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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Destiny....An Interview With Freddie Long

“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.” Ranier Maria Rilke

Anyone who has ever dared to dream does so in the hopes of using their vehicle of creativity to make their mark on the world in some small way. Taylor Hicks had that dream and we saw his destiny revealed in 2006. I had the rare experience of witnessing that kind of destiny again later that same year at the Kipona festival in Harrisburg, PA. Strains of music from a performance tent drew me forward with its own gravitational pull. The keyboard player held me spellbound as he sang Tiny Dancer. I knew without a doubt that there was a reason I stood there mesmerized. In striking up a conversation with a friend of the band, I learned more about the aptly named “The Freddie Long Band” from Maryland. When I met him, Freddie greeted me with a warm smile and humble gratitude. After listening to the sample CD that he gave me, I emailed him and thus began a friendship that continues to be a true inspiration.

Fast forward to Taylor’s Loudon County, VA show in July 2007 where I had the opportunity to meet promoter Bruce Torres, also from Maryland. He hadn’t heard of Freddie at that point, but as he gave me his contact information to forward to the band, I sensed a circle of completion that started the day I heard Freddie’s amazing voice. A few short months later, not only was Bruce as blown away by the band as I knew he’d be, but he believed in Freddie so strongly that he became the band’s manager.

In the words of Bruce Torres, “I was honored when Freddie approached me about becoming the manager for the Freddie Long Band. When I first heard him perform, it was reminiscent of the first time I saw Taylor Hicks live; I knew I was watching destiny in the making!! When I saw The Freddie Long Band on stage opening for Jo Dee Messina and watching and listening to the audience respond to them, I knew they were finally where they belonged. Freddie's music and lyrics take us to places where we have all been. Some of those are places we hope to return to, and some are places we have thankfully left behind. Music taken from a gamut of emotion, sometimes delivered playfully, and other times passionately.

My immediate plan for the Freddie Long Band is to get them booked as a support act for a major touring artist on a national tour. I can think of one such artist in particular, but there are several with whom The Freddie Long Band would compliment very well. That will be a tall order considering I am just a small town guy that no one knows. I would hand him over in a heartbeat to a well recognized management company that could help this amazing artist fulfill his dream. I hope he gets his chance. Good things should happen to good people.
Thank You, Taylor's Angels, for bringing Freddie Long to the attention of so many incredible fans!!”

Just like Taylor, Freddie’s dream is palpable and passionate. Music runs through his veins and he bleeds it out in warm splendor. His writing ability springs from the depths of a deeply philosophical and insightful soul far beyond his years. Evident is his musicianship are the influences of many woven with his own unique style. His intriguing lyrics are coupled with tenderness and energy that can either rivet you to the floor or set your feet tapping with unabashed joy.

I believe in this very talented man and the group of artists he has assembled. I also believe that people come into each other’s lives for a reason. That I was able to be one tiny thread in the tapestry of his journey humbles me. That my own life has been touched immeasurably by his spirit warms my heart. Read his words. Listen to his music and enjoy.

TA: Tell us about Freddie Long

Let’s see, where to begin…talking about myself is always a dicey proposition…

For starters I’m 24-years-old and from a little town called Ijamsville, MD (pronounced ‘Iams-ville’, not ‘I-jams-ville’--the ‘j’ is silent). I was born, raised, and have lived here all of my life in Ijamsville. I have two infinitely loving and supportive parents and a brother who is my best friend and 13 months younger. Family has always been incredibly important to me and I have been very lucky to have such a great family situation all of my life. They have supported me since day one.

I am a complete night owl and when I am not doing something music-related (which is a lot of the time), I like to read, watch movies, and head out on the town. I have a blue ‘88 Firebird with t-tops that my folks bought for me when I was 15 and I absolutely love that old girl.

TA: Tell us your musical background.
Music has been at the forefront of my life for a long time. When I was in middle school I started piano lessons (at my own choosing), joined my first rock band, and wrote some of my first songs. That’s when I really started to think that music was going to be my life’s passion. Kind of strangely ambitious for a young middle school kid.

Throughout high school I made the transition from mediocre year-round athlete (aka ‘benchwarmer’) to focusing more on music and the arts. I joined the choir and jazz band, took a bunch of music classes, performed in several groups, and had 15 minutes of small-town fame when a piano/vocal song I wrote and recorded for my graduation received some local radio airplay for a couple of weeks. I went on to study Music Recording Technology and minor in Physics at a small school in PA called Lebanon Valley College. It was during college when I started performing regularly, both solo and with my good friend Chris Babb who played drums. Bars, coffeehouses, festivals, private events, you name it. When school would let out for the year, playing music was my ‘summer job’, which was great.

I graduated from LVC in 2005 after a great, albeit somewhat hazy, 4 years of study. Once I had my degree, I worked in radio part time for a short period while forming The Freddie Long Band in August of 2005. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to call music my full time gig ever since

TA: What instruments do you play?

