WXPN 88.5 Welcomes ...
The Lone Bellow
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM
This event is all ages
The Lone Bellow
It’s been six years since The Lone Bellow was first formed by Zach Williams, multi-instrumentalist Kanene Donehey Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist. But one only needs to get the lead singer and guitarist speaking to their songwriting process to witness firsthand just how passionate he remains about its teeming creativity. “It’s a beautiful process,” the effusive singer says of the almost epiphany-like manner in which the band typically translates its vivid ideas to melodies and lyrics. “You’re trying to figure out exactly what it is you’re trying to say. And then, ‘Bam! Lightning strikes, everybody’s in the room, and it’s like the heavens open. Suddenly you’re able to write a song.”
The Lone Bellow, which also now includes Jason Pipkin on keys/bass, has long nurtured a deep and highly personal connection with their music. But with Walk Into A Storm, their third studio album, due on September 15 via Descendant Records/ Sony Music Masterworks, the band turned inward like never before. “We covered such a broad range of emotion on the album,” Elmquist says of the raw, intimate and undeniably soulful Dave Cobb-produced LP recorded in Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A. The 10-track album, Elmquist says, is centered on “the human condition and how you’re trying to connect with it,” and with stunning tracks including “Is It Ever Gonna Be Easy?” and “Long Way To Go,” it features some of the band’s most poignant material to date.
When creating the follow-up to 2014’s cherished Then Came The Morning, the band confronted — and ultimately overcame — a host of personal obstacles: not only did all the members and their respective families work through a relocation from New York City to Nashville, but on the day they were to begin recording the album Elmquist entered a rehab facility for issues stemming from alcohol abuse. “There’s a thousand different ways this could have gone down but it’s the way it did,” says Elmquist, says the tumultuous experience helped “put what we’re doing in perspective.” “I got to see the love and friendship we have for each other in action. I’m thankful.”
“Our band was the receiver of a lot of grace and kindness from the music community,” Williams adds, citing peers and industry folks offering words of encouragement as well as the non-profit MusicCares greatly aiding in the costs of the guitarist’s treatment.
Elmquist’s situation presented a logistical challenge for the band — they now had nine days to record instead of the pre-planned 20. But as Pipkin notes, the sacrifice “paled in comparison to what we have with each other. Without our friendships we don’t have anything,” she says. “That’s the reason we do this. To forge ahead without taking care of each other doesn’t work. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Working with the notoriously no-nonsense Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell), was a richly rewarding process. It was also one that helped the band kick out the jams in short order. “There’s no real bells and whistles,” Elmquist recalls of Cobb’s no-frills recording process. “You go practice a song, play it, record it and put it on a record.”
The results are stunning: from the orchestral, uplifting “May You Be Well,” to “Long Way To Go,” a beatific piano-anchored ballad Elmquist wrote while in rehab; and “Between The Lines,” a harmony-drenched sing-along Williams says acts as both a letter to Elmquist and an exploration of the push-pull of drawing art from pain.
“There’s this lie that the only good and worthy art that can be made has to come from tragedy and darkness,” Williams offers. “And I get it. But it doesn’t only have to come from that. It can also come from joy and gratitude.”
And that’s exactly what The Lone Bellow is full of as they look to the future. The band kicks off an extensive tour on September 21st with Central Park’s Summerstage supporting The Head and the Heart. And as they crisscross North America they’ll have a new member in tow. “‘How early is too early to teach a child how to tune guitars?’” Pipkin, whose newborn son will be joining them on the road, asks with a laugh. “It’s going to be really exciting and different.”
Williams seems nothing short of in awe of where life has taken him and his band. The process that led to Storm, the forthcoming tour, the deepening of bonds with his band mates -- it all adds up to The Lone Bellow “becoming even more like family,” he says. “I just love being able to have that opportunity with these friends.
The singer pauses, and with a supreme sense of contentment in his voice, notes proudly of his band mates: “They’re pretty good musicians. But they’re truly amazing people.”
