The last time The Daily Times interviewed Bobby Long, in 2011, the British singer-songwriter had just released his debut album, “A Winter Tale,” and couldn’t seem to escape the overwhelming cloud of gray that seemed to follow him.
A lot has changed since then, and Long says he can still feel the desolate cold from time to time, especially in the midst of winter, but takes great pride in his capacity to feel.
“I’m pretty proud of that record — well, I’m proud of all of my records — but to be overwhelmed is an incredible feeling,” he said.
Still, Long seeks to grow past that first record and the chill of the cold to conquer an array of new sounds and concepts.
“I definitely don’t want to make the same album twice or sing about the same things over and over,” he explained. “Obviously some things will pop up, but I’m starting to work out how to say what I need to say in an easier way.”
In the years since “A Winter Tale,” Long has played numerous high-profile festivals, including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Bamboozle, and has released two more albums — “Wishbone” in 2013 and “Ode To Thinking” in 2015 — and most recently, a limited edition vinyl release of “Ode To Thinking,” titled “Ode.”
On “Ode To Thinking,” released last August by Nashville-based Compass Records, Long said he took a very personal approach, voicing his own social commentaries and responding to his surroundings.
“It’s more personal than anything I’ve ever written,” he said. “I’m trying to put myself on paper, if that makes sense.”
Described by Long as “a collection and B sides,” “Ode,” the vinyl, features six tracks from “Ode To Thinking,” as well as three unreleased tracks — “Pretty Little Pennies,” “If You Don’t Want To Be With Me” and “From Me.” These songs, he says, are more upbeat and fun than what he typically writes.
To release the entire record, it would have to be a double-vinyl, so he decided to just make some trims and add a couple extra songs that no one had heard before.
“I love vinyl, it’s always the best part — besides making it — is seeing the vinyl,” he said. “I thought it would be a cool thing for Record Store Day.”
Along with a name change, the vinyl release also features a different cover design to give the record its own identity.
Dabbling in a variety of genres, such as folk, americana, rock and blues, Long seems to excel at the reinvention of sounds and styles like so many of his British predecessors.
“Probably just like you, I like hundreds of people and am influenced by hundreds,” Long said, adding that growing up, he was most inspired by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and, of course, The Beatles.
“I’m influenced by a lot of American music — blues, folk, stuff like that. Neil Young, guys who put a lot of weight behind the lyrics,” he explained.
This comes as no surprise, as Long is not only a singer-songwriter, but also a poet, with one published collection and another on the way.
According to Long, he’s always been into reading poetry, but growing up, he “definitely didn’t tell anybody,” and kept his passion hidden from the public until a former teacher gave him a book of poems by Dylan Thomas.
Long said he decided to try composing poetry of his own because “it’s something a little bit different — a reprieve from writing songs.”
“I would never call myself a poet, but I really enjoy doing it,” he said.
Some would have to disagree, seeing as how his lyrics are so consciously crafted and express an intricate and devout attention to detail.
“Ode To Thinking’s” “I’m Not Going Out Tonight,” for example, reads much more like a poem than a song, “There is a place and it’s not to be seen / where the air is young and the water’s clean, / where the juggernaut cut the sailor’s scar / but on the moons above riding a shooting star / She waits for me there.”
Long, who hasn’t been to Knoxville since 2011, will play at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 23, at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square. Tickets will be sold at the door.