Greg Long, a silky smooth vocalist with pop group Avalon, enjoyed six number one hit songs and two Dove nominations prior to joining the group in 2003. He then joined Avalon, a group which has sold more than three million records, had twenty number one hits and had a three year run as group of the year (2002-04) as named by CCM Magazine. One would think somewhere in the midst of all that notoriety there would be a temptation to become a little nonchalant about your career. As I discovered in my recent conversation with the talented and affable singer that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I am thrilled that I get to make records and I am thrilled that people come to our concerts. I am a very grateful human being,” says Greg. As we discussed the type of music, both mainstream and Christian that he grew up listening to in South Dakota he said, “I think it is so cool that what I was attracted to as a teen growing up God has allowed me to be a part of.”
In referring to his personal success before joining Avalon Greg modestly says, “Am I successful? I make a living at it. How about we go with that?” He retains an equal air of humility when referring to his own role with Avalon. “I am sharing the stage with three amazing vocalists. Jody (McBrayer) is a freak of nature because he can sing so high. He’s not human. Then you get my wife (Janna) whose vocal tone is world class. I would put her vocal tone up against anybody’s. Her vocal tone is so unique, soulful and rich. The song “Everything To Me” shows off Melissa’s (Greene) range. This girl sings those notes night after night. I remember when we were listening to the rough mix of one song in the car and I turned to Janna and said I can’t believe Melissa sang that high. (At first)Janna didn’t think it was Melissa and thought it must be a keyboard part. God has given her (Melissa) the ability to have that range and she does it night after night. I am along for the ride. I have the least attractive voice of all of them. I am a ‘Johnny come lately.’ I just want to be there in a support role.”
Greg gives credit to his parents and his marriage for helping him to keep a healthy perspective of his career and ministry. “I really credit my parents with telling me since I was a kid that the eternal things are important; your relationship with Christ, your family and your friends. People are important. My dad is semi-retired but still preaching. He will call me on a Monday after preaching somewhere on the Sunday. He will be jumping out of his skin because someone will have prayed and invited Christ into their life. He has been doing this for more than forty years. When you have that kind of history it gives you a pretty good idea about what is important in life.”
Inspiration was also taken from his grandparents’ lives. He refers to them as heroes. “I am glad to know that we have the hope of glory and be it today or in fifty years when I die I will be reunited with them. That will be a happy day not a sad day. I have the hope of glory. I have the hope of being reunited with those who have passed on,” he says.
“Spiritually I am a part of this ministry (Avalon). We don’t believe that it is just artistry but it is a ministry. God therefore allows you to communicate truths that are based upon the Word. I have no problem doing that. I do that with passion,” says the affable Long.
His marriage to Janna and subsequent birth of their daughter Lillian brought about some positive life altering experiences for Long. If there are any young single musicians or singers out there wondering how to muster the courage to ask out someone you know from the music industry pull up a chair and gather some tips from Uncle Greg because he has a unique story to tell.
Greg and Janna met while participating in a tour known as the Young Messiah Christmas tour in 1997. Janna one of the original members of Avalon was touring with the group while Greg was appearing as a solo performer. “I didn’t ask her out while the tour was going on because if she said yes it would be awkward for the rest of the tour and if she said no it would be awkward,” he says. Being the brave soul that Greg is he waited until the buses pulled over for a break. That’s when you hit her up with the big question right Greg? No. Come on Greg there are thousands if not tens of thousands of young men out there reading this article. “I went to a pay phone and dialed Janna’s home number knowing she wasn’t there to answer because she was on one of the other tour buses. I left a message asking her out for that week. She said yes and that was the beginning of the end.” Greg I think you mean that was the beginning of the rest of your life, right?
Long says that when he and Janna got married on May 13th 2000 it was one of the happiest days of his life. “It has been five of the greatest years of friendship and all the things that go with marriage, the good, the hard, the fun and the sad, all of the things that you share on the journey,” he says. One of the things that he has learned to truly admire about his wife is her loyalty to family and friends. He marvels at things such as the friendship Janna shares with someone she has known since she was six years old.
The birth of daughter Lillian on May 17th 2004 moved Janna and Greg into a new adventure parenthood. Greg recalls one night when he got up to take care of Lillian because she wasn’t feeling well. After rocking her for awhile he placed her back in her crib and lay down on the floor beside the crib. He says, “I stuck my hand through the crib to hold hers and she held mine with her little hand. I told a friend of mine that is just one of the greatest moments you ever have.”
Janna echoes those sentiments, “Becoming a mother changed the way I looked at everything in life, especially my career. Although I love what I do, there is nothing more important than my calling as Lillian’s mom. My greatest accolades and awards pale in comparison to the joy and fulfillment I receive from her.”
When I asked Greg about the challenges of being a touring couple and having a daughter he surprised me by telling me how he doesn’t consider it to be nearly as difficult as the challenges facing single parents who may have more than one child and have to do it all alone.
Janna says the biggest challenge is finding quality time together as a couple. “I think Greg and I have had to adjust more to working together all the time than we did to just being married. It is such a blessing to be together so much but sometimes, we have to work at giving each other enough space as well as finding quality time with one another that has nothing to do with our jobs.”
Long says that you cannot underestimate the importance of belonging to and being plugged into a regular church fellowship. “I have a men’s group that I go to and it gives me accountability. I am also a big believer in going to church. That sounds weird but that is one of the things that are difficult about being a recording artist in Christian music. We are home very few Sundays. I am one of the people who are supposed to volunteer to serve communion in our church. Communion happens once per month on a Sunday morning. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I served communion. Being a part of a church body and being fed is very important.”
“Finding time for God and ourselves is no more difficult or easy than it is for anybody else. That is a priority that you have to have as a person and a couple,” says Greg.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.