The Lone Bellow
wsg. Robert Ellis
Shakespeare’s Lower Level, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Dec. 13, (8 p.m.); $15
Singing in perfect harmony, Brooklyn trio The Lone Bellow hopes its music reminds people that no one is ever really alone.
The group goes back more than a decade, to when lead singer/principal songwriter Zach Williams was living in his native Georgia with his wife, who was paralyzed in a horrific horse riding accident. Putting melody to words he had penned to make sense of his personal grief — and realizing he had experienced one of life’s rare second chances during his wife’s dramatic recovery — he then moved to New York City to pursue his lifelong dream of a career in music.
Seven lean years later, Williams found himself a part of a close-knit group of musicians and other artists, and began The Lone Bellow with his old friend, guitarist/vocalist Brian Elmquist and mandolinist/vocalist Kanene Donehey Pipkin, as an honest extension of that community.
“We’ve kind of stuck it out here in the city for the past nine years, and we see The Lone Bellow as really an extension of our neighborhood,” Williams said. “It’s always been a really beautiful thing to make songs with true friends who really care about each other.”
Calling their unique blend of Americana, roots, folk and rock music “Brooklyn country,” The Lone Bellow’s first big break came when Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars called them to open a show in Philadelphia. They forged a fast friendship and, soon after, worked with Civil Wars producer Charlie Peacock on their 2013 self-titled debut.
“I remember when we first started touring at SXSW in 2013,” Williams said of the band’s rigorous tour schedule since then. “We did 17 shows in that one week and we learned a lot about ourselves and our show.”
Barely able to make it through a 40-minute set physically, pouring so much of themselves into their impassioned vocals, the trio got stronger, studying different vocal techniques, and working at taking care of each other.
“We have a pretty intense warm up where we sound like cats in heat,” Williams said about how they now prepare to perform.
Currently they’re touring in anticipation of their upcoming new album, Then Came The Morning, which is slated for release next January.
“I’d been listening to a lot of like Vegas-era Elvis, and also a lot of Neil Young’s Harvest, so that’s where some of the sound comes from; this big grandiose sound of that time when Elvis was losing his good looks, and maybe losing his mind a little bit, and maybe some of his voice. All that was left over was this raw emotion,” Williams said about the album’s already-released title track.
Produced by Aaron Dessner of indie-rock band The National (and arranged by his twin brother Bryce) The Lone Bellow recorded the new album at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., with many of their Brooklyn friends joining to record the set’s lush string, horn and woodwind arrangements.
Both literally and figuratively celebrating a new day, Then Came The Morning will follow nearly two years to the day from their debut’s release, but Williams said that the album’s new year’s release was completely coincidental.
“We were actually trying to get it done and release it sooner, but we didn’t want to have to tour the new record through Thanksgiving and Christmas because we’ve got families,” he explained. “So, we were like, let’s just really work on it, and not rush it, and release it after the holidays.”–Eric Mitts