The Lone Bellow’s debut album – as recorded at the Lower East Side’s Rockwood Music Hall — may have taken off shortly after its January 2013 release, but the band is hardly an overnight success. Brian Elmquist had been writing and recording as a solo artist for more than a decade, Kanene Pipkin and her husband were part of the music scene while living in Beijing, and Zach Williams had played around New York City before starting to write songs for The Lone Bellow.
Ultimately, that self-titled album received high accolades commercially and critically, among them being named number eight on the Top 10 Albums of 2013 list in People. After touring with The Civil Wars, Brandi Carlisle, The Avett Brothers and Dwight Yoakam, it came time for the group’s sophomore effort. Released two years after their debut, The Lone Bellow’s second album Then Came The Morning followed in January 2015. Produced by Aaron Dessner, guitarist of The National, its title track served as the first single and was premiered by NPR. The second single, “Fake Roses,” has a music video starring actress Virginia Madsen.
In support of Then Came The Morning, The Lone Bellow will be playing two shows at Webster Hall on Nov. 12 and 13. Beyond being homecoming shows, the pair of gigs also marks the end of a tour which kicked off in Denmark in late August. Zach kindly answered some questions for Downtown about the trio’s past, present and future.
What do you wish more people knew about The Lone Bellow?
Zach Williams: I hope folks know that we work hard and we appreciate the fact that they listen to our music. Singing for supper is an honor.
The Lone Bellow had a highly-charting album within a few years of forming. Did you have any commercial expectations when you began writing songs?
Z: Not at all. I can’t even say the band started as a side project. I had some songs I was working on and I called a bunch of my friends and neighbors up to just play some music together. The tunes were easy enough that we ended up learning them very quickly during the first “rehearsal” and had a blast. Then we just kept on doing it until we decided to try to make a record.
How did Virginia Madsen wind up appearing in your latest music video?
Z: An actor named Sophia Bush asked us to play in her living room a couple years back. Virginia Madsen was at the get-together. A few years later, when I was trying to figure out the perfect actress to play my mother-in-law in the “Fake Roses” video, Virginia was my top choice. I obviously did not think she would do it. I could not believe it when she said she would. We shot the video in and around my mother-in-law’s house in Lafayette, Georgia. My niece and nephew followed the crew around for three days and she was incredibly kind to them. My nephew fully believes that he told her when to cry.
For someone who hasn’t yet picked up your second album, how would you compare it to your debut album?
Z: I’d say it’s the first album we made as a real band. We explored different sounds and zeroed in on capturing our vocals live together in an old church sanctuary.
Do you like being referred to as an “Americana” band?
Z: The Americana folks have been so kind to us. Every listener at every AMA show is intentional and encouraging. I am honored that they consider us a part of their world.
What’s to be expected from your upcoming Webster Hall shows?
Z: The homecoming shows! We cannot wait to play in the city that made us and continues to challenge and mold us.
Might we ever see a proper Zach solo album? Or is The Lone Bellow your main priority for the immediate future?
Z: I love making music in every way shape or form. I don’t have any plans, but I hardly ever have plans in general.
When you’re not busy with touring or recording, what do you like to do with yourself?
Z: When I’m home I stay close to my apartment. I don’t get into Manhattan that much. I’ve got three little girls and another on the way. I miss them so.
Finally, Zach, any last words for the kids?
Z: We are thankful that they listen to our music and we can’t wait to bring a bit of ruckus to Webster Hall.
-by Darren Paltrowitz