Chris Long, who shares the stage with Kevin Mahoney at the Abbey this Friday, Nov. 18, is a frequent performer at The Abbey. Naturally then, he’s particularly partial to the venue.
“I have been playing at the Abbey every month for the last two years,” Long said. “We started playing there as the Tres Amigos with myself, John Condrone, and Kevin Mahoney in a Nashville writers-in-the-round-style show. Then, when John passed, Kevin and I continued the shows as a duo, the Wandering Souls. I have played there numerous times as a solo artist as well. I simply love it, and it’s one of my favorite places to perform anywhere. It’s very personal. You can interact with the audience and tell your stories with the songs. As a songwriter, that always takes a venue to the top of the list.”
Long first started playing music at the age of 12, and continued to hone his skills while in high school and college. “I played in a lot of bands when I was younger and loved it,” Long said. “When I got back into playing about a decade ago, I tried the band thing again a couple times, but it just felt different and it didn’t fit the direction I wanted to go in as a songwriter. That’s not to say that I don’t get the itch from time to time to do the band thing again. Maybe I will somewhere down the road.”
These days, Long cites such ongoing influences as John Mellencamp, John Hiatt, the Rolling Stones, Brian Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and John Fogerty in particular. Most of the music he heard early on was culled from his father’s record collection, which, in turn, left a lingering impression on him overall. In 1998, he and his father Melvin Long formed a band and recorded an album.
“Everything about being the musician I am comes from my dad,” Long said in retrospect. “He taught me not only how to play and sing, but how to do all the work that goes into playing a show. Most importantly, I learned that as a musician, I should always play for myself and devote myself to the music. Never worry about fame or fortune. Do it because it’s what you love to do. I also learned the importance of being humble as a musician and working for what you get.”
Nevertheless, Long stepped away from music for a time first to pursue a career in television, and later, to become a teacher. A decade ago, he decided to pick up his guitar once again, renew his songwriting and perform.
A native Virginian, he said he’s particularly pleased with East Tennessee’s music scene.
“On any given night of the week, you can find top-notch local entertainment performing somewhere in just about every town,” he said. “There are so many talented artists in our region, from every genre of music as well.”
In that regard, he said it’s influenced his sound. “Lyrically, a lot of my original music takes its subject matter from back home in Virginia or from here in East Tennessee,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it influenced my sound, but it does influence how I gauge the songs I write and perform. East Tennessee and the Southern Appalachian region in general has some of the best musicians anywhere. There are so many great artists in this area. It means you have to play and perform better. Plus, you can learn so much by being a part of this amazing musical community.”
With nine independent albums to his credit, as well as two additional efforts slated for eventual release, Long also has some very specific thoughts about the meaning of “Americana music,” a broad umbrella that encompasses the style and sound Long has generally navigated throughout his own career.
“To me, it captures the heart of the American experience,” he said. “I sing a lot about farms, mines, veterans, alligators, the mountains, and what I see around me. That’s not going to be the same for us all, but through my eyes and my experiences, it is. You should sing about what what you know, and be as genuine as you can be.”
That naturally applies to his performances as well. “I love to tell the stories about the songs and about the personal side of the music,” Long said. “I introduce the audience to the characters from the songs to help their visualization. I love to talk to the people who tell me that a song reminded them of a story from their own lives. I also like to throw in a joke or two — usually bad dad jokes! — and just be down to earth with people.”
Long’s upcoming show at The Abbey will find him and Mahoney exchanging songs and offering a few anecdotes as well. “I hope people can come out and join us for the show,” Long said. “If you can’t, go somewhere and watch one of our many talented artists perform while supporting local music.”