This article is from Issue 62: March/April 2013

The Lone Bellow

Zach Williams is not an expressive man.

In conversation, he speaks in slow, measured tones, wasting no words, pausing for great lengths of time to reflect before answering questions. He has a cowboy air about him, like he just rode into town with a weary heart and eyes that have seen a thing or two. He’s got time to tell a story, but he doesn’t have time for things like feelings.

Which is curious, because Zach Williams’ band, the Lone Bellow, is shot through with emotion—more feeling than you knew songs could contain. When Williams and his bandmates (longtime friends Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin) open their mouths, it’s an invitation to witness their rawest nerves.

Williams first started writing music in the hospital, after his wife sustained a horsing accident that had doctors convinced she would never move again. You feel every throb of his broken heart in the music, but you also feel his quickening exultation as she miraculously defied the doctors’ prognosis and regained her ability to walk. That’s the scope of feeling that permeates the Lone Bellow’s self-titled debut album. And it’s saying something that, in the midst of an over-saturated folk renaissance, their contribution can still make you sit up and take notice.

And people are taking notice. No sooner had the debut dropped than the trio found itself gracing the pages of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly, playing Conan and getting dubbed NPR’s “Band You Need to Know in 2013”—all before they had their own Wikipedia page.

They have that way about them—that quality that makes you wrangle your friends around a laptop to watch any one of their jaw-dropping live performances on YouTube. They’ve been compared to Mumford & Sons, which seems a little easy. There’s something more subtle and nuanced to the Lone Bellow—a delicacy that allows them to nestle in your heart in a way not even Marcus Mumford can. It’s that gentle conviction—that soft surety—that Williams conveys in conversation, whether he’s talking about his music, his hope or his brushes with redemption. Here’s what he had to say to us about it.


RELEVANT: Do you remember your first thoughts when doctors told you your wife would never move again?