All of 24 years old, singer-songwriter Bobby Long owes his recent surge in popularity to about the most modern phenomenon there is. After striking up a friendship with actor and aspiring musician Robert Pattinson through various London open-mike nights, Pattinson performed a song he and Long co-wrote, "Let Me Sign," in 2008's Twilight, which you may have heard of and possibly even seen.
However, Long's tastes go back a little further than Twilight soundtrack stars like Paramore, Band of Skulls and Grizzly Bear. He's fond of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Jeff Buckley, and it shows on the introspective balladry of his albums Dirty Pond Songs and Dangerous Summer Tour. (A new one is in the works.)
Chatter caught up with a sleepy-sounding Long from his hotel room in New York last week. It was a day off, but the weather was so miserable the Wigan native (near Manchester) figured it was going to be a "film day."
Chatter: Are old blues and country records easy to find in England?
Bobby Long: Not really. The market is saturated with a lot of shit, a lot of pop bands. There's a lot of those on the shelf, but you can always go into a secondhand store and some guy will have dropped a George Jones record and you can get it for two pounds.
C: Your music has been likened to Kings of Leon some. How do you feel about that?
BL: It makes me a bit uncomfortable. I've got a couple of their early records, but I'm not really taken with their newer stuff. I share the same agent, and their story's amazing. They're from the South, and the core of what they do is the blues too, especially the early records. People's interpretations are always going to be different. It's just weird.
C: Do you prefer playing solo or with a group?
BL: I go through stages. I'm going out with Rodrigo y Gabriela on my own, and I'm really looking forward to it. I haven't done it for a while. But I like playing with a band. It's nice to be onstage and have yourself masked a little bit by drums or guitars. It feels more expressive. It's nice to have people on the road with you as well. You get lonely and bored on your own.
C: Do you find your older style goes over fairly well with people your age?
BL: Yeah. In London there's a big folk scene happening. It's cool to play lap steel, banjo and mandolin now. I think it's great, but I haven't had anything to do with what's happening there. I've always kept myself to myself. It resonates with a lot of young people now — not as much as in the '60s or '70s, but I think it's definitely on the increase.
C: What's changed the most for you since your song was in Twilight?
BL: I think having an audience. [Before the film] things were starting to move for me a little bit, I was starting to play bigger places. I don't have a part-time job anymore. I'm not working in a bar.
Houston's fall outdoor concert season opens next week at not one but two downtown green spaces. Discovery Green's Thursday-evening Capitol One Concert Series returns September 9 with the high-energy Latin fusion of Los Skarnales and Karina Nistal (rescheduled from the spring), with Cyril Neville & Tribe 13 September 16; the Texas Tornados September 23; Wild Moccasins and the Mathletes September 30; and Two Tons of Steel October 14. Additionally, The Houston Sound is presenting concerts in the newly renovated (and now open) Market Square on selected Wednesdays: Soular Grooves and Beetle September 8; Two Star Symphony and Roky Moon & Bolt September 22; Tody Castillo and Black Queen Speaks October 27; and Sarah Sharp and Grandfather Child November 10. All shows are free.
88 E. Crosstimbers, 713-694-6800
1. Fantasia, Back to Me
2. Bun B, Trill OG (regular and screwed versions)
3. Kem, Intimacy
4. Young Jeezy, 1000 Grams
5. Slim Thug, Cleaning Da Vaults
6. Brian Culbertson, XII
7. Lil C Presents H-Town Chronic 4.5
8. Boss Hogg Outlawz, Still On Da Grind 2K10
9. Forever Jones, Get Ready
10. Swisha House, Highly Addictive
Wide Open Spaces
KPFT (90.1 FM), weekdays 10 a.m.-noon
Selections from Roark's August 26 playlist
1. Davin James, "Makes My Living"
2. Greg Brown, "Your Town Now"
3. Shinyribs, "Shores of Galilee"
4. Jimmy Buffett, "Pencil Thin Moustache"
5. John Fogerty, "Garden Party"
6. Cliff Wagner, "Honky Cat"
7. The Blazers, "Going Up the Country"
8. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, "Dixie Chicken"
9. The Leo Trio, "Whispers"
10. Watermelon Slim, "Skinny Women and Fat Cigars"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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