Interview With Bobby Long On His New Album

Posted by Michael Mueller on February 2, 2011 at 10:47 AM



From the fuzz-drenched album-opening title track to the intimate roll-the-credits closer "A Stranger Song," Bobby Long's new album, A Winter Tale (released Feb. 1), takes you on a journey of heart and soul so complete you're not sure if you should laugh, cry, smile, or do all three at once. Overwhelmingly, visions of a snow-covered countryside observed from the warmth of a roaring fire and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea entered my mind.

Although A Winter Tale is a full-band album, the highlights are often acoustic numbers like "The Bounty of Mary Jane," a haunting acoustic fingerstyle piece that evokes tired eyes and heavy heart driving down the Interstate in the middle of the night, with echoes of Beatles-inspired chord changes spicing up its solid folk foundation. Or "In the Frost," where Long's rural North England roots shine through, not unlike Mark Knopfler's solo material of late. And on "Sick Man Blues," an insistent solo acoustic piece, Long shows  off Long's considerable fingerstyle chops, yet does so without self-indulgence.

We recently had the privilege to talk with Long about his full-length debut.

For a "folk" album, the title track offers up a pretty big fuzz tone riff!
Ed Turner—the electric guitarist we had in the sessions—and I are both big Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi fans, and so is Liam [Watson, producer], who suggested using the distortion on that song. We had been talking about Sabbath in the studio, so we went after a Sabbath-y kind of tone for the guitar.

How did you approach the arrangements in terms of adding a full band to your acoustic beds?
The whole album was recorded live in the studio with the full band. In the morning I'd bring a song in, and we'd work on it for about two hours. We all shared ideas and laid it down, with the producer, Liam Watson, kind of orchestrating it all.

A few songs, like "In the Frost," reminded me of Mark Knopfler. He, like you, is from Northe England and has a great affinity for American folk and blues music.
I love Mark Knopfler and his guitar playing. I was born in the North but left when I was very small. Still, I feel a strong connection to it, because all my family is from there. There's a harshness to the North; it's an industrial kind of place. But there's a real beauty to it, too. Lyrically, I like to write about it, alongside the influence musically of folk music and blues stuff from America. I definitely feel they're intertwined in my music.

Guitar-wise, what did you learn from doing your first proper studio album?
It was the first time I'd recorded with a full band, so I really had to watch my time. We were doing the first song, and Liam kept focusing on the bass player, saying "No, do this, do that." And after about an hour I was thinking, "Wow, I'm doing great." Then a little later, Liam came in and said, "Actually, Bobby, it's you. You're the one knocking the bass player out. You need to take more care to play with the drummer." And I was just like, "Damn." But after about 20 minutes, I was able to lock in and get it done.