Songwriting inspiration often stems from times of hardship and tragedy — proving a long-standing relationship between pain and progress.
This rings true for Zach Williams of The Lone Bellow, who took to cathartic songwriting following an unfortunate incident where his wife broke her neck after falling off of a horse. While she was able to make a smooth recovery, the uncertainty and fear Williams felt inspired him to create music.
The Lone Bellow will be sharing these songs on Oct. 13 at the Majestic. The entire band, which includes Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin, partake in writing lyrics, making each song unique and personal. So unique that the band doesn’t fit into one particular genre.
“I don’t think genres exist anymore,” Williams said. “So many different musicians are inspired by so many different types of sounds.”
Musical inspirations have been on the members’ minds a lot lately, as one of their biggest muses, Tom Petty, passed away last week. The band is also inspired by Bill Withers and his connection with audiences through story telling. There’s a recording of Withers at Carnegie Hall telling stories about his grandfather, and it’s nothing short of captivating, Williams said.
Williams was inspired by his own grandfather to get involved with music. His grandparents played banjo and bass and always played music, Williams said. Now, Williams makes his own music by reflecting and keeping an open mind and a notepad with him at all times.
“I try to keep an open mind and heart throughout the day and something will hit me,” Williams said. “I mean you never know. It hits in the strangest places.”
The band itself was even born in a strange way — almost like fate brought the trio together. Williams was asked to sing at his friend’s wedding, so he sang “Oh Happy Day” with the assistance of the friend’s sister, Kanene Pipkin. After that one duo, Williams knew he needed to sing with Pipkin again, but she was living in Beijing at the time.
Brian Elmquist and Zach Williams were friends both living across the world in New York, but fate soon connected them all. Pipkin moved to New York, where Williams had songs he was working on and asked Elmquist and Pipkin to play some new songs with him. They did, and the rest is history.
“From the very first second the three of us sang together, we knew that it was something that we wanted to do,” Williams said.
As the band matured, so did their music. Their most recent album, Walk into a Storm, has more sonic space for the vocals and lyrics so that the song can breathe more when compared to the last album, Williams said.
Though the band is on a tour that will carry into late January, songwriting is always occurring. Writing is a part of life, Williams said. With the new music, comes new dreams. The band hopes to one-day headline Radio City in New York or Albert Hall in London.
Though it’s nice to have big dreams, the band also has goals that are more aligned with the average person. These goals reflect humility, love and freedom.
“I’d say to try to live in the moment, be grateful for what we get to do and take care of one another,” Williams said. “I think those are some goals that come to my mind.”
If college students have the goal of breaking into the music industry, Williams offered his advice: be open to both critique and failure, surround yourself with honest people and set yourself on fire for each performance.
Williams certainly has confidence in aspiring musicians, especially those in Madison. Madison is a town full of really smart, intelligent people, Williams said. The beautiful nature of Madison also makes it a reset in the tour.
“You get in the grind of going from city to city and every now and then there’s these cities that wake you back up,” Williams said. “Madison has always been one of those for us. We’re honored to be able to come back and we truly look forward to being back.”