Mainly voice, piano/keyboards, and acoustic guitar. I also dabble some on bass guitar, harmonica and (don‘t laugh) the bagpipes--much to my neighbor’s chagrin.

TA:Tell us about the band and how you all came together.

After college graduation, I wanted to get more serious about playing music and form a full band arrangement to perform with. There’s a little bit of a funny story behind this: I was working part time at a couple of radio stations and one of my bosses needed a band for a main stage slot at a sizable upcoming festival in Frederick, MD. She knew I played and asked if ‘my band’ was interested in performing at the festival. I didn’t have a band yet at that time, but of course I said, ‘yes, my band would love to play the gig!’ So, the heat was on and I had about a month or two to get a band together for the show. (The person who gave me the gig now works with The FLB and I’ve told her the ‘real’ story :))

I put a few internet ads on Craigslist and a few local music store websites looking for a bassist, drummer, and a lead guitarist. With the locked-in festival gig as my selling point, I received quite a few responses and held auditions at my house. Bassist Randy Mazzi was the first guy I welcomed aboard. Randy is from Cabin John, MD, and lived in Frederick at the time. He now lives in Hagerstown, MD, and when he’s not playing with The FLB he works at a nursing home in Northern Virginia.

Drummer Ken Deater, who lived in Greencastle, PA, was the next to follow. Ken grew up in Johnstown, PA, and had toured regionally with numerous groups throughout Pennsylvania. I was having trouble finding a suitable lead guitarist, so Ken recommended a friend and former band mate of his, Chris Bell. Chris grew up in Queens, playing in several metal bands during the 80s. His experience in the biz was significant--Chris has played with numerous nationally and internationally known acts and was even a finalist on DC rock station DC101’s guitar contest with Alter Bridge (featuring former members of Creed).

Randy, Ken, Chris, and I all got together one evening at my house to give things a shot. The vibe seemed to lock right away and the rest was history. We became a band of brothers. That lineup played together for a little over two years and released The FLB‘s debut album, 'Strangers and Friends'. Then Ken left the band (amicably) in the fall of 2007 when he moved out of the area. It was then that the remaining three of us started a search for a new drummer and the addition of a sax player.

After more internet ads and more auditions, we found a great new drummer named Mike Ball, also coincidentally from Greencastle, PA. Mike graduated from Berklee School of Music a few years back and when he’s not playing with us, he teaches drum lessons and works the night shift at his father’s Sheetz.

After Mike, we added saxophone player Eric Brooks, originally from Idaho but now residing in Cabin John, MD. Eric has lived and performed all over this great country, and when he’s not playing music he works as a puppeteer for a renowned children’s theater in the DC area.

The five of us have been playing together since December of 2007 and are currently working on the follow-up to 'Strangers and Friends'.

TA: What has been your most memorable moment in the music business?

There are a couple of moments that come to my mind. One was when The FLB was given the chance to open for national country superstar Jo Dee Messina this past November at Hagerstown’s Maryland Theatre. That show was truly the big time, a huge stage show with a huge artist, and the whole day I just couldn’t stop asking myself “How did I get here?” I was still that middle school kid plinking away at his keyboard in his bedroom. My biggest fans--my family--were right in the front box and it was all a very unreal and special experience for me. I was a little nervous, naturally, but once we lit into the first song I remember grinning and thinking, “Wow, we’ve done it.”

One of my other most memorable moments in the music business involved some work I did with a charity organization called Songs of Love. Songs of Love is a non-profit that has brought to life one man’s brilliant idea of writing personalized songs for chronically and terminally ill children in an attempt to dispense the ‘medicine of music.’ Songwriters involved are given a profile of a sick child that is filled out by a parent or guardian and lists information such as family members, friends, and interests. A songwriter then takes that information and uses it to craft and record a personalized song for the child, which the organization then forwards to the family--all at no cost to the family.

I have written a few songs for the organization, and I will never forget the first one. It was for a 6 and a half year old little boy with recurrent tumors who had a fascinating diversity of interests for someone of his age, including the natural sciences and environmental conservation! At 6 and a half! Later on after I had turned the song in, the organization forwarded to me in the mail a thank you note from the boy’s mother. It included a picture of this bald-headed and smiling little boy with his mom, and I just sat there and bawled my eyes out.

By the way, Songs of Love is always looking for donations and more folks to get involved (musically and otherwise), so if you are interested in learning more I encourage you to visit:

TA: Describe your type of music to us?

We like to say that we’re a t-shirt and jeans cross-blend of pop, rock, soul, and honesty, with maybe a dash of country here and there. To throw some names around using comparisons critics and fans have made, I’d say we’re kind of like Hootie and Blowfish on stage with Bruce Hornsby opening for the Black Crowes and special guest Elton John.

TA: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I just feel lucky if I see myself in the mirror when I wake up. Life is so unpredictable that it’s hard to see 5 years down the road, but I guess if I had my druthers I would love to be in a position where I’m writing, recording, and touring on a national, even international level of some kind.

