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Jul 6, 2016

Lone Bellow seeks musical truth

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 6:26 p.m. EDT July 5, 2016

The Upstate is more than just a tour stop for the Lone Bellow’s Zach Williams.

It’s also a place where he found solace during the most difficult, frightening period of his life, as his wife Stacy recovered from a horseback-riding accident that left her paralyzed and unsure if she would ever walk again.

“One of my best friends that was with me through thick and thin through that tragedy is from Easley, South Carolina, right down the street from Greenville,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. “We would go to his parents’ house in Easley, and it was a safe haven for us when we were going through all that. So Greenville has a very special place in my heart.”

Stacy made a full recovery, but the journal that Williams kept during those scary days in the hospital became the inspiration for several songs later recorded by the Lone Bellow, which plays the Peace Center’s Rock the River series on Friday along with Aoife O’Donovan.

It’s not always easy to relive the painful memories recounted in those songs, but after a few years, the tunes have changed shape to fit into other listeners’ hearts and minds, he said.

“I think the beautiful thing about music, especially about, like, lyrical songs, is that they become other people’s songs once you sing them in public a few times,” Williams said. “And they kind of take on a life of their own, and they start to mean something to somebody else. I can feel that in the room, where a song that may have come from a really hard time in my life, maybe meets somebody else who’s maybe dealing with something. Just that shared human condition that we all deal with every day anyway.”

Writing such personal, autobiographical songs began as a “cathartic experience,” but evolved into more of a discipline, Williams said.

The goal, he said, was “I want to try to be honest with myself. Sufjan Stevens has a song about it, where it’s just like, ‘Am I lying to myself? Am I lying to others? Am I trying to create something that’s true to myself and true to the listeners?’ I think it’s an ongoing, good struggle to wrestle with.”

The Lone Bellow’s latest album is last year’s “Then Came the Morning,” a critically acclaimed disc that brings to mind the music of Van Morrison.

While Morrison was an undeniable inspiration, the songs also were influenced by storytelling musicians like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, along with artists from Aretha Franklin to Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

The Lone Bellow is working on songs for the follow-up to “Then Came the Morning,” with the goal of making a new record later this year, Williams said.

“I think everybody wants to sing a little more next time and just try to let the songs speak for themselves as much as possible. So we’ll see.”

YOU CAN GO

Who: The Lone Bellow and Aoife O’Donovan

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: TD Stage at the Peace Center

How much: $35-$50

For more: www.peacecenter.org