Sometimes hardship can yield unexpected results. The Lone Bellow, the band made up of members Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist, is an example of how this works. Williams, the founding member, wrote many of the songs from their first album in the wake of struggle. Before the band came together, Williams’ wife broke her neck in a horse riding accident and was temporarily paralyzed. Not knowing if his wife would ever fully recover from her injury, Williams began writing a journal in which he recorded his fear, anger, and struggle. His wife eventually regained her ability to walk, and after sharing his journals with some close friends, he was prompted to turn his entries into songs. This was the beginning of The Lone Bellow, which came together in a more final form years later after a move from the South to Brooklyn.
The music that The Lone Bellow has made expresses Williams’ struggle well, but presents it in a more universal and relatable way, making it easier for listeners to identify with it. In the song “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional”, he sings,
It was written in vain
I don’t care if you know
Pour my tear down a drain
Let ‘em sleep in slow
Oh, we can dance around what happened
Play the music soft and low
But you can be all kinds of emotional
This song expresses how a person can come to terms with a traumatic experience. There are multiple ways that they can respond, two being ignoring it or keep going in spite of it, and both are considered in “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional”. The song tells listeners that there are all kinds of ways to respond to pain, but that everybody goes through it. This is broad enough that listeners can apply it to a variety of experiences or interpret it differently, but it is still true to Williams’ specific struggle.
Although the music comes from a period of brokenness, pain is not all that is expressed in this music. For instance, the song “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” is surprisingly upbeat and assures listeners that, “It’s alright”. Williams writes,
It’s harder than we thought it’d be
We’re losing blood with every beat
Our song is not a dying dream
You’re not alone, you’re not alone
Green eyes and a heart of gold
Money’s gone and the house is cold
And it’s alright, it’s alright...
Through his pain, Williams was able to find hope and joy, which is especially apparent in the tone and instrumentation of the song. These songs assure listeners that suffering does not have the last word, even if it looks bleak. Although the songs were written in sorrow, they allow room for promise in spite of circumstances.
~ Avery Johnson