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Interview: Freddie Long opens up about These Darker Days, lockdown and being an independent artist

We caught up with the rising star to find out more about his latest EP.

Freddie Long
Credit: Freddie Long

Freddie Long has been working hard over the past couple of years to build a fanbase and get his music out there.

We premiered his track Sinner last year and since then Freddie’s released a handful of tracks and an EP. With each release garnering more attention than the last, Freddie recently dropped his latest EP These Darker Days and it was his most personal yet.

I caught up with Freddie to talk about the EP, find out how he’s been coping in lockdown and to discuss the challenges of being an independent artist…

Congratulations on your EP, These Darker Days, which has had over half a million streams in under two weeks…

I know it’s crazy. Very unexpected but it’s a very nice feeling. I’m super happy that people are liking the songs.

I first heard of you when we premiered Sinner last year. Everything you’ve done since then seems to be getting bigger and bigger. How do you feel about the reaction your music has been getting?

It’s weird because obviously so much time and effort goes into the song so when once it’s finished it’s quite a weird feeling. It is so nice when you get a good response. Last year we released the first EP so to release this EP and get the numbers that we have so far is quite an amazing feeling. I’m so grateful that people are connecting with these songs and liking the music.

This EP is independently released. What challenges come with that?

Quite a lot (laughs). Obviously, you haven’t got big money machines rolling the wheels and stuff. For me, I really like to be involved with the creative side of things, like getting involved with the concepts around the videos. That’s something that I just personally enjoy doing. There’s there’s pros and cons. Being independent gives you much more flexibility. The other side of it, is it’s tough because you haven’t got the big team of people working for you. There’s two sides of it, but I’ve got a great team around me in terms of my managers and stuff so together, we push through.

Freddie Long

Credit: Freddie Long

The fact you’ve achieved this as an independent artist is pretty incredible really. That must be a really satisfying feeling?

Yeah, it’s a great feeling. With the way social media is and digital campaigns and marketing, I think more artists are able to do that now, which is encouraging for younger artists who are coming up and looking to get music out. It is daunting but I think at the same time, there’s other ways now to reach people, which is exciting.

The lyrics on this EP are very personal. Do you have any reservations about giving so much of yourself away?

I try not to think about it too much when I write a song (laughs), which I know sounds a bit crazy but I try and feel it for where I am in that time and you not think about it too much. Before I started releasing music, I’d always listen to records that allowed me to express emotions and stuff in a different way. It’s always been a quite emotional thing for me, just listening and creating, and putting it on the line. I think it just sort of, I guess, just happens.

What was it about these four songs that made you feel they should be released together as an EP?

It was a hard choice. We’ve got quite a few songs now so putting them together was quite hard. They all felt naturally as one, in terms of their message. Just looking at them, on a piece of paper, they just felt pretty good together. White Water and Fade do interlink in terms of their messages and their story. That was something on the creative side, that I wanted to dig into a bit and explore that a bit more rather than just put out some music. I wanted the project to feel as a whole.

The last track on the EP, Facedown, is a voice memo rather than a fully produced song. Why did you decide to put it out like that?

It wasn’t really planned to be on the EP to be honest with you. Over lock down I did quite a few of these live shows on Instagram and I played it a few times and it got quite a good response and reaction. It’s quite a personal song. It’s quite an emotional song and it just felt right to be released with these tracks. We couldn’t go into a studio due to the whole situation. I recorded it on my phone (laughs). There’s rawness to it and I didn’t think it needed to be produced in a polished way.

You’ve been give the label alt-pop but I would argue you’re making proper pop, which is seriously lacking in today’s charts. How do you describe your music?

I find putting genres on music the hardest thing to do. I take inspiration from every angle I can. I guess that tag has just come from press and stuff, just over time. It’s not really something I would say I’m alt-pop. I take inspiration from literally all sorts of music. It’s a weird one.

People love to pigeonhole things as it gives them a reference point but I think a good song is a good song regardless of genre. I hear a lot of soul in your voice…

Yeah. Growing up I was like a big fan of James Brown and a lot of that sort of music. I also liked Jamiroquai but I was a big fan of Linkin Park and quite heavy. There was a band called Underoath, an emo band, and I actually still listen to them now. I find the melodies in these songs… honestly, if they were in a polished pop song right now they’d be huge. Some of those old school songs and their melodies, and just the way the music is structured is really quite amazing.

Pop, more than any other genre, comes with high expectations. Everything is expected to be a hit and it moves pretty fast. Do you feel those pressures or are you just concentrating on doing what you feel is right?

I think that’s a benefit of releasing independently, there’s not that pressure as a label of who I am and where I sit in the label. I think there’s always pressure but I think I put that on myself just and I think all cases do. In terms of being under a spotlight of a certain genre of music is not something that I think about.

