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English singer/songwriter Bobby Long sticks it out in America



While success is a long, hard slough for some, others find it charges like lighting. English singer/songwriter Bobby Long was finishing his final collegiate year studying film and sound when "Twilight" struck.


Long had nurtured a friendship with a trio of London performers " Sam Bradley, Marcus Foster and Rob Pattinson " after meeting them at London-area open-mic nights. When Pattinson performed a song written by Foster and Long, "Let Me Sign," in the 2008 vampire movie sensation, their careers took off, along with Bradley's, who co-wrote another soundtrack song, "Never Think," with Pattinson.

Long said he's been astounded by the sudden fame.

 "They're my best friends," he said, awed by the transformation their lives have undergone. "It's plenty more weird for them, though, than it is for me, because they've all grown up with each other from a young age. But it is weird."

Long wasn't particularly aware of either the "Twilight" book series or the original film. He didn't even remember Pattinson was in the process of shooting it when a lawyer called to secure the rights to the song for the movie. Almost immediately, Long was talking to lawyers several times a day.

"It quickly transformed from being weird to just 'Let's get this fucking thing made,'" Long said. "It got weirder after that because it went from somebody hearing a song in the film, to support groups popping up on the Internet. That was really bizarre, because I never expected anything like that."

Inspired by Elliott Smith and older folk artists like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Long's sinewy baritone blends Americana and soul-pop with earnest ache. He's a relative newcomer to performing, having only picked up the guitar six years ago, after giving up his main interest of soccer.

Although his parents both play music, and it was always on in his childhood, he describes himself as an "all or nothing" fellow, so it wasn't until he was 17 that he found time for it. When he finally did, he was immediately consumed, and now he writes songs every day, and goes so far as to suggest that he lives to make music.

Even in college, music took the front seat. Long played shows every week to a handful of people, honing his chops, and neglecting his studies. Things really came to a head when "Twilight" took off, offering him a once-in-a-lifetime chance he quickly seized. Despite having yet to record an album, he quickly set off for the United States in to maintain the momentum.

Unfortunately, the singer/songwriter could only sandwich a two-week American tour around his school break, and when he returned, it was to write a senior thesis on American folk and protest music, and take exams.

"I ended up writing 8,000 words in a week. It's one of the worst, most stressful weeks of my whole life," Long said. "Especially because I didn't tell anyone at the university about my involvement in the film. They were all talking about it, and didn't know I was involved, so I decided to keep it quiet."

Long won't be home for graduation " he's too busy touring in the United States, especially now as the "Twilight" follow-up "New Moon" opened in theaters two weekends ago " so his dad will pick up his diploma.

"I feel very lucky, and it's why I've been out touring for the last five months," Long said. "It was a concern because I'm not releasing (my debut) until next summer, that the emphasis might move off me with the next film coming out, but that hasn't happened at all, and people have really stuck with it."

He took a week off between tours this fall and entered the studio to record five tracks with producer Liam Watson (The White Stripes). He intends to record another nine songs in January, giving him several to choose from when assembling his debut, slated for release next year. While he cut all the tracks with a full band, Long intends to have a few tracks more representative of the solo acoustic style of his live shows.

Meanwhile, Long is touring with a 10-song collection of rough tracks and demos titled "Dirty Pond Songs" to sell at stops, and he confided that he's on the verge of signing a record deal, after months of baited-breath label pursuit. All because of a little song in a movie.

"It's kind of a weird situation, because as much as I appreciate it, I know very little about the film, and my involvement was extremely minor in it, in terms of you think of all the people that acted in it, held cameras and put tape on the floor to stop people from tripping over wires," he said. "My part in it was really, really small, so it's very surprising, but it's nice that people like the song and everything."

Bobby Long with Ali Harter and Colin Ingersol perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. "Chris Parker

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