When the Lone Bellow were preparing to hit the road back in February 2020 to promote the trio’s fourth studio album “Half Moon Light,” founding member Zachary Williams was looking forward to sharing an extended time on the road with bandmates Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmquist and their families.
“We were really excited to get the gang back together and get back on the bus and have fun hanging out,” Williams recalled in a recent interview. “It’s just a fun family environment. These people have become like aunts and uncles to my kids.”
But then COVID-19 hit and the Lone Bellow, not unlike the rest of the world, ground to a halt amid social-distancing mandates, mask wearing and the suspension of all nonessential activities, particularly those that involve large groups of people gathering in public. For the band, it meant postponing, canceling shows before finally booking a handful of outdoor dates for fall 2020 where fans were placed in a socially distanced arrangement.
Prior to that brief outing, the three musicians, who all reside in Nashville, kept up their chops by playing four half-hour Zoom sessions to groups of 10 fans on Wednesday and Thursday nights during part of the pandemic. Williams’ musical buddy Joe Pug had suggested trying these sessions, describing the experience as being really life-giving. Williams readily agrees with that sentiment.
“We’d meet up in my basement after Brian and Kanene put their kids down and the three of us would sing for 10 people on a Zoom call,” he said. “We’ve gotten to meet and talk to some die-hard fans that we probably wouldn’t have been able to talk to. I feel like we’ve taken an opportunity to get to know our fans a little better and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Credit: Shervin Lainez
Credit: Shervin Lainez
During the time of the pandemic lockdown, the Lone Bellow’s creative flow continued unabated. Elmquist released music through a side project dubbed the Joy Club. Williams rented a car and headed down to Fort Worth, Texas, to work with the White Denim Boys and Robert Ellis. On the non-musical side, the Georgia native indulged in some design-type work with American-made work clothes through a collaboration with an old factory in Bristol, Tennessee, called LC King. He also spent time with his four kids, aged five to 12, while his wife has been able to start a company, a development he’s excited about.
“I’ve finally had the chance to champion my wife,” he said. “My wife has always been holding down the fort with the kids. Now, I’m home with the kids and she started a company. So it’s been really fun how she took a big risk and she’s having a great time and working with people she loves. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at.”
The three members of the Lone Bellow had not had many opportunities for extensive family time since releasing their self-titled debut album in 2013, which landed on a healthy number of year-end best album lists that year. A second album, “Fake Roses,” followed in 2015. It was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, who also produced “Half Moon Light.” Sandwiched between those two albums was a third album, 2017′s “Walk Into a Storm,” on which the trio worked with the very in-demand Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb.
Following a tour with the Lone Bellow that included a stop at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse last August, Williams is currently doing a run of solo shows. The solo tour will bring him to Eddie’s Attic in Decatur on March 24, before rejoining his bandmates for some spring and summer dates. In August, they’ll be opening for Maren Morris on a tour of the Western U.S.
The downtime caused by the pandemic not only led to quite a bit of creative itch-scratching for Williams (“We’re having some creative juices really flowing right now”), but led to some introspection for the father of four.
“I learned a lot about my own anxiety during all of this in a really beautiful way,” he said. “I think I’d gotten pretty wound up. I’d been grinding out shows for close to a decade — trying to get everybody paid and keep the ball rolling. Something like this happens and it’s out of our control and you kind of get your head out of the sand a little bit. You look around and I realized that I’m really grateful for the work I get to do.”
7:30 p.m. March 24. $20. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-377-4976, eddiesattic.com.
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