British singer-songwriter Bobby Long is adding ‘author’ to his list of descriptive hyphenates with the publication of his first collection of poetry entitled LOSING MY BROTHERHOOD. The book is published by SGO Music Publishing and will be available via amazon and other publishing retailers.
Long began compiling the volume last year while touring in support of his debut album, A WINTER TALE. “I was on the road for four months straight, basically in the back of a van, and I got sick of playing with my phone and playing with my laptop, and I decided to go for it fully,” he says. “I would write every morning, and then go for coffee for a break, and I took a really disciplined stance to it. When I got home, sometimes I wouldn’t leave my apartment all day and just write. The discipline aspect allowed me to separate the poems from my music.”
The provocative collection delves into various universal themes, among them love, desire and disappointment with a healthy dose of memory and reflection. The title stems from Long’s realization of what he left behind when he abruptly moved from London to New York to pursue his music career in 2010. “I left my family and my friends, and I just went and didn’t really say good-bye to anyone,” he recalls. “‘Losing My Brotherhood’ refers to a specific group of three close friends who I lived with in London for four years and shared everything with, and who I don’t get a chance to see anymore. We were like brothers, but I know that time is now over. It’s a tribute, really.”
One of those three friends is artist and musician Ben Edge, who contributed the 15 bold pen and ink drawings that illustrate the book. “We always wanted to work on something together,” says Long, “and this was the perfect opportunity. I sent him the poems, and he drew the illustrations free hand.”
Born near Manchester in Wigan (of George Orwell fame), Bobby Long grew up in a small town in Wiltshire, a setting for another of Britain’s revered writers, Thomas Hardy. Although he has been writing poetry and prose since the age of 12, becoming a writer was not pre-ordained. A poor student who struggled at school, he felt like an outsider until an astute teacher recognized his learning deficits and helped him to discover the joy of reading. “I never kept a journal or a diary, just lines on little slips of paper, words on a page,” he explains. “I never told anyone at school that I wrote, or I would have been beaten up. At the start, it was more of an expressive thing. I was a dreamer, and I would get lost in my own imagination. Now, I try to write something every day.”
A number of the poems in LOSING MY BROTHERHOOD
deal with memories of childhood and growing up in rural England. “I wrote most of those poems while I was on tour in Australia at Byron Bay,” Long recalls. “I was there on a beautiful day and didn’t want to go swimming alone-I actually didn’t like being on my own there at all. Sometimes it’s hard to get away from your surroundings, but I wrote five different poems that day. I went far deeper in the poems than I do in my songs. I often write from the passenger seat as an observer. The poems are far more personal, with no guitar to hide behind.”
At 18, Long moved to London to attend university, graduating with a degree in sound and media for film. He quickly established himself as a musician on the local open mic circuit, finding his voice and creating songs characterized by catchy melodies paired with elusive, imaginative lyrics. There he met a circle of fellow musicians, among them the brotherhood of the book’s title.
In 2009, after amassing a loyal fan base for his music, America beckoned, and following nearly a year of touring, Bobby relocated to New York City, which became a new muse for his writing. “I feel more at home in New York than I have anywhere else,” says the 26-year-old, who incorporates the city’s sights, streets, sounds and smells into several of his poems. “I have a comfortable life where I can express myself on a full time basis and make a living at it. It’s very different from my life in England.”
The cover of LOSING MY BROTHERHOOD (designed by Tim McCarthy) features a photograph entitled Four Mennonite Farmers by New York-based photographer William Waldron (williamwaldron.com). Says Long: “It’s four farmers, each with different hats on, all looking in different directions. I thought that it depicted me and my three friends, and it felt like it was vast and never-ending. I contacted the photographer’s manager to ask if I could use it.”
Long’s deft songwriting skills have amassed critical acclaim, the Los Angeles Times, for example, stating “his tunes are sturdy, but graceful, like the curve of something hand-carved.” “Raw,” “organic,” “earnest,” “romantic” and “poignant” are among the adjectives used to describe his songs, many of which can also be applied to his poetry.
Long’s own tastes in poetry range widely from Pablo Neruda and Dylan Thomas to Féderico García Lorca and Leonard Cohen. The book includes a poem dedicated to Mr. Cohen, who began his own career writing poetry before turning to songwriting and performing. While LOSING MY BROTHERHOOD is Long’s newest project, he isn’t planning to incorporate poetry into his musical performances. “They are two separate things,” he says. “The book is a very personal thing.”
Bobby Long has just completed the recording of his second album of original material, produced in Los Angeles by Ted Hutt (Flogging Molly, Gaslight Anthem, Old Crow Medicine Show). It is slated for release by ATO Records in the fall. Long is currently on tour opening for Steve Winwood and will announce summer concert plans shortly as well as fall tour dates in support of his forthcoming album.