If you frequently visit places like Whiskey Rose and Tin Roof, or if you’ve attended a football game at Carter-Finley Stadium, then you may be familiar with Kerry Long’s music.
Long, who graduated from NC State in 2016 with a degree in business marketing, has performed professionally for about four years and frequently plays at several local venues. His music smoothly traverses genres from country to pop.
When Long first attended NC State, he planned to play on the baseball team. When he didn’t make the cut, he decided to explore other hobbies. Long happened to stumble across the world of music when his friend gave him some producing software during his sophomore year. He began to experiment with creating music and quickly fell in love.
Long was introduced to the live music world through a competition to open for Red and White Week.
“My friends kept nagging me to send in a video, so I did,” Long said. “Long story short, I didn’t win the competition, but surprisingly, I was selected as one of the finalists. Since I was chosen as one of the finalists, I was given the chance to perform at the campout for game day tickets.”
Up until that point, Long had been very critical of himself when it came to his musical capabilities. After singing at the campout, however, Long gained confidence and began attending open mics. This eventually led him to cover a double-booked show where he met Quentin Jones, a professional percussionist who now plays alongside Long at many of his performances. At first Long felt unprepared, but he put aside his fears and put on a great performance at his first real show.
Shortly after Long launched his professional music career, he had the opportunity to record a song in Nashville, Tennessee. This trip to Nashville shaped Long’s future music career as it was his first real introduction to the world of country music. Long realized if he wanted to become an established artist he needed to include greater variety in his music.
Long’s trip to Nashville made him realize country music was much more diverse than the twangy stereotype often applied to it. His introduction to the country music scene also helped him in learning to play the guitar. The simple three to six chords that many country songs were composed of allowed him to learn a plethora of songs from the genre. From that point forward, his live performances featured him playing guitar to complement his vocals.
Long stressed the importance of the crowd’s energy for live shows.
“For me, it's all about how many people I have to connect with,” Long said. “You always feed off of the crowd, and I personally feed off of the people's energy.”
The music scene in Raleigh has seen huge growth over the past several years, offering opportunities for artists like Long to establish a following. With this growth, though, live performances are that much more important to an artist’s success.
“Playing live is something every artist needs to be capable of,” Jones said. “If you can’t play live, it is very hard to make it being an artist in Raleigh or really anywhere. That artist has to feel the energy of the crowd and put on a show to get their name out.”
Thanks to the support Long has received from the Raleigh community, he has started to realize that the city is a major hotspot for musical talent in North Carolina, supporting artists of every genre.
“The next big step for Raleigh as a musical city will be establishing itself as a songwriters city just like Nashville is for Tennessee,” Long said. “It will definitely take the support of the Raleigh community to make this happen. I'm a big believer that your success can be determined by the culture and the environment around you.”
Raleigh is a place where music thrives, and anyone can and should take full advantage of the various venues that host local artists nearly every night, from Tin Roof to the Lucky Tree’s open mic. Local support is what helps talented artists like Long and other NC State students and alums launch their music careers.