Then Came the Morning


MusicThe Lone Bellow on their newest album.

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

 

“The most important part of our story is that we were good friends before we were in a band together. That has become the most important piece of our band. [It’s] how we take care of each other,” says Zach Williams, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Lone Bellow. The Brooklyn-based band, which is coming to our fair city on March 10 at Workplay, does a good job of taking care of its listeners, too. 

The three members—Williams, Kanene Pipkin (mandolin, vocals), and Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals)—produce a sound that lands somewhere between front-porch folk and afternoon Americana. They combine that sound with lyrics that look inside of our souls and report what they see. Perhaps my favorite is from “You Never Need Nobody,” off of their eponymous debut album: “The way you sing makes a mockingbird hum / the grass you walk on gives way / saying, ‘Please, please come back this way.” But then again, I could be biased—“You Never Need Nobody” was the first Lone Bellow song I ever heard, and I have a penchant for it.

Each part of the trio has been singing individually for many years. Elmquist has recorded three albums as a solo artist; before the band, Pipkin hosted open mic nights and taught music lessons. Williams’ story is achingly beautiful: He began writing songs as a coping mechanism when his wife was thrown from a horse and experienced paralysis (she has since made a full recovery.) He learned to play guitar at the urging of some friends, and those songs eventually became his first solo album. That coping mechanism is one he still uses to navigate through the world. “Music is cathartic. For me it does the same thing as writing does for my thoughts when I’m worried about something, but I can’t figure out what it is. So I write and write until it finally comes out on the page,” Williams says.

“It’s a tool to help me process the good and bad going on inside my mind. It doesn’t fix any issues, but it helps me pinpoint what the issues are so they are not just ambiguous things I’m walking around with. It has a way of bringing clarity to my mind, whether it be in the writing process, playing an instrument, singing, or listening—truly listening—to someone else’s work.” The three combined their talents after a happenstance—playing together at a wedding—and relocation—they all ended up in New York—paved the way. In 2011, they joined forces to create The Lone Bellow.

Their first album, recorded at NYC venue Rockwood Music Hall, hit in 2013. Their second, Then Came the Morning, was released in January of this year and was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National. Then Came the Morning is like a box of chocolates in the very best way: parts of it are robust (“If You Don’t Love Me”), parts revelatory (“Then Came the Morning”), and parts reviving, almost Gospel-like (“Heaven Don’t Call Me Home”). But there is a strand of something—and frankly, I don’t know what it is—that marks each song as part of the whole. And indeed, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. “Then Came The Morning feels like a moment capture on tape. We worked hard writing these songs and we truly care about them,” Williams says. “It was an honor having the opportunity to make this record. It’s a work I’m proud to be a part of. The record also represents a specific place. Making the record with good friends at Dreamland Studios was a magical experience. The way Aaron Dessner and Jon Low helped us capture these songs was an out-of-body experience. My favorite part of the process of making this record was recording the vocals in the old church sanctuary standing around in a circle and hearing the sounds of our voices bounce off those old wood floors and ceilings.”

The Lone Bellow is like coffee in the morning—the world would keep turning without them, but man do they make life sweeter. Their music reverberates with the heart behind it (maybe that’s what strings it all together.) Williams says that’s what they hope to get across—the parts of themselves that they put into their music, the parts with which others can identify. “I hope that [music] helps me be honest with myself,” Williams says. “I guess I hope it helps anyone who might listen to it to have that same thought. It’s like a stop sign. Art in general has a way of slowing my mind down and helping me put the things that matter most to me into focus.”

Do yourself a favor and spend March 10 with The Lone Bellow. They’re promising us a good night. “We truly can’t wait to be a part of whatever is going to happen during the show in Birmingham,” Williams says. “For serious, you can feel the vibe when you drive into your fine city. There is a kindness on those streets.” I think so, too, Zach. Birmingham can’t wait to have you.•

 

Upcoming Events

3/11: Penny and Sparrow at Sound & Page. For fans of Fiction Family, Elenowen, and Lord Huron.

3/22: The Dozens at Daniel Day Gallery. For fans of the Drive-By Truckers, Little Big Town, and the Allman Brothers.

4/2: Mat Kearney at Iron City. For fans of Matt Nathanson, Howie Day, and Matt Wertz.

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