Catching up with Zach Williams of The Lone Bellow

By Elizabeth Thomas

June 16, 2016

The critically-acclaimed folk trio from Brooklyn, New York, is making a stop in the Queen City this week. The Lone Bellow, three friends who grew up together in Georgia, began making music together about five years ago.

Following a family tragedy, frontman Zach Williams turned to journaling to cope with his darkest fears. Those writings would eventually become the material that launched Williams as a songwriter and solo artist.

Further on down the road, as if it were destiny, Williams, guitarist Brian Elmquist and singer Kanene Pipken ended up jamming together in Brooklyn.

“Three songs in, I realized I should quit what I’m doing and just make music with these people,” Williams told CMT.

And The Lone Bellow was born. The energetic three piece blends folk and gospel influences into a smooth, robust and harmonious sound.

Two albums later, The Lone Bellow is going strong. The indie folk group has made appearances on David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and is currently touring with the dynamic Lake Street Dive.

CLTure had the opportunity to ask Zach Williams a few questions ahead of The Lone Bellow show Friday night with Lake Street Dive at the Fillmore:

Zach Williams (left), Kanene Donehey Pipkin (middle), Brian Elmquist (right)

CLTure: From where do you draw inspiration, in terms of both your lyrics and musical style?

Zach Williams: I draw inspiration from the grind of the human condition. Sometimes it’s from place of joy and peace, and sometimes it’s from a place of worry and regret. I find myself wanting to write more and more about the moment that I’m living in now.

CLTure: Which artists and albums are you listening to now while on the road?

ZW: Recently, the new Robert Ellis album, Anderson Paak, Guy Clark. The Staple Singers are great for any Sunday Morning.

CLTure: What one moment so far really stands out to the band as your biggest, most-defining moment?

ZW: Great question. A couple weeks ago we found ourselves marching down the streets in New Orleans around 2 a.m. singing “All Night Long” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

CLTure: As a touring band, you spend a lot of time on the road and you’ve probably had some crazy experiences. Is there a particular moment that you guys often look back upon and laugh about?

ZW: The first time we played Leno, Brian ripped the crotch of his only pair of pants the night before. He got some black duct tape and taped it up, but if you look really closely you can see it. Thankfully they were black jeans.

CLTure: Anything new in the future for The Lone Bellow? What can we look forward to?

ZW: We’re looking forward to playing some shows with The National, Dawes and, of course, Lake Street Dive. We’re also ramping up to go back into the studio in the fall to work on our third record.

The Lone Bellow

CLTure: It’s been a rough few months for the music world, in terms of legends passing away. Which musical legend’s passing had the most profound impact on the band and why?

ZW: A few years back I saw Allen Toussaint play in New York City. I was a huge fan of the record he did with Elvis Costello called River in Reverse. A few years later I got to meet him during the Americana Music Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City. He had such a humble and kind way about him.  It’s always amazing meeting someone who inspires you and finding out how kind they are in person.

There is this feeling that comes over me every time I hear the recording of a voice just after I find out they have passed away. It’s been this was since I was a kid. The first song I listened to the morning I found out Bowie died was “Under Pressure.” Suddenly the energy in his voice took on a differently shape and very quickly reminded me that I was alive and I had been changed (even if it was ever so slightly) by what I had just heard

Check out The Lone Bellow with Lake Street Dive June 17 at Fillmore in Charlotte. 

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