In June, the Brooklyn-based Lone Bellow visited Green Bay while on tour with Brandi Carlile. Come Jan. 22, the band returns, this time as headliners, to bring their county-infused sounds to the Meyer Theatre. Supporting the band for this Near Water Concert Series Event will be Count This Penny.
We at Scene were fortunate enough to catch up with Lone Bellow’s Zach Williams.
Scene: I understand that personal tragedy is partly responsible for the creation of Lone Bellow; can you share that story with our readership?
Zach Williams: About nine years ago my wife fell off one of my family’s horses and broke her neck. We were told at the hospital that she was paralyzed from the neck down. While living in the hospital I started reading my journal entries to my close friends in the waiting room. I wrote them in a type of poetry form. It was good for me to sift through the different stages of grief. Especially the numbness. My friends gave me advice to learn to play the guitar and sing at the same time, so I could try to make these entries into songs and sing them at the local open mics. That is where my love for song writing started. That was nine years ago. My wife was miraculously healed and we moved with all of my friends to NYC together to pursue our different ventures in art and business. We had a hope of doing life together in a city where we could walk to each others homes. We’ve all called Brooklyn home ever since. The Lone Bellow is definitely an extension of that group of friends, but this first batch of songs were written just a couple years ago.
Scene: With the recovery of your wife, was that like a new lease on life? And is this what motivated you to move to NYC to pursue your ambitions?
ZW: Absolutely. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring things into focus.
Scene: The Lone Bellow website states that you returned from a soul-searching trip with a ‘stack of deeply personal songs.’ Was this trip a physical or mental one and what prompted the need for soul-searching? And are these songs the ones that appear on the band’s debut album?
ZW: My wife and I went to Mexico. These are the songs from that time, while going through a particularly hard time.
Scene: Has the song-writing process evolved for the group in any way? Do lyrics drive the music, or visa versa?
ZW: We all enjoy writing together. Sometimes the lyrics come first and sometimes the melody. We’ve been writing in the van a good bit these days since we have been touring just about non-stop.
Scene: While living in Brooklyn, how were those early days of performing, for you and for the band?
ZW: Tuesday 2 a.m. gigs in Chinatown. Open mics at Bars at 4. Your same group of five friends coming out to every late show, just to support what your doing. It was a beautiful and hard experience. I met some of the most interesting people in my life during that time. One of them being the owner of Rockwood Music Hall — a man named Ken Rockwood who gave me my first real shot at playing a set at a respected music hall. After a couple years we started meeting for lunch to talk about the creative process of music.
Scene: Interestingly, the bands break seems to have come in Philadelphia, is that right to say that was the bands big break and can you explain how that came to be?
ZW: That was our first real show. Joy and Nate Yetton from The Civil Wars clan needed a place to stay a couple months before we put The Lone Bellow together. I met them through a friend and we got snowed in for a couple days. When we started working on this new project that is now The Lone Bellow, I asked Nate if we could ever open for them if they were in the area. Mind you, this is before The Civil Wars record came out. Nate liked the rehearsal recordings I sent him and gave us a shot. The show went well and we later ended up touring with TCW after their record was released. It was definitely a moment where we realized the songs were connecting with complete strangers.
Scene: The band came to Green Bay in June of 2013 with Brandi Carlile, how was that tour for the Bellow and perhaps for those that caught your show here at the Meyer, how will the current tour differ, aside from Carlile’s absence?
ZW: We Love Carlile! They are like family to us. They took such good care of us and it was such an honor meeting her fans. This time around we will be able to play our full set. We will be trying out a few new songs as well.
Scene: In March of 2014, the band will be taking the tour to the U.K. and Germany, will this be the band’s first experience out of the country and is it record sales that prompts a band to cross the pond?
ZW: We went to Europe a couple months ago. After we released the record over there, it became apparent that we should go play some shows. Should be a good time.
Scene: Is there an area of the country that has been particularly good to the Lone Bellow? Is there a stronger connection to your music say, in the South or the Midwest? If so, any idea what causes this to happen?
ZW: NPR affiliated radio stations playing our music in different cities has definitively been a big part of informing folks when we are coming through their town and folks that listen to their local NPR affiliates seem to truly love music. It’s an honor to show up and meet them.
Scene: Anything you might like to discuss that we haven’t? Or, anything you’d like to mention to the folks of Green Bay to encourage them to come out and see the Lone Bellow when you visit the Meyer Theatre?
ZW: Happy New Year! We love Green Bay. Someone from your fine city made a video for our song “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” and I think it should be the official video.
Lone Bellow will be playing with Count This Penny, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15 and are available at www.meyertheatre.org.