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Exclusive Interview with Judah and the Lion

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When a band has charted on the Billboard bluegrass and folk charts, there are a few things you would not expect from them. Writing an album containing a variety of influences from hip hop to alternative rock would be one of these things. With their second full-length studio album, Folk Hop ‘N Roll, Judah and the Lion have done just that.

Busy with a national tour in support of the release, the band took a few minutes to answer some questions for us.

You have said this album was meant to show the excitement of your live show. What went into the recording to make sure you had the energy right on the record?

Well, it comes from a lot of things. This record, the writing process consisted (usually) of coming up with a beat that was easy to dance or groove to. From that, we just kinda let the music be music. We didn’t over think it. We just said, would we like playing this song live?  If the answer was yes we recorded it. 

Your use of distorted banjo struck me as very unique. Where did the idea for that musical element come from?

There are a lot of folk record out there. There are a lot of rock records out there. We tried to think of something that hadn’t (at least from the records we have heard) been done before on a record so we decided to run the banjo through a pedal board. Dave Cobb had this really cool distortion pedal that gave the banjo a cool edgy element to it. 

What song on the album are you most excited for people to hear?

All of them is a cliché answer. But the record as a whole something we are very proud of. Obviously, it is a step in a little bit different direction but we always love the idea of risks and “going out there” when it comes to our music. 

When talking about the album, Judah said that you wanted to combine your folk instrumentation with “the grit of Run DMC or Beastie Boys.” I think the next question should be pretty obvious. Which golden age hip hop act is the best?

Hahhaa. We love both of those. You can’t deny Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang, and Public Enemy though.

At your recent concert in your hometown of Nashville, I was struck by the wide variety of people in the audience. Everyone from college-aged hipsters to people the age of my parents had come to see you guys. What is it that you do that is able to speak to a variety of groups like this? 

Hmm I’m not sure about that. We really love southern things like family and relationships etc. we sing about that a lot. I think maybe people love the positivity as well. Well, hopefully they do. 

Coming up in Nashville, an understandably country-centric city, it could be tempting to stick with a safer roots feel that would appeal to the city’s sensibilities. Were there any concerns about how the fan base might react to your new ideas? 

Of course. We were/are scared to death. But if it’s true to us. It’s true to us. We love it. We love playing it and hopefully people can see that. 

Live, you guys showed off some pretty sick dance skills. Who in the band would win in a dance battle?

Judah. (Note from the writer: this question was answered by Judah.) 

You have not made it a secret that religion has played a major role in the lives of the band members. While you are certainly not a band that would be categorized as “Christian music,” there seems to be a (in my opinion ridiculous) tendency in the industry to label bands that have touched on religion in this way. How have you managed to avoid this label?

I’m not sure. We just want to make really great music that touches people or can help people even. I know for me music is such a great gift. It’s gotten me through a lot of hard times. Hopefully, our music can do that for some people too! 

After the release of Folk Hop ‘N Roll, what’s up next for the band?

Touring. Touring. Touring. Haha. We love being on the road. We love seeing our fans. We love playing live. Festivals this summer. Hopefully a tour this fall. Boom!!! 

Written by Nathan Badley

When Nathan is not writing about music, he might be writing material for his often neglected blog at nathanbadley.com. Or he might be writing something else. Or podcasting. Or playing music. Most likely he is just watching TV thinking about how he should be doing those things. You can tweet him @badlandsbadley and congratulate him on his mad 3rd person writing skills.

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