Greg Holden's second full-length album may be titled I Don't Believe You, but he's genuinely given listeners something to believe in. Boasting unwavering honesty and unshakable melodies, the UK-born, New York-based singer and songwriter tells eleven vivid stories over the course of the record. Some of them are heartbreaking, while others are uplifting. However, all of them are unforgettable.
In 2009, the Big Apple beckoned Holden. He'd just released his independent debut, A Word in Edgeways, and after visiting the city for some recording sessions, he knew he wanted to relocate. He moved out of his London flat, sold most of his things, boarded a plane, and never looked back.
"For some reason, I was always drawn to New York," he admits. "Every one of my favorite musicians had gone there at some point. I remember reading about Bob Dylan's journeys through Greenwich Village, all the imagery of the city just taunted me. There's a mystery about the place, it just sucks you in."
For the next year, he immersed himself in that "mystery". Everything that he saw and experienced became fodder for his songwriting—whether it be interactions on the train or in the bars. The smell of alcohol and the overheard conversations lived on in his music. Simultaneously, he launched a Kickstarter page to fund the recording. Rallying support from his devout fan base, he raised 30,000 dollars in the span of month. Holden headed to Los Angeles and recorded the songs he'd been penning with none other than producer Tony Berg [Bob Dylan]. He emerged from the studio with I Don't Believe You.
"I'd call it English Americana," he says of the album. "I have real American influences, and I have to be proud of that, and not pretend as though I only listened to English music my whole life. I listen to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen as well as the English icons such as Harrison & Lennon. I'll always have my English roots, but I live here right now."
I Don't Believe You saw an initial digital release in 2011, and it began to slowly build a buzz online. However, when Holden recorded the bonus track "The Lost Boy", the record made a giant splash internationally. A poignant, potent, and poetic rumination, he carried the song's unforgettable refrain and touching story.
Holden recalls, "I wrote that after reading a book by Dave Eggers called What is the What. It's a true story about a Sudanese refugee named Valentino Achak Deng. It was so emotional and powerful that I had to write the song, it felt like some sort of duty. I wanted to make a difference after reading the book. I recorded it in my apartment, and I sent it to a DJ that I knew in Holland because he does a lot of work for the Red Cross."
The song entered regular rotation during the Christmas period, and shot to #1 on iTunes in Holland. The radio station invited Holden to play a Christmas Eve benefit for the Red Cross in front of 10,000 people. A sold out tour of the country ensued, and the song ended up raising 80,000 dollars for the charity. Shortly after, "The Lost Boy" played over a key scene in a seminal episode of Sons of Anarchy. Within days, it had sold 20,000 copies on iTunes and charted on Billboard.
Elsewhere on I Don't Believe You, Holden confronts dishonesty on the shimmering and slick title track, while "Bar on A" paid homage to one his favorite haunts where "an English boy learned about the drinks and women of New York". Then, there's the powerful "American Dream"—another true story.
"I was riding home on the subway one night, and I was sitting by a homeless couple," he explains. The woman was crying and upset, and the guy had a big bag of stuff he'd claimed to have stolen. He was like, 'Don't worry, I'm going to sell all of this shit so we can eat tonight'. It was so ****ing real. I wrote the song on my phone right there and then. It's a classic example of the many people who aren't living the so-called American dream."
Holden, however, has tirelessly chased his dream. In the midst of releasing I Don't Believe You, he wrote the multiplatinum-selling smash hit "Home" for Phillip Phillips, and he contributed the stunning "I Need an Energy" to the Chasing Mavericks soundtrack. Now, he signed to Collective Sounds in 2013 and will re-release the album formally in stores and digitally.
Ultimately though, his goal remains the same. "I don't sing to make money," he concludes. "I want to be honest, whether people believe me or not. I want to tell stories that make people think and hopefully, feel. I want them to be inspired in some way. If they can connect to a song beyond a harmonic level, that's all I ever wanted."