Junior Josey Long finds meaning in everyday experiences to release debut EP “Bird Songs”


Heidi Thalman

This photo appears on the cover of Long’s debut EP “Bird Songs.”

By Dani Klein

Thirty-thousand feet in the air, junior Josey Long sits in the window seat of an airplane. As the plane begins to descend towards the runway, she feels pressure in her ears — an uncomfortable yet familiar sensation. This time, she opens the “Notes” app on her phone and jots down the lyrics that had just appeared in her head. 

Days after the flight, Long sat down on her living room couch and turned the outline of the lyrics into one of her favorite tracks yet: a song about pressure. Using air pressure in her ears on an airplane as a metaphor, she opens up about societal pressures surrounding body image, self-perception and relationships.

Long — who releases music under the stage name “Josey Indigo” — finds poetry and music in everyday objects and experiences, and has written songs in the past using variations of this type of metaphor. The young singer-songwriter released six tracks on streaming platforms yesterday to form her debut EP, “Bird Songs.”

Long has been a creative writer for as long as she can remember, but when she got her first guitar at age seven, her passion shifted to songwriting. She has pursued music over the summer at specialized programs like Interlochen, and in school, singing in Whitman’s Chorus, playing the cymbals in Drumline and co-founding Whitman’s Songwriting Club. 

“Bird Songs” is deeply personal for Long, even down to the name — a reference to her spirit animal, she said. The lyrics on the EP’s tracks contain a lot of pain, self-doubt and sorrow, but also subtle teenage angst, Long said. 

“I don’t think I intentionally wrote it in an angry way, but it’s kind of like a backhanded slap,” Long said. “You don’t really know what hit you.”

Long has experimented with many forms of performing and creating music, but she always comes back to writing her own songs, she said. Her dream of writing and professionally producing an EP has remained a goal throughout the years.

“I started songwriting when I was like two, and I’ve always felt like I wanted to share that with other people,” Long said. “I knew I wanted to put something out there; I just didn’t know what.”

Once Long committed to creating an EP in the past few years, she used the online platform SoundBetter to connect with freelance music producer Isaiah Jose, who served as one of the main producers on “Bird Songs.” Long recorded her tracks in her closet and in the Blueroom Productions studio in Bethesda before sending the raw vocals off to Jose in California for production. She worked with Jose to draw inspiration from other artists she admires, create effects and instrumentation, and make sure they could bring Long’s dreams for the songs to life. Long’s music and Jose’s vision for the EP aligned well, the producer said.

“The music seems really unique to me,” Jose wrote in a text message to The Black & White. “It was such an easy and fast process — working on these songs with Josey.”

After working on the single and a few of the songs from the EP, Josey also collaborated with Matty Bedrosian, another producer she connected with on SoundBetter, aiming to make each song unique and expressive. 

As Long continued to infuse personal emotions into each song, she began to see music and songwriting as a form of therapy, she said. 

Long’s friend, junior Kyla Ngeno, founded the Songwriting Club with Long and has sung in school chorus classes with Long since middle school. Ngeno admires Josey’s commitment to songwriting and looks forward to working with Josey to share their passion with members of the Songwriting Club, she said.

“I told Josey that I love writing songs, but I just don’t know how to put myself out there. Josey came up with this idea, ‘what if we were to create a club where we could just write songs together?’” Ngeno said. “I can’t wait to work with her on that, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll produce her new music in unique ways and bring it to life.”

On Sept. 30, Long released the extended play’s single “Dirty Laundry” on streaming platforms. The writing process for the single took the junior less than three days, but it was nearly a year before she felt like the song was something she could be proud of, she said.

“The song is about feeling used by someone, constantly trying to impress them and even suck up to them, even though they don’t really value you,” Long said. “But it transforms into: ‘I’m done being dirty laundry, I’m done being used, I don’t deserve that.’”

Long plans to continue recording music and performing her latest projects. Although the junior acknowledges that her music’s indie style may not appeal to some, her music aims to reflect the emotions and experiences of all teenagers.

“I think there’s a lot more than we think that we can take from music we don’t listen to that often,” Long said. “By going out of your comfort zone and by listening to things that you wouldn’t listen to, by doing things that you wouldn’t usually do, you learn things that you carry with you throughout the rest of your life.”