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Zach Williams, The Lone Bellow - Friend of the DFC

The latest offering from The Lone Bellow is quite a deviation from their previous albums. Until now they have worked with likes of Aaron Dressner from The National and eight-time Grammy-winner Dave Cobb. Love Songs for Losers is the first time they have self-produced. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Zach Williams was gracious enough to speak with us about the origins of the band, their latest album, songwriting and more. 

Love Songs for Losers
In addition to Zach, The Lone Bellow consists of guitarist Brian Elmquist and multi-instrumentalist, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, bassist Jason Pipkin and drummer Julian Dorio.

“One of the reasons we went with Love Songs for Losers as the album title is that I’ve always seen myself as a loser in love—I’ve never been able to get it completely right, so this is my way of standing on top of the mountain and telling everyone, ‘It’s okay,’” says Zach. “The songs are looking at bad relationships and wonderful relationships and all the in-between, sometimes with a good deal of levity. It’s us just trying to encapsulate the whole gamut of experience that we all go through as human beings.” 

The Move to New York
Zach grew up in Acworth, Georgia, went to college and wasn’t set on a musical career. Then his wife, Stacy, had a tragic horse-riding accident and broke her neck. He began writing music while she recovered. “I lived in the hospital barracks and it was a really lonely unknown time. We didn’t know if she was ever going to move again from the neck down. My buddies would visit me and I would read them my scribbles. They told me I should learn to play the guitar and go to an open mic night and sing this stuff. So, I did and it became a real cathartic thing for me. I thought if Stacy gets better we’re going to move to New York City and I’m going to do this. She miraculously healed and we moved with a group of friends. It was a good move. They were all thespians and I was a musician – we were basically all waiters.”

It was in New York that Zach cut his teeth playing music. He played solo for a while wherever he could and then founded The Lone Bellow in 2011. “Brian and I are both from Georgia and he had moved to New York to pursue music. We decided to play music together. Kanene was in New York going to culinary school. We had eight members at first - three Brians in the band. It was fun, a hilarious time.” 

the lone bellow band joshua treeKeep It Independent
The music of The Lone Bellow has been described as Americana, blues, indie rock, soul, among other genres, but Zach doesn’t know exactly how to describe it. “I know what I’m trying to make and I know what I want. And I know that it’s important for the listener to be able to have a genre. I’d call it independent – that’s what John Prine said. We’re a three-part harmony storytelling band that also enjoys playing acoustic instruments sometimes.” 

The Studio vs Live
While Brian and Kenene love being in the studio, Zach is “a performing live guy. I get so bored in the studio. I’m just, let’s let this pony go and take this live. That’s why this last record is really interesting, because it’s the first time we self-produced. Before that we had always worked with a producer like Aaron Dessner. He’s just wonderful. I love Aaron’s sensibility. His desire to make good music sits right below his desire to create community. He has made such beautiful art over the years.”

When it comes to what he listens to, Zach has quite an eclectic musical taste. “I love Terry Allen. I love that he’s an avant-garde dude, he was a sculptor … I love his latest work. I love Mickey Newbury and his style of writing. The lead singer (Hamilton Leithauser)from The Walkmen put out a record last year and if you listen to it you feel like you’re in a closet with him, listening to these songs that are so beautiful. I love Bon Iver and that he doesn’t say words that make sense the majority of the time. The melody has such colors of emotion. I love that he sticks with whatever came into his mind when he was writing the melody when he records it.” 

Letting it Flow
Zach has an organic songwriting style. “I feel like the best songs are always the ones where you get struck by lightning, when you’re minding your business. But I think that there’s also beauty in chasing them down too. I have a creative writing process that I make myself do, but it’s not necessarily to write a song. It’s usually to get down to what I’m really feeling inside, letting that flow kind of go. And a lot of times I’ll try to write a poem at the end, so that’s been a writing process of mine for a long time.”

Although Zach writes songs on a piano, he sticks to the guitar while touring. “I’ve made it this far without having to purchase an instrument. My uncle gave me a guitar when I was a kid and then a neighbor gave me a couple guitars when I moved to New York. I’ve just used those the entire time. They’re old as dirt. I’ve got two J-45s. A 1954 J-45 - I love to write songs on that - and a 1987 J-45 - she is strong as an ox. I tour and play with them every night. And I’ll play whatever electric guitar Brian wants me to play.” 

See The Lone Bellow Live!
You can see the band live in Colorado this month - get tickets

Feb 2nd - Ft. Collins, Aggie Theatre

Feb 3rd – Denver, Ogden Theatre

Feb 4th – Breckenridge, Riverwalk Center

Zach describes their concerts as “big loud rock ‘n’ roll shows. Our drummer, Julian Dorio, was in Eagles of Death Metal. He toured with Kings of Leon for years. He’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll!”

Learn more about the band and hear their latest album on their website.