Weathering the storm

The Lone Bellow live at Miami University – Middletown

The Lone Bellow photo: Eric Ryan Anderson

By Ashley Moor

For every artist, there is an event, no matter how small, that can be the start of something new. It can become the reinvention of yourself as a songwriter, an artist—as a human being. For Nashville band The Lone Bellow, a tragic event spurred lead singer Zach Williams to pick up a guitar and turn his grief into something more.

Williams’ wife suffered a spinal injury after falling off a family horse, turning his world upside down. To cope with his grief, Williams began to write in a journal—entries that, along with fellow bandmates Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist, he would soon turn into The Lone Bellow’s first self-titled album—an eloquent collection of love letters dedicated to his wife. Williams began writing these journal entries while in the hospital with his wife, Stacy. “I would have these friends come and visit Stacy and I in the hospital,” says Williams. “I would read them just journal entries that I would write, because I was worried that I was going numb, which I think is one of the stages of grief.”

Encouraged by his friends, he began turning these journal entries into song lyrics. He vowed to make these written testaments of his love into music. Following his wife’s recovery, the couple made the move to New York City in pursuit of this dream. It was there that Williams met with friends and fellow bandmates Elmquist and Pipkin. It was a musical love at first sight.

Now, four years later and on the heels of the release of their third studio album, Walk Into a Storm, the band is growing and coming together in new ways. “I think this album is kind of a locking of arms for us as a band, but also we’re hoping to inspire that to everyone else as well,” says Williams. “…So you take the subject matters of like ‘Deeper in the Water’ or ‘Walk Into a Storm,’ it’s like, we are going to walk into this next season of life together. We’re going to do this, here we go.”

For this album in particular, the band aims to be a hopeful distraction and curate an artful introspection for those who may be feeling the weight of their world on their shoulders. “…I think, especially just in the state of the country right now, we think that we just wanted to inspire kind of maybe like a stop sign of sorts,” Williams says. “I feel like, for me, the best art, like if you go to a museum or see a beautiful film or I listen to a killer record, it always just makes me stop and process like, ‘What do I care about right now? What am I worried about? What am I afraid of? What am I excited about? What am I angry about?’”

The band just began their expansive world tour—one of the biggest tours the band has embarked on as of yet. Since the creation of the band, Williams and his fellow bandmates have welcomed new family members into their lives—and tour buses. “I have four kids,” Williams says. “They don’t come on every tour, but it’s really cool because I’ll bring one of my daughters out, and we’ll just have like two weeks of me and her time. So that’s one of the pros of being able to do this.”

This past January, I was lucky enough to see The Lone Bellow in all of their glory—up on stage, with reckless abandon and songs that carried every worry away. It seems to be a common theme for the band—an honest and compelling performance awaits every fan intent on taking some bit of wisdom away from Williams and his bandmates.  For Williams, the performance is just as much of a release. “You know how like, you experience something and maybe it was just like a little too much for your brain to take in, so you can’t even remember an hour or two of your life? That’s what every show is to me,” says Williams. “I go all in and I’m so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to do it.”

Though Williams (and ultimately every songwriter) has to learn where personal emotion fits into their music, he wants to make every album an uplifting experience. In all three of The Lone Bellow’s albums, the lyrics may be heavy, but the way they are delivered doesn’t feel like such a somber experience. On their latest album in particular, even the messages feel slightly more hopeful and self-aware. The band has never been afraid to wear their heart on their guitar strings. Through life on the road and the growing and connecting of family, the band had plenty of material to use for this album. The three members came to the cutting board with 65 songs, and of those 65 they narrowed the album down to just 10 songs. “I think the hardest part was the narrowing down and trying to figure it out,” Williams says. “What do we want to say? We all knew what we wanted to say, but we needed to say it out loud and really get behind it.”

The Lone Bellow plays Friday, Oct. 6 at Dave Finkelman Auditorium, 4200 N. University Blvd. in Middletown. Tickets for the show cost $18-79. For more information, please call 513.529.4295 or visit TheLoneBellow.com/tour. 

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