The loftiness of the folk music scene is something to be exalted as it has turned 180 degrees from the ringing protest anthems of the 1950s and 60s to the horn-rimmed glasses and plaid shirted hipsters that have created a niche within the indie folk scene.
“It’s two very broad strokes — hipster and folk,” said Zach Williams, frontman and guitarist for the acclaimed folk outfit, The Lone Bellow. Williams explained that there is a distinguishment between what the definition of a hipster really is in the folk scene — “is it a type of way a person chooses to dress or a phase someone is going through?”
Regardless of the changing audiences, folk music has been traditionally the same since Williams first got his start in the early 2000s. Using the Newport Folk Festival as an example, Williams said that “it’s going to have the same ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ mentality since the 60s.” For him, this mentality is necessary for a time when the nation is as politically divided as it currently is, hopefully bridging a gap over the discord.
“I get a lot of inspiration from conflict, which comes as a natural, normal thing for the human condition [yet] is really hard as well,” said Williams.
This has translated over to Williams’ profound writing capabilities, which have lead to becoming the frontman of The Lone Bellow, who have been a sort of torchbearer for modern folk musicians with their synchronicity and lyrical supremacy. When Williams’ wife suffered from temporary paralysis after a horseback riding accident, he turned to songwriting as a coping mechanism and turned his musings into melodic tune. This eventually led him to meet current bandmate Brian Elmquist and from there the rest has transcended itself through the music of The Lone Bellow.
“With the Lone Bellow, we are a pretty strong machine that takes all five of us to make,” said Williams. “There’s a lot of sound on stage and you carry each other.”
With two releases under their belt, Williams and The Lone Bellow look forward to recording a third album, which is currently underway, with Williams undertaking most of the principal songwriting for the record.
“Reality sits down on me every now and then,” explained Williams when discussing the nature of songwriting. “Like you walk into a gas station, it’s 2 a.m., and you’re wondering where you are in life and where everybody else is, for just a second when you walk in the front door.”
Inspiration is the key aspect for art, for Williams. Whether it be conflict or simply an airplane ride, there is an instrumental basis for art within these normal everyday occurrences. “There’s two different kinds of art. You have one that comes out real fast and it hits someone, and it’s there,” said Williams. “And then you’ve got the other kind where the artist will mull over it for sometimes years. Sometimes go crazy.”
“I go between those two expressions of art,” added Williams.
Though Williams’ priorities lie within The Lone Bellow, he is taking a quick break for a solo tour this June to experiment with individual compositions that he looks to release within a solo record sometime in the future. This tour, which will run through Fairfield, will include solo material, music from The Lone Bellow, and a handful of covers thrown in.
Unlike his shows with The Lone Bellow, the emphasis lies on individualistic audience interaction, which will allow Williams to judge what works and what doesn’t. “In this day and age, I think people struggle with silence [but] I think silence is important,” said Williams.
“I hope it’s a pause in a person’s day or week or month where we can be reminded that we are all individuals yet we are all one somehow,” added Williams.
Zach Williams will play at StageOne in downtown Fairfield on Thursday, June 8 at 7:45 p.m.