You’ve just released the music video for These Darker Days. Did I read you’d filmed it in the wood with your parents?

That’s right. During quarantine, we obviously couldn’t do anything so I brought the treatment together with Mum and Dad. I sat them down and went over it (laughs) and went out in the woods. I had an idea of what we were doing anyway so I had my Dad behind the camera and then my Mum was behind my Dad with lights and stuff, because it was dark. It was a really fun experience. They’re super supportive parents and (supportive of) what I do. Bringing them in on this was really nice. I think they enjoyed it and it’s come out well, the best it can be I guess but it was fun to do.

I appreciate we’re only a couple of weeks on from you releasing These Darker Days but are you already thinking about the next project?

We’ve got quite a bit of music waiting to be released. The next song that’s coming is a very personal song. I’m really excited about the next single and it’s going to be coming out later this year. That’s all confirmed. I feel like sound wise and where I’m going, I’ve got much better handle on that now. The EP I released last year, I think had quite a mixed a bunch of songs on it. This EP is much more together as a sound and I think the songs we’ve got coming out later is just developing on that sound, which for me is exciting to see that happen.

Freddie Long

Credit: IVVI Music

Has the lockdown benefited you creatively or stifled you?

I think at first it was tough. There was a lot of pressure to create. You’ve had time to create (so you feel) you should be writing great songs. Speaking to friends, there’s a lot of people in that same situation, which is not good, because then it goes the other way. I think it’s just understanding the situation now and not putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s been really good for me actually. I’ve definitely being able to open up creatively, not only on the music side, but also speaking to fans and connecting with people through digital platforms has been amazing. That’s something I guess we wouldn’t have had if this didn’t happen. That’s definitely been a positive for sure.

One of your strengths has always been social media. You’re always on there and you’re super responsive. How important has that been in terms of building your profile and getting your music out there?

Massively. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do really without that. It all comes down to the fans and the guys following me, it’s amazing. It’s great to see that community build a bit more and I think it’s important to be interactive with fans on social media. It’s a great way to connect with people and a different way to music. Any artists looking to push their career, or even get started, I think it’s a great starting place to really explore who you are as a brand and also the songs. I think it’s a really great platform for that.

I’ve seen you on there testing out new songs too…

Yeah, it’s a great, great way to get an understanding of what tracks are connecting with people. Demos, I leak them a bit early to see what the reaction is. If it’s good, it gives me an idea. I don’t really think about it too much like that… I guess I did a little bit. I think if I was looking at an artist that I like, to see their early demos come through and small teasers, that would excite me. I want to share what I’ve been up to, not only if it’s released and get some feedback from people.

I grew up in a time before social media when there was so much more mystique around artists. I guess for you, sharing your life and music online is something that you’re just used to doing now?

I’ve grown up in that era so I don’t really know the other side of it, but I can imagine the other side of it and I can imagine that transition being tough. The great thing about social media and having that platform is that you can be much more open, and people can follow your journey which is better. People can really see what it’s like, the ups and the downs, and it’s not all highs. It’s a great way to connect with people.

Lockdown restrictions are easing somewhat but not really for music. Are you going to be able to do any actual live shows this year?

There’s not really much that can be done. We are talking about trying to put on some sort of drive to campaign social thing. This is very early on so it’s not confirmed yet but going to people’s houses and playing some songs. We might do a little tour around the UK and get people to submit their venues, and drive to them and play if we can. It’s limited, the space and people, but that could be a really nice way to physically go out and meet some fans, go out on the road and play some songs. The live element of putting on the shows, it’s a bit scary to think when that come back. I miss it, but it is what it is, I guess.

I’ve found lockdown frustrating so I can only imagine what it’s been like for you as an artist…

Yeah, especially when you release an EP or any music, you want to get out there and play it live. That’s the buzz of it. Now it’s been obviously restricted to performing it online, which is fine but not actually that (same) experience. Before lockdown we only really just got into our lives. We just got the band together, we just got back from Germany where we played two shows, which was amazing, and that was the first start of that experience for me as an artist, performing with the band and stuff. That was exciting so to have that cut short was a bit of a shame. I’m looking forward to when we are able to play shows. I feel like shows are going to come back bigger and better.

A lot of artists have pushed their releases back, which seems silly as there’s an audience there wanting to be entertained during these difficult times. You may even reach a new audience…

Definitely. We were questioning whether or not we released the EP when this all happened because there was stuff in place that didn’t come through. The campaign itself just didn’t feel as strong. I’m the kind of person that in a few months’ time the songs that I’ve got out, I probably wouldn’t want to release them because I’d be on to the next thing. I think it’s important to keep active and to keep music flowing out there. For us, we decided to just put it out there and push on what was coming afterwards.

Freddie Long’s EP These Darker Days is out now. Watch the video for the title track below:

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