acclaimed.
There is still a chance to see the magic happen for yourself; click here to be taken to his website for a list of his upcoming tour dates.