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Photo provided via LongStory's Instagram.

Artist Spotlight: LongStory’s passion persists through multiple bands, times

LongStory performed late one Thursday during an open mic night at Donkey Coffee. This performance was just one example of the passion the musician harbors for his craft.

Emerson Bartlett, known musically as LongStory, was born in Athens but moved often as a child, a theme which would continue into adulthood as well. His love of music was instilled in him at a young age from his father, Athens local music legend Johnny B, but when he was 11 his father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. 

This is what caused him to first pick up the guitar and ever since then he knew that the rest of his life would be built around his love for music.

Starting from his teenage years, he has consistently been writing music, but it wasn’t until after he graduated high school and moved to Ithaca, New York that he started to form his first bands. It was through these bands that he realized the joy of songwriting and performance. He described his songwriting process as “breathing in and breathing out.” Breathing in his own experiences and then breathing them out in front of a cheering crowd.

“The most impactful moments were when someone would share the connection they felt with my music,” LongStory said. 

After hearing how his lyrics and songs were so deeply appreciated by others, even in ways he never intended, he became “hooked.” Inspired by this start, he decided that he wanted to spread his music as far and wide as he could, so that he could have a positive effect on as many people as he could. He traveled all across the U.S. spreading his music.

In 2012 he moved back to Athens to start a band with his brother called Bright at Night and was also a founding member of local band SassafraZ, both of which specialized in upbeat and danceable rhythms.  He continued playing live with these bands but began to find he wanted to express some of his own darker truths, which didn’t fit with the musical goals of these bands.

After a short stint in Colorado, he found himself back in Athens at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. He moved into a house on a hill and, like many during this time period, began to direct his attention inward. He saw the distractions of everyday life fall away until he had nothing but his own reflection on which to focus.

Up until this point he had struggled with addiction and mental health, but as he reflected and wrote his music, he was able to, as he put it, “crawl out of the pit” and finally face his own inner demons. The primary vessel he used to confront his past problems was music. Through song he was able to pull out from the darkness all the old issues he’d yet to deal with and throw them into the light, recognize them and turn them into something of beauty.

At the same time, he looked back upon his music career and realized that for all those long nights performing and writing, he didn’t have anything to show for it; very few of his songs were recorded. As he adopted this new stage persona, he also had a change in his mission. No longer would he primarily focus on the performance aspect of music but instead on recording. He set up a home studio and has been working on documenting his music. But he needed a new name to denote this new image.

One day, driving back to his house along the tall Athens ridges, a light rain started falling on his window.

“I started thinking that even though sometimes life seems like a thunderstorm, it’s really more like a soft rain,” LongStory said. “It doesn’t tell its whole story over the course of one afternoon. It’s a much longer story. I liked the ring of that: LongStory. I connected with the idea of having a long story to tell and, on a more comedic level, I have a reputation of being rather long winded. My friends often have to hurry me up and prompt me to get to the point when I’m talking.”

Now, it’s been over a year since LongStory found his name and he’s ready to make his way back into the public eye. He has upcoming releases planned, which will be available on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube under the name LongStory. He will also be performing live at Donkey Coffee & Espresso, 17 W. Washington, Friday April 22.

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