Posted October 17, 2016
It starts with just showing up. Whether he’s penning a poem or writing a new song, the work for Bobby Long begins with the disciplined decision to show up every day. It’s how he’s written a book of poetry and several albums over the last decade. We recently asked him about his latest album, now available for pre-order, and why even he thinks poetry is self-indulgent.
How do you start the process Do you allow it to flow and then you place it later?
I just allow it to flow, to be honest. Obviously you’re influenced by what you’re surrounded by and what you listen to and what you’ve read — whether you like that or not. So in terms of poetry, if I was reading a certain poet’s work or had watched a certain film, it might pop up in the next poem I write, even if it’s something tiny, just like the general pace or mood of it.
For me, it’s all about showing up. Writing is all about showing up. Every time you write, you’re not always going to have something worthy to be published or on an album, but it’s about showing up every day and letting yourself be able to write. Sometimes you don’t even write anything; you just sit there and sit there and sit there. [Laughs]
That’s part of the thing really, the romance of writing. It’s not about feeling waves of inspiration. It’s not about that. It’s just like any job. It’s just showing up and working hard at it and putting the time in. You might throw away what you’ve worked on at the end of the day because it’s nonsense. You might even know it’s nonsense as you’re writing it, but you have to show up. You have to be in the midst of it to get something.
You just mentioned the romance of writing but then gave a very unromantic answer — just do the work. Did you have a more romanticized view when you started 7 or 8 years ago or were you aware of the need for such discipline early on?
Reading quotes from Leonard Cohen and people I loved, they really viewed it as something with a work ethic and structure. My main two things, besides a love for music, were that I didn’t want to wake up early and I didn’t want to wear a uniform. On the writing side, I knew that it wasn’t sitting in a coffee shop and writing, just endless writing and feeling great and constantly impressed with the world. If it was just this inspirational thing, then I knew I wouldn’t be doing it properly. I’d be doing it occasionally.
It’s just like any job, I guess. You have hours to go in, like to a flower store or something. If I just went in once a week, I’d only see the creative parts and it’d feel amazing. But when you go in every day, you see the hard work and you cut your fingers off and the thorns and the customers and the smells that get irritating. That’s life, isnt’ it? [Laughs]
When you put out poetry versus lyrics with music, does one feel more vulnerable than the other?
I don’t know if it’s vulnerable, but I have less of a problem listening to my music with other people in the room than somebody reading it in front of me. We just got a first copy made and I left it on the table in the living room. My friend was reading it and his reaction was great. He picked up a funny poem to read and he was laughing. I was like, “Oh, please don’t do that.” It’s all the same really, but I guess when I’m in the room, poetry feels a bit heavier.
Poetry has a derogatory feel where it can seem pretentious. Wait, it is I guess. [Laughs] You’re writing your feelings down in a book and you’re expecting people to somehow want to read it. That’s a little bit pretentious. It goes along with being a supposed poet. I hate people ever calling me one, really. I don’t want to use the word wanky, but it is a bit frivolous--Read the full interview here...