New York-based British singer/songwriter and poet Bobby Long is a wordsmith. His second collection of poetry, “Losing My Mysery,” published in January, and he’s currently touring to support his latest album, “Ode to Thinking”
Long, known for being a versatile talent and engaging folk performer, will be at 116 E. Mobile on Friday night. Tickets are $10, $8 for students, and are available at 116mobile.com or available the night of the show unless it sells out. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 8 p.m.
Long recently took time to answer a few questions by phone.
TimesDaily: Have you been writing poetry since you were 11 years old?
Long: Yes. It was nothing too serious, but as a kid, I was really into this one writer and poet. He’s actually a comedic writer. He used to write these funny little kid’s poems. His name is Spike Milligan. I can’t remember any of them off the top of my head, but they’re all funny. I had that poetry book as a kid so I liked writing those. I was always kind of interested in that, I guess — quietly.
TimesDaily: Did writing come naturally for you even as a young boy?
Long: I wouldn’t say naturally. I just liked the way words look on a page. I like rhyming and everything else.
TmesDaily: Did you also discover music as a young boy?
Long: Yeah, I did. I come from a musical family. My mom forced me to play cello as a kid. I really didn’t want to play it, but she said that it would be a good idea. She would drag me along to her singings — when she did little concerts and stuff like that — I would play guitar.
TimesDaily: What was it that shifted you from writing poetry into writing lyrics and putting them to music?
Long: I love guitar. I just really wanted to play guitar. I'm not much of a sharer, so when I started playing with loads of other people at my school who were also playing guitar and we started making bands — I played in a band for a while — I just couldn’t do it. It was so difficult to get five people in a room and agree on a lyric line or even what kind of music we were going to play. I just had to start writing my own songs. I was about 16 or 17 at the time. I really love writing songs. It’s my favorite thing.
TimesDaily: In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you are a published poet. Do you go into writing lyrics differently from writing a poem?
Long: I’ll either be writing one or the other. I don’t necessarily write a lot of poetry when I’m not writing toward a book. Having the target of a book helps with the discipline of it. When I’m writing an album, that’s when I’m focusing on writing songs.
TimesDaily: As you’ve chosen both being a singer/songwriter and a poet as career paths, has the writing become two different animals?
Long: It’s all about discipline really. I want to get to the fruit, the core, to the goodness, as quickly as possible. If I just constantly splurt, like oh OK, I’m just going to fill up a notebook then decide what goes where — I’m going write a lot of rubbish. If I’m like, OK, I’m writing toward a book now, I’m more concise and I focus on poetry for a month. Or, if I’m going to write an album, I focus on that. I feel like I write better that way. I treat it more like a job, I guess.
TimesDaily: Did moving to New York City change you as an artist?
Long: I think so. New York felt like home from the first time I went there. I feel comfortable. It’s an inspiring place.You feel like you’re in the center of the tornado. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. There are things happening around you all the time. I like that feeling. I feel like I’m in the center of the universe. I don’t have to search too hard for anything, which is great.
TimesDaily: What are some of your musical influences?
Long: There’s loads of stuff. I love the Beatles and Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith. I love Black Sabbath. There are so many. Right now, I’m listening to ELO and early Pink Floyd. I love so many different kinds of music really. I like a lot from the 1960s and 1970s. I do like a lot of blues stuff, too. I’m just like you, probably.
TimesDaily: Have you been to Alabama before?
Long: I have, yeah. I’ve stayed with friends in Muscle Shoals. I played in Birmingham, Alabama, which was great.
TimesDaily: Have you been influenced by Muscle Shoals music?
Long: Definitely. I think even without knowing it, because of the records that were made there. I’ve watched the documentary, and it’s obviously an important place. It’s historic to American music. It’s kind of crazy the stuff that has come out of there.
TimesDaily: They say there’s something in the water here — that it’s all about the magic of the singing river.
Long: Yeah, I’ve heard that. There’s definitely something in the air there.
TimesDaily: 116 E. Mobile — where you’re playing Friday night — is a small venue. Do you prefer to play in small venues?
Long: I like all size venues. Since I haven’t played in that area a whole bunch, I’m going to play a smaller venue. It wouldn’t make sense for me to play a larger venue. I just like when people come watch me play whether it's a small venue, medium size or huge venue. There are benefits to the small venues. In a small venue, you don’t have to work too hard to make it seem intimate. The bigger venues have benefits, too, but you don’t quite get that intimacy.
TimesDaily: Have you finished working on your fourth album? What’s next for you?
Long: I’m three quarters of the way through working on the fourth record. I’m going on tour in May all around Europe. I’m just doing dates here and there now. Hopefully, my new record should be released at the end of this year or early next year. Then I’ll be back on tour probably.