A little more financial stability would be nice, too. It’d be great to never again have to come up with an answer to the question of “Do I fix my car now or pay my health insurance this month?”

TA: Who is your new manager? What do you hope to accomplish together?

I am very excited to be able to say that The Freddie Long Band’s newest family member is manager Bruce Torres. I know Bruce is no stranger to Taylor’s Angels having offered his generous hand on several occasions, and I am really glad to have him aboard with The FLB.

Bruce and I originally got connected through a mutual friend and started corresponding with each other over the internet sometime this past summer. Bruce came to one of our shows near the end of the summer and afterwards expressed interest in getting us involved in one of his Cabana Cove Concerts (Bruce’s concert company) productions. Not too long after, I got a phone call from him saying we were going to be opening for Jo Dee Messina in November. Just like that. It was all kind of crazy how it came about.

Bruce has always treated the band like royalty and really seems to believe in what we’re trying to do (more so than even me sometimes!). After the Jo Dee show, Bruce and I stayed in contact and talked quite a bit about the future of The FLB. I had been handling the band’s business affairs since the beginning, and it had gotten to the point where it seemed like the right time to pass a lot of those matters on to someone who could handle them more efficiently. Who better than a successful music businessman that is a passionate believer in what we do, not to mention one hell of a nice guy?

Given the personal nature of music, it’s hard for a creator to try to sell himself and his work. It’s something I’ve never really been very good at. Bruce has many talents in that area and a plethora of knowledge that is going to allow me to focus less on business and more on creating music. I was at a meeting with him and some other folks a few weeks ago where he was able to accomplish more than I probably could have in a year. The man knows how to get things done when it's business time and I feel like we’re going to be a great compliment to each other.

Bruce always says that there is no box when it comes to his thinking and ideas, so he has a lot of grandiose visions and goals for where he’d like to see things go, which is great. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a lot of big things happen, but I suppose the most important thing I’d like to accomplish is to just find a larger audience for our music. Music is about being a part of something and I just want to get as many folks on board as possible. As a wise man once said, "In the game of life, he who touches the most lives wins."

TA: We see you have quite a following . Do your fans call themselves FLB's?

Hmmm…I’m not sure they really call themselves anything in particular. I guess when I first started playing the couple of fans I had called themselves “my parents”. I’m just incredibly grateful for and appreciative of anyone who calls themselves a fan of our music.

TA: Tell us who you have shared the stage with and which one was your favorite.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share the stage with many great acts. A few of the more well-known national acts include Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Blue Oyster Cult (with THE cowbell), and Jo Dee Messina.

Every show is a unique experience, so it’s hard to pick favorites, but I will say that I’m incredibly excited to be opening a show this summer for one of my musical heroes, Edwin McCain. His music was my college soundtrack and I’ve seen him live several times, even met him a few times. Listening to his music is like holding a part of that guy’s soul in your hand. Now I get to share a stage with him?! That’s like something you daydream about during your 8 a.m. history class that you wished you would’ve skipped. It’s going to be an incredibly surreal experience.

TA: Who are you influenced and inspired by musically?

Everyone. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I grew up listening to my parents’ oldies stations and then the popular music of the 90s. Near the end of high school I found an appreciation for jazz and a love for blues, and now I listen to just about anything. The songs that have really resonated with me over the years, whether upbeat and fun or more low-key and introspective, have come from a deep, pure and honest place, from some kind of enlightenment or even from something someone just had to purge before it killed them.

From a creative standpoint, inspiration for me can come from anywhere. I write about things that for some reason or another resonate with my particular sliver of existence, experience, and perception, and I just hope that other folks can connect and relate.

TA: Have you listened to Taylor's music?

I’ll openly admit it: I don’t watch American Idol at all. Even so, it was easy to hear from the very first listen why Taylor’s fans call themselves the ‘Soul Patrol’. What really impressed me about his music right off the bat---and I swear I’m not just saying this because you’re going to be posting it on one of Taylor’s websites--was the amount of heart and soul in his voice. When I first listened to ‘The Right Place‘ on Taylor‘s MySpace site, I must‘ve played it 10 times over. My friend Wanda later sent me a link to a video of Taylor and his sax player trading solos on ‘The Right Place’ during a show in Millersville, and it absolutely stood my hair on end.

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For more information on The Freddie Long Band visit:

Taylor’s Angels would like to thank Freddie Long for this remarkable view into his music and his world and we are sure he will see much success in the future.We would also like to thank Laurensilk for introducing us to Freddie Long and for writing this wonderful blog!

Written by: Laurensilk
Interview by: Taylor's Angels


LaurenSilk said...

Freddie's music never fails to make me smile. A friend from the Pentagon said "I think he has early Presly manerisms." What a compliment!

tygrlillie said...

Well now, I guess I have another person I have to listen for, huh?