How The Lone Bellow Weathered the Storm

You can hear feelings of doubt and strain at the start of The Lone Bellow's Walk Into a Storm.
You can hear feelings of doubt and strain at the start of The Lone Bellow's Walk Into a Storm. Eric Ryan Anderson
The excitement in Zach Williams’ voice is intense.

After taking down a Texas bacon, egg, and cheese melt at a Waffle House in Georgia, the Lone Bellow frontman and father of four is clearly happy to be out on the road with his band. But making a living doing what he loves has not always been easy.

“You have to have your priorities set,” Williams says by phone. “Finding that balance is really hard.”

Life has changed for the members of The Lone Bellow since the band formed seven years ago. Now, they all have families. And they have been touring a lot.

“There was a time in the band where we were locking horns for a little bit,” he says.

You can hear those feelings of doubt and strain at the start of the folk-rock trio’s third album, Walk Into a Storm. It was produced by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) and recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, the band’s new hometown.

The record’s opening track, “Deeper in the Water,” finds the singer roaring in desperation that the world is making the bones of the song’s subject weary. On “Is It Ever Going to Be Easy,” Williams sings about a couple whose lines of communication have broken down and the relationship has gone cold as a result.

Writing music with multi-instrumentalist Kanene Donehey Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist affords Williams the chance to share things that he might not be able to say directly to the people closest to him. He could be conveying solace to a grieving bandmate or articulating the aggravation that comes with relocating your family from Brooklyn to Music City.

In the case of the track “Between The Lines,” Williams is reacting to Elmquist’s struggle with alcohol abuse and his subsequent recovery. He says the band found catharsis in opening up about how someone wrestling with personal demons affects those around them.

“We knew something was happening there the morning we wrote the song,” Williams says. “All of a sudden, something hits you and you can tell it is going to stick.”

But Walk Into a Storm is not all darkness.

Williams is constantly surprised by how the band’s music takes on a life of its own once a song goes out into the world. The band’s latest single, “May You Be Well,” has its origins in a letter Williams wrote to one of his daughters. At shows, the gospel-like refrain has morphed into a hymn for the audience to sing along with, providing comfort to those looking for respite from the events that have shaped the past year.

Williams acknowledges that he wanted to document the process of creating something meaningful, and finding joy in what you love is how the record reaches its resounding end. When asked to elaborate, he paraphrases a lyric from the song “Something More Than Free” by country singer Jason Isbell.

“I’m thankful for the work,” he says. “I’m thankful that I get to go and play music. I’m thankful that I get to do it with people that I care about.”

The Lone Bellow are scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 3, at The Rebel Lounge. Tickets are $20 to $79.

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil