Three years, three babies and the birth of album No. 3.
So much has happened, it’s hard for Zach Williams, lead singer and guitarist of The Lone Bellow, to really put it into words.
It makes sense – he’s a touring musician, songwriter and father of four. His bandmates also have their own kiddos: Kanene Donehey Pipkin – singer, bassist and mandolinist – brings her son on the road, and Brian Elmquist – guitarist and singer – has one boy and another on the way.
Last year, the three families moved from Brooklyn to Nashville, Tenn., to spend more time at home. More time with family.
“I was like, man, I love New York, but time flies while your kids are living in your house,” Williams said over the phone during a cab ride into New York. “I want to be there as much as I possibly can.”
The Lone Bellow’s smooth, soulful brand of alternative country will return to Sacramento at the Farm-to-Fork Festival on Saturday at the Capitol Mall. The festival spans from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Lone Bellow performs at 4:05 p.m.
Williams said he thinks it’s the third time the group has performed in Sacramento. The last time, a clothing alterations shop owner performed an emergency repair of Williams’ torn jeans, asking for just a frappuccino in exchange.
The Lone Bellow formed in 2011, and its self-titled debut dropped in 2013. It has received critical acclaim and an Americana Music Award nomination, and climbed the Billboard 200 from spot 64 to 44 when “Then Came The Morning” was released in 2015.
Before the band came together, Williams wrote what would become some of its songs at a hospital in Georgia, while tending to his wife. A horse-riding accident on Williams’ family’s farm left her temporarily paralyzed. Williams lived at the hospital and wrote in a journal while she was recovering.
He’d show his entries to his buddies when they came by. They promptly urged him to buy a guitar, learn how to play and sing at a local open mike.
A collective of young artists, musicians and actors left for Brooklyn soon after, and among them were Williams and his wife, who had recovered from her neck injury.
Williams may have launched his career after hardship, but the band’s music, written by all three core members, isn’t fueled just by heartbreak or despair, he said.
“I think there’s a really hard challenge out there where you can quietly start to tell yourself you’re only going to make something good if you’re hurting, going through a tragedy, experiencing pain,” he said. “You gotta be able to write out of all the emotions of life. You can’t just write out of pain. Because then you become a victim of it and you almost need it to feel creative.”
Upon opening “Walk Into A Storm,” listeners will spot a photograph of Williams cradling his daughter, Betty. Williams’ ode to his 8-year-old daughter, Loretta, “May You Be Well,” can be heard inside – he calls it his love letter to her.
When Williams first played the song for Loretta, his oldest, his other children were in the car with him. Betty, 6, got really quiet, and he worried that it made her sad she didn’t have a song.
“Two days later, I was putting them all to bed – Betty’s my little spirit animal. She put her hands on my face and said, ‘I started to cry the other day when I heard that song because I couldn’t believe you wrote one of us a song,’ ” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Man, you sweet little soul.’ ”
The Lone Bellow’s latest is full of songs like “May You Be Well,” easy to walk right into, enveloping. They’re introspective, tender. At times they’re bitter and mournful, and others they’re hopeful. But always genuine.
Pipkin’s vocals soar in “Feather,” as she sings: “None of us will make it out alive with all these pages left to rewrite … burn the pages and say goodbye.”
“Walk Into A Storm” brings with it the chaos akin to being swept into an emotional storm, and the resounding clarity that’s reached upon arriving at the center.
“I always think that art in general should be like a stop sign that just helps a human being just pause and take someone else’s point of view in consideration and maybe search their motives and priorities a little bit, see something beautiful and tragic,” he said. “That’s my goal with this album.”
The musicians of The Lone Bellow are “constantly curating” their craft, Williams said. This means writing all the time, trying new things melodically, harmonically and lyrically.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go,” Williams said of The Lone Bellow. “I’m excited about that. We consider it an honor to be able to play music for a living and sing for a living. That’s insane. I still can’t believe that we do that.”
When: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: Capitol Mall
Other acts: Blind Pilot, The White Buffalo, Chuck Ragan & The Camaraderie, Joe Pug, Inland and Manzanita
Price: Free, all ages admitted