Let it bleed
Personal stories of joy and loss from Brooklyn folk-rock trio
If you know anything about The Lone Bellow’s history—specifically that guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Zach Williams first started playing and singing publicly as a way to cope after his wife had a catastrophic horseback-riding accident that nearly left her permanently paralyzed—then you know the band’s music comes from a very personal place. After all, their self-titled 2013 debut featured songs like the swelling rocker “Bleeding Out” and country-folk track “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.”
The first album received rave reviews, and over the past two years the Brooklyn-based, indie folk-rock trio (rounded out by vocalist/mandolinist Kanene Donehey and vocalist/guitarist Brian Elmquist) has developed a sizable fan base.
And now, for those fans eager for news of their next project, the wait is over.
“We’re doing a vinyl [EP] for Record Store Day [Friday, Nov. 28], and it’s going to be called When You Go,” Williams said. “We’re also going to release an album in January, and the first single—‘Then Came the Morning’—on Oct. 7.”
Given the personal, powerful experience of the first album, Williams knows expectations will be high for this new album. And in a recent interview, he dropped a few hints about its content.
“It has a lot of family lore in it, and a Southern Gothic vibe to the stories,” the Georgia native said. “It’s born from some very personal things. There’s a good bit of joy and celebration, but there’s also some valleys in there. It takes the darkest colors and the lightest colors to try to paint something beautiful.”
The new projects’ music showcases beauty in another art form as well: photography. Having used just a simple black-and-white image of themselves for the cover of their debut, the trio is taking things to another level on this new release. Not only will the cover be more arresting, but Williams said there will be a selection of photos included with the release that inspired the music and the theme that was developed for the album.
“We sent a photographer, Leanne Ford, down to our hometowns in Georgia, and she went around and interviewed all these people,” Williams said. “Some of the songs are about the people she interviewed. One of the values of the record that we were shooting for was celebrating the mundane, so it’s a lot of beautiful pictures of people inside their houses.”
To illustrate how the mundane can be beautiful, gut-wrenching, tragic and even provide a powerful image of love, Williams shared one photo’s story: “The picture for the Record Store Day EP is of this man named Hugh,” he said. “He’s sitting on this bed he hasn’t slept in since his wife passed away 30 years ago. He sleeps in the guest room. It’s absolutely gorgeous how Leanne captured this moment with this guy where she knocked on his door, went inside and interviewed him for four hours and he told her all these incredible stories.”
As intriguing as that story and the one of Williams’ wife’s eventual recovery from her injury are, Williams knows that a big part of the next chapter for the band will involve their fans, once they start interacting with the new material.
“There’s a song I haven’t had the guts to sing in front of people yet,” Williams admits without giving any other details. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s worth it. When you’re making music with good friends, we all carry everything together. And then the audience carries it with you, so over time, the song you are singing literally becomes someone else’s song. That’s my hope with this record, that it will become people’s songs.”