INTERVIEW: The Lone Bellow Mark a New Chapter With ‘Love Songs for Losers’
In 2023, The Lone Bellow will mark the tenth anniversary of their celebrated eponymous debut album, which kickstarted the trio's impressive career that continues to thrive.
Members Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmquist trekked into the woods outside of Nashville to self-produce their fifth album, Love Songs for Losers, which was released in November. After working with some of music's most famed producers and navigating a global pandemic, the band was ready to take on a new set of creative challenges.
The stellar record and its accompanying singles -- "Honey," "Gold," and "Homesick" -- quickly connected with fans both new and old. After celebrating the release of the new collection with an energizing performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium last month, the band is enjoying a short break before kicking off a string of West Coast dates in the new year.
During a recent chat with The Boot, Williams and Pipkin discussed how they found the perfect historical space to record Love Songs for Losers, why they opted to self-produce the project, and their reflections on ten years of writing and recording music together.
Love Songs for Losers is your first record since the pandemic. Do you see it in any way as a "pandemic record?"
Zach Williams: No. It has nothing to do with the pandemic - that of which we do not speak of [laughs]. We've been working on this for a while. We made this last year at Roy Orbison's house. We turned his house into a studio. It's the first record we ever self-produced. That was exciting, especially after working with heavy-hitter producers like Aaron Dessner and Dave Cobb. It was taking a chance on ourselves.
We found Roy Orbison's old house. It was right next to Johnny Cash's old burned-down house here in Nashville. A guy gave it to us for six weeks, we made it into a studio, and it was just off to the races.
What led you to Roy Orbison's house and what was the experience like?
ZW: I found this old cabin in Goodlettsville in the woods. I went out there to look at it. I showed up, and two other cabins were burned down. Their chimneys were still standing. They both had these hearts carved at the tops of the chimneys. I started asking around, and I found out that this one builder named Braxton Dixon would always put a heart -- he would always hide it in the chimney somewhere. I went down a deep dive with him and found out that he built like 50 houses around Nashville while he was alive. He was basically the Frank Lloyd Wright of the South. He would go on a big, long road trip every time he built a house. He'd take apart old cabins and stuff like that, and he'd build the houses out of the materials that he found.
I had a long conversation with his widow and learned that he built one of Johnny Cash's houses, Tammy Wynette and a few other greats. We did a search and found out that no one lived in Orbison's house, and we cold-called the owner. We were like, "We want to make music in this house again. Can we make it a studio?" He was kind enough to give it to use for six weeks.
Why was it important to produce this one yourself?
ZW: We're ten years into being a band. It's something that we [have] always wanted to do. I think that we needed to step out on our own and take a chance on ourselves. It was scary at first, for sure. When you're used to just having a professional producer come in and put his mark on your work, it's a comforting thing. Doing it ourselves was something that we really wanted to try. I think we definitely had the guts to do it - after the pandemic, everything fell apart. We lost all ability to work. We realized we were still okay. So we were willing to try new, exciting things.
You wrote "Unicorn" about your wife's recovery from paralysis. Can you share more about how that song came to be?
I'm the kind of person that - words kind of fail me when I'm trying to tell someone how much I love them and care about them. I think a lot of people deal with that. "Unicorn" was us trying to shed light on that. One of the parts is, "I was kind of thinking I could tell you my feelings and sit you down and wreck you with some words that are pretty. I could say I love you, but it's such a bore. I think God made a unicorn."
I think that was the goal - trying to write a love song from a place where saying "I love you" isn't enough and words fail you.
Kanene Donehey Pipkin: That song kind of became a linchpin for he record, too. The whole "Love Songs for Losers" sentiment of how each of us, in our own way, loses that love on the daily. It's a definite, "if you feel the same way, you're in good company" type of record.
You've turned the ten-year corner as a band at this point. Are you still enjoying working with each other? What's the future look like?
KDP: We're lucky. We love each other.
ZW: Yeah. We're lucky. We love each other. We're like family that want to be family, which doesn't come by all the time. This past tour that we did was so much fun. Our five-piece band - it's such an honor to be able to play music and see people again.
KDP: I think this next season is kind of a dreaming season for us. We've accomplished a lot of things that we wanted to accomplish. Honestly, I know we've been doing it for over a decade, but it feels like we're just getting started. We have a lot more that we want to do. We have a lot of songs and shows left in the tank, and we're looking forward to what we can dream up in this next season.