They say you meet your true best friends in college, but for the guys of Judah & The Lion, they met their best friends and bandmates. Born in the city of Nashville and bred on the southern roots of the city, the band has a unique bluegrass + rock vibe that makes all of us want to stay anywhere below that Mason-Dixon line.
Judah, Brian, and Nate are the definition of down-to-earth and humble, and after talking with them, I’m convinced they are the coolest, most hip (let’s be real – they went to Belmont) and laid back guys ever. Their passions are so clearly portrayed through their music, especially during live shows. They’re crazy talented, and just recently released their first full-length album, Kids These Days. Their first two EP albums First Fruits and Sweet Tennessee put their name on the music map. Sitting down to talk with them about their journey, their music, and even their most hilarious and embarrassing moments (which I promised not to share) was one of my favorite experiences.
the Lala: Anyone who has been following you has probably noticed the three lines that you always have written on your hands. What is that about?
J&TL (Nate): When we recorded our first EP, Judah put three lines on his hand with a sharpie as a reminder of the Trinity and our faith as we’re playing. It’s kind of cool that there are three of us too. We joke around sometimes that it’s the lion’s claw. I got it tattooed too. It says, “I am known and fully loved,” which kind of takes it to a new level, and throughout this tour, Judah has been writing “be a kid” on his hand. And now it’s something that a lot of our fans put on their hands too.
the Lala: The fact that you maintain your faith in the music industry is really admirable. Have you faced any challenges and used your faith to overcome it?
J&TL (Judah): I think one of the big things about being a Christian in this industry, not necessarily Christian artists, you can kind of get pigeon-holed. Some of your fans will be like “Oh it’s a Christian band so let’s not listen to them,” and it’s tough. Viewing that in our early stages of growth and finding out who we were, it was really disheartening because we could sing blatantly about Jesus, but it’s really going to turn some people off. For us, it was just having to stay true to who we were as people and to writing like that, and almost not really caring about the aspect of ministry. Obviously we’re Christian, but we don’t really want our music to be “Christian.” It’s who we are, so it’s going to come out in our music, but I think for us, or for me at least, it’s one of those things were we still remain true and being okay with the fact that we are Christians and some of our lyrics are going to say that. And people either like it or not.
the Lala: What are some quirky facts about each other or the band as a whole?
J&TL (Judah): Brian is kind of the dare devil of the group. He’s the most carefree person I know, and he doesn’t look much into the risk aspect. He’s all about being in the moment and just not thinking. The first time I went cliff-jumping with Brian, I was scared to death. And not for me, but for him. I was scared he was going to die, but to him it was just another walk on the beach.
(Brian): One thing that’s interesting about Nate is that he loves to travel a ton. It’s not really a quirk, it’s a good thing, but he knows people in every city. He’s the most well-connected of us. We’ll be in a city and he’ll know someone we can meet and chill with, and he’ll have a long story about how eight years ago, they were in a Waffle House and randomly said hi and kept in touch ever since. And along with that, Nate is homeless right now. He just likes to travel and couch surf, so I don’t know if you would consider it homeless. More like a nomad.
(Nate): Yeah, when we’re in Nashville now, I don’t have a place to stay. I don’t know where I’m sleeping yet tonight. The weirdest thing about Judah…
(Judah): I don’t like heels on girls, and my sister and my mom hate me for that.
(Brian): Judah is the most goofy and is always joking around, and is really good about getting to know someone that way. He’s a goober and just has fun and knows how to lighten the mood in any kind of situation. I think, in that way, he’s a great leader. Because he can lead in a fun way where it feels lighthearted and like a family that we’re building on the road.
(Judah): That’s really sweet, dude.
(Brian): We’re bad at making fun of each other. I love you, man.
the Lala: How did you come up with the name?
J&TL (Judah): In the Bible is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, so that’s the main reference. For me, the decision to do Judah and the Lion was more in the flow of the name and how it makes you feel. The symbol of the lion is courage, strength and it just fit, and it felt right. Naming your band is one of the hardest barriers to get over.
the Lala: How and when did you decide to make a band?
J&TL (Judah): I like to think of it like an arranged marriage. I was getting more serious about writing music the middle of my junior year. I had all these songs and nothing to really do with them. I called these guys and really hit it off relationally, but wasn’t really looking to make a band. None of us really were. We all had aspirations of traveling and making music, but didn’t know we would end up as a band. One day we had lunch and realized we all had very similar backgrounds, lifestyles, and musical interests. We were all very, very different as far as musical taste, but it was the same style when we would play together. It was right then when it started. We don’t call that the “Facebook official” date, but that’s when we started “talking.” It’s all relative, you know?
the Lala: What is your favorite song that you have written, and what is your favorite song to perform?
J&TL (Judah): The one that I think has probably had the most impact thus far is “Back’s Against the Wall,” Just because a lot of people have spoken to us about them being in a tough situation, or lost someone in their family, on drugs, and this song kind of got them out. My favorite one to perform changes every time, but one of mine right now is “Hundred Miles.”
(Nate): “Rich Kids” or “Back’s Against the Wall” as my favorite. “Southern Ground” is my favorite to perform because of the high energy.
(Brian): “Kickin’ da Leaves” would be one of my favorites, and my favorite right now to perform is “Water,” which is different than a lot of our songs, but it’s one that we really got creative on.
the Lala: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
J&TL (Brian): Well we created our own chant based from the old movie Cool Runnings and it’s, “Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Get on up, it’s ass-kicking time.”
(Nate): Judah does a thing now where he’ll walk by and just punch you right in the chest. It’s hilarious, but it does hurt sometimes.
(Judah): It gets you amped though. And we do exercises and stuff like that.
(Brian): Like jazzercise.
(Nate): It did happen once.
the Lala: Do you have any random hidden talents?
J&TL (Brian): I can ride a unicycle.
(Nate): I have fake teeth.
Make sure to go to the Judah & The Lion website to look for a tour stop at a city near you, and also show them some Twitter and Instagram love (@judahandthelion) if you want your life enlightened with tour pictures and entertaining videos.