This week, you can consider the 615 Spotlight a preview of an act who just might be one of the “Next Big Things” for 2013 — The Lone Bellow. A trio consisting of lead singer Zach Williams, mandolin player Kanene Pipkin, and guitarist Brian Elmquist, The Lone Bellow will be releasing their self-titled album on January 22, and to say there’s a great deal of buzz about them — and their single “You Never Need Nobody” is something of an understatement.
Though from the south (Williams and Elmquist both hailing from Georgia, and Pipkin from Virginia) the trio found their musical way in an unlikely spot for an act with an Americana / country slant — Brooklyn.
“I moved there about seven years ago, and Brian has been there about five years,” Williams told Billboard. The neighborhood we live in in Brooklyn has a small-town feel. Everybody walks where they are going, so you run into the same people every day. You see the same people at the diner, or at the grocery store. It was a transition for me, but I really resonated with the community vibe of the small neighborhood, and being a part of people’s lives on the street.”
Williams explains that his path both to music and the Big Apple was, to quote the Beatles, a “long and winding road.”
“I had a strange entering-into-music situation. My wife fell off a horse on my family’s horse ranch in Georgia, and she broke her neck. She was quadriplegic. I started to write in a journal to help me process because I was very numb and scared. I would tell my friends my journal entries, and they would tell me that I needed to put those to your guitar, and sing them at the same time, and go down to some open mics. So, I did that, and it really pulled on my heart, and helped me,” he admits.
Fortunately, things would get better at home. “Miraculously, my wife was healed. The neurologist didn’t know how, it was just one of those stories. So, I decided I wanted to try music, and wanted to move to New York City to play some of those venues. They’ll be honest with me. They’ll tell me if I’m no good or if I have something.”
Not too long after, at Williams’ prodding, Elmquist would find his way to Brooklyn, as well. “Every time I would talk to him, he would tell me ‘You need to move to Brooklyn.” recalls Brian. “I wasn’t married or anything, so I did. Then, about two years ago, he calls me and starts writing these awesome songs with heavy lyrics, and wanted to hide them in a country feel. He said he wanted to start our ‘Honky Tonk’ project. We both had our own things going, but at our first session, we just came up with the sound that is the Lone Bellow — a wall of voices, and the ebb and flow of ups and downs — it’s a pretty fun thing.”
The group recently showcased the wide range of their music for a standing-room only crowd at Nashville’s Basement. Elmquist says their music is about emotions, pure and simple. “I think it’s very honest. We’re not trying to get all dressed up or anything like that, we just want to sing our songs, and express the emotions as best as possible. People seem to get it.”
Pipkin echoes Elmquist’s assessment in describing the thought process that goes into their songs. “There’s an ease in just going and talking about deep things, which helps in songwriting. It’s not just trying to make yourself look cool or something that you’re not, and I think everybody can relate to that.”
The Lone Bellow’s release will be the first for Descendant Records — a newly formed division of Sony Music Entertainment. Pipkin says it will be “such a relief” to get the album out to their growing fan base — some of whom have more than just a passing interest in the music, as Elmquist shares.
“We helped pay for the editing of the record with Kickstarter,” he says, noting that it cost $25,000 to edit the record. “We wanted to make the record with all eight band members together in our favorite music hall in New York. We did all thirteen songs in three days, so editing was a beast.”
Have those “investors” heard it? “Not yet,” says Elmquist. “They have only heard the single, but we can’t wait for them to hear the record.”