What: The Lone Bellow with Over The Rhine (taping)
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-443-8696
More info: etown.org
E very time The Lone Bellow performs, the band is reliving sad, painful memories. The counterweight is what goes on off stage.
Calling from a sweat tea shop in Louisville, Ky., lead singer and principal songwriter Zack Williams sounds happy and excited. Being on the road is treating him and his bandmates — Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist — very well.
“Aw, man, especially today. We had our first day off, and the local radio station put us up in a little hotel, and this town is just really, really different,” Williams said. “I’ve never been to Louisville before. We went for a long walk yesterday, and went deep into the ghetto and found this abandoned, turn-of-the-century mansion, and I think we’re gonna try to break into it tonight after the show.”
This is the kind of thing the band has found itself doing a lot while away from its Brooklyn home. It’s a good emotional balance with the powerful, often mournful country music they play.
Williams first started writing when his wife was hospitalized after a horseback riding accident, which doctors thought would leave her paralyzed. She recovered, but during that time, Williams was pouring all the pain into songs.
“They’re such sad songs. I mean, the main objective was to write melodies — just like country music’s always been,” Williams said. “You write melodies to hide your sad stories in, so it’s a safe haven.
“We have this one and it’s a real barn burner. It’s sad. It’s awful. It’s terrible. I hate singing it. I have to relive it every night on stage, but it’s beautiful to share that with people.”
So, make no mistake. Though this is country music from people who live in Brooklyn, this is not ironic. It’s deadly sincere. And, emotion aside, the band has its roots in Georgia and Virginia.
When they all relocated to the cozy Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, they found it wasn’t too difficult to recapture the close-knit community feel of a small country town. Elmquist and Williams live in the same brownstone and Pipkin lives just down the street.
“I would even say that the small town kind of vibe that we have in the little neighborhood that we live in helps curate our music,” Williams said. “You’re outside all day long and you run into the same people every day. You got the same barista guy. You got the same grocery store guy. Your little ones are friends with the neighbors because you live right up against each other. Even while we were leaving — it was like 7 p.m., and the old Italian lady next door had baked cookies and came and brought them over for our family.”
They’re away from that home for a while, but they’re making the most of being on the road, and feeling thankful for it.
“We don’t know what is going on. We are just so grateful. We were just hoping for the opportunity to leave the city and play outside our usual bars,” Williams said. “It’s been wonderful and it’s been a real honor going around playing music in the different cities.”
Williams said almost every place they’ve been so far has had a river to enjoy, but Boulder will be the first time they have the mountains. Of course, while they’re in town for an eTown show this weekend, they’ll go hiking.