In many ways, you could say that indie rock trio The Lone Bellow’s third album title is biographical. Before recording Walk Into A Storm, released in fall of 2017, members of the group had to make a tough decision—wait for one of their own to check in and out of rehab before recording, or proceed in his absence. The answer was simple: wait patiently for their bandmate to return.
Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) left Zach Williams (lead vocals, guitars) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboards, vocals) in a predicament when he came head-to-head with alcoholism. Waiting for him meant that the band’s scheduled record time at the acclaimed RCA Studio A in Nashville was reduced from 30 days to seven.
“It was a moment where we had to make a decision of whether we were going to put Brian’s well-being first or the making of the third record,” says Williams. “It was really scary making those decisions then, but I’m glad we did. He’s had a beautiful success story so far and we’re taking it one day at a time. It’s been really good.”
Taking things one day at a time is nothing new for Williams, who picked up pen and paper and learned to play the guitar after his wife was temporarily paralyzed from a horse-riding injury in 2004. After her recovery in 2005, Williams moved his family from Buckhead, Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. But the migration prompted a larger herd, so to speak, as 10 or so of Williams’ college friends trickled up to the city that never sleeps in pursuit of their dreams.
One of these friends was Tony Award- winning Broadway actress Ruthie Ann Miles. “Another developed a game company called Chess At Three, and some others went into fashion,” Williams says. “The city was really kind to all of us.”
For Williams, who met Elmquist and Pipkin and formed The Lone Bellow, the accomplishments of being signed to a major record label with albums that made the Billboard 200 was more than enough. Add on the recording of the band’s second album, Then Came The Morning, with Aaron Dessner of The National and a nomination at the Americana Music Awards, and you’ve got a success sequel.
Calling Dessner “an incredible producer,” Williams says, “It was so fun because we are such different bands and I think we both fed off of the two sonic textures of each other’s band.”
Williams describes The Lone Bellow’s third album as more hopeful, lyrically speaking, than some of its past efforts.
“We’re really just trying to dissect the human condition as best we can with every song we write and every show we play,” says Williams. “I write a lot about the regular beauty found in the mundane of life.”
Songs like “May You Be Well,” a track for Williams’ daughter to enjoy while he’s on the road, and “Between the Lines,” written while Elmquist was in rehab, take a personal approach to the songwriting craft.
Williams credits The Lone Bellow’s interconnectedness and longevity, despite recent hardships, to gratitude. He also notes that the band is more like family than friends.
“We have super terrible conflicts and we’ll get over it and be okay 10 minutes later,” he says. “I think that you have to genuinely care for your fellow bandmates. You have to care about their creative input and…as human beings. That’s gone a long way.”