The first time I saw the boys of Judah & The Lion it was a balmy 5 degrees above zero on a February night in Minneapolis. I had heard a few of their songs before the show and had fully jumped on the J&TL bandwagon by the time their set finished. When they rolled through town last week with the Oh Hello’s I got the chance to sit down with Judah Akers, Brian Macdonald and Nate Zuercher to talk about all things Judah & The Lion.
IVM: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. First off, how did you all come together as Judah & The Lion?
Judah: I had played in worship bands and had been writing songs. I was at Belmont [University in Nashville, TN] and I called Nate to see if he would be interested. I knew him because he had a beard and played the banjo. He brought along Brian and it just fit. It worked together as musicians and as people.
IVM: So you all went to Belmont?
Nodding all around.
IVM: Did you all graduate?
Nate: Judah did, Brian and I dropped out to do this.
IVM: Haha, that’s so rock and roll. You guys have been touring pretty constantly for the better part of a year. Any plans for a break or is there another tour on the horizon?
Nate: Not really. We’ll finish up this tour and have about a month off to release the new album and then we’ll be back out on the road for another tour for the new album.
IVM: That leads perfectly into my next question, can we expect a new record in the future? Obviously we can, can you let me know any details about that?
Brian: Yeah, it comes out September 9th and it’s called Kids These Days. It’s our first full length album.
IVM: That’s really exciting! Judah, you just released Harp & Arrows (which was beautiful by the way). Why a side project?
Judah: I had these songs and I just had a feeling. They didn’t really fit with the direction Judah & The Lion is going. A friend of mine in Nashville produced it. I didn’t want to lose that aspect of ministry with music.
Judah: Yeah. First Fruits was basically a worship EP and I thought Judah & The Lion would be a worship band. Brian and Nate brought up the idea of reaching a broader audience. The Lord told me to get him out of the box I had created for Him. So Sweet Tennessee was a shift to connect with a wider crowd. And the new record does that even more. If you’re a Christian you’ll get it but it isn’t as obvious.
Nate: The transition from First Fruits to Sweet Tennessee was easier than I thought it would be. We still play churches some nights and bars other nights.
Judah: There are bands like Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE that have paved the way for bands like us. Christians in the mainstream market.
IVM: You just posted on Facebook that you made a music video! What song was the music video for and any idea on when we can see it?
Brian: It’s for our new single, Rich Kids. Hopefully it will be out sometime in the next month! Keep an eye on our Twitter.
IVM: Being a band you have probably been someone’s first concert. What was your first concert?
Nate: John Butler Trio at Red Rocks
Judah: [to Nate- that’s a good one.] Mine was DC Talk at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Then a few weeks later we went to the Backstreet Boys at Bridgestone and thought it was terrible. We didn’t understand why they were taking their shirts off.
Brian: Probably The Academy Is when I was in 8th grade.
IVM: If you could have written one song in the history of songs, which song would you choose and why?
Brian: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Everyone connects with that song, no matter who you are or what you believe.
Judah: It Is Well. The hymn. The writer went through all of these terrible things and something so beautiful came out of it.
Nate: Washed By The Water by NEEDTOBREATHE. It came at a really transitional time in my life, when I was really figuring out God and life. It’s still the ringback on my phone, I don’t know how to change it.
IVM: Those are such great answers! I asked my roommate and she said We Will Rock You by Queen for the royalties. If you could be friends with one fictional character who would it be?
Nate: Hamish from Bravehart
Judah: Edmond Dantes from The Count Of Monte Cristo
Brian: Huck Finn
IVM: 3 bands you would love to tour with…
Judah: Coldplay, Taylor Swift and the Killers
Nate: Incubus, Dave Matthews Band and John Butler Trio
Brian: Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 and Bach [yep, he means the dead composer]
IVM: Wow, those are all over the place, what do you guys listen to in the van?
Nate: [laughs] Depends on who’s playing DJ.
IVM: Where’s the best place for people to connect with you guys and stay up to date on Judah & The Lion.
*Forgot to get a picture with the guys after the interview (and the award for worst interviewer goes to…) so I got one with Judah after the show because I couldn’t find Brian and Nate for a group selfie.