When Eric Church’s camp asked the Brooklyn trio The Lone Bellow to spend a week opening for the country-rock star, lead singer Zach Williams knew who to call.
His dad back home in Georgia.
“Which of the cousins is listening to Eric Church?” Williams asked his father. The answer was Williams’ cousin John, a trout fisherman on the Chattahoochee River outside Atlanta. “John is a man’s man,” Williams said, “a river guy” who hunts animals and straps them around his neck. All of which lends thick credibility to John’s assessment of Church.
“I feel like that guy understands the grind,” John told his singer cousin. “The grind of the mundane and the grind of the working.”
Williams got it, he liked it, and now The Lone Bellow will begin a week opening for Church’s “The Outsiders World Tour” this Friday at First Niagara Center [read O'Shei's interview with Eric Church]. And you’ll likely find that Church fans, who embrace their man’s grind and grit, will take to Bellow too. The trio’s music is folksy, harmonic, Southern soulful and, like Church’s work, rooted in the deep, complex and sometimes dark human experience of Williams and bandmates Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin.
“Our songs, some of them are dreadfully painful to sing every night,” said Williams, 34. “They are connected with things in our reality right now or in our past that bring up a lot of fear and worry and wonder and beauty all at the same time. You sing that over and over, night after night after night, it becomes a force in your life.”
The Lone Bellow’s music is becoming a force with fans and media, too. In the midst of the release of their second album, “Then Came The Morning,” the band made late-night appearances with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and played a morning-show spot on CBS. They also had a sold-out U.S. headline tour, played the Stagecoach festival, and soon will be heading to the U.K. for an appearance on the BBC show “Later ... with Jool Holland.” After that it’s more festivals, more touring and at some point, trying to make sense of the whirlwind surrounding their highly personal music.
“I don’t know if we’ve actually, like, figured out how to check the temperature gauge of, Are we healthy? How are we doing?” Williams said. “We’re singing these songs that are connected to heavy things, but they’re also these songs we truly care about.”
Here are two examples from Williams:
“Take My Love”
Williams: “Have you ever had a friend that doesn’t see the goodness and beauty in themselves, and you’re just begging them to see that they are whole and they are complete and they are good and such a waste of space on this earth? And they just can’t hear it. Whatever is going on, they can’t hear it. It’s begging someone to see that they’re worthwhile. Not only is life worth living, but you are mysterious.”
Williams: “One of the heroes in my life is my mother in law. She raised my wife as a single mom … She was this powerful story of brokenness but also of strength.”