Audio and Video by Ehud Lazin
Posted February 4, 2019
Bobby Long sits down for a One On One Session at City Winery New York on January 22nd, 2019.
Songwriting has always been a soul-baring exercise for British singer-songwriter Bobby Long. From the dark themes of his earliest work through to the thought-provoking subject matter he has traversed since then, his body of work is at its core captivating and emotionally raw. Whether mining the depths of despair and alienation or exploring spirituality, apathy and even more mundane topics like love and passion, his songs are word pictures that transfix and transport.
For his fourth album, Sultans, Long has chosen a somewhat different approach, from conceptualization through the recording process itself. Rather than working within the confines of a producer’s tight schedule, he chose to work with multi-instrumentalist and close friend Jack Dawson, with whom he had toured and collaborated on the 2012 EP The Backing Singer, and they took their time. “Usually with other producers I have worked with, we would meet just before recording. The relationship blossoms just as we record and work together, and by the end, we are really close. With this album, working with Jack especially, the friendship was already so deep, and there isn't another musician I have played with as much as Jack, so everything was intertwined.”
The trio recorded at Lindsay’s Country Club Studio in Brooklyn over a one year period. “We became a little band during the recording,” says Long. “I played guitar and sang, Dave played drums and Jack played bass. We basically recorded those parts as a band live. We would jam songs out and work things out. We then built the song up by adding parts and using other musicians/magicians to play different instruments. Having the record based around the natural feel of a live performance really added a human element to the album and set the earthy feel, which I really felt was important. As much as I wanted to experiment and feel the freedom to add anything and everything, we all felt it was incredibly important to stay true to our own playing and build from there. Just like the Beatles would have done.”
Sultans takes its name from the first and last tracks on the album—essentially “Sultans Part 1” and “Sultans Part 2.” “It was a song that was originally just drums, ukulele and a sample that Jack gravitated towards,” Bobby explains. “I feel it sets the tone for the entire album and ends it quite nicely as well. We were obviously inspired by Sgt. Pepper when coming up with the idea of the same start and end point. It gives the album a concept, and although the songs are quite similar, there are differences in dynamics and playfulness.
In between albums, he channels his writing skills into poetry and has now published two volumes of his work, Losing My Brotherhood (2012) and Losing My Misery (2016). For Losing My Misery he also created the original illustrations. “I feel like a better songwriter after I write poetry,” he says. As for another book, he says, “I have a few things I’m stuck with or half way through. Sometimes you’ve got to wait for a bit of inspiration or timing.” Sultans represents Bobby Long’s continuation of his commitment to creating music that both challenges and entertains. “It’s about the whole body of work for me. It’s all part of the greater. I don’t think you can define anyone by one album. I certainly cannot. The good, bad, successful, underappreciated--it doesn’t matter. It’s about expressing yourself and feeling better for it. I want to do many more albums…no matter what.”