If youth is wasted on the young, no one told Judah & the Lion. They unapologetically celebrate what it means to embrace the unfettered vitality of a life fully lived.
Although they incorporate elements from roots and folk music, they aren’t content to let that tradition alone dictate their sound. By combining heavy bass and hip hop-styled beats, they come up with something new, something that bears the stamp of their generation. Their new album, “Kids These Days,” has been featured on Billboard and is already receiving ecstatic reviews. If you listen with an open mind, Judah & the Lion does not fail to inspire an open heart.
Judah & the Lion is made up of Judah Akers, Brian Macdonald, and Nate Zuercher.
NYMM: You just released “Kids These Days.” What makes this album different for you?
Judah: It’s our first full-length album, so it has more songs than the previous two EPs. We spent a lot more time working on this one, as well. The first two EPs were basically done overnight. We had a limited amount of time and money to do them. This time we got Dave Cobb to help produce it, and we were really excited to be in the studio with him. We were in there with him for around two and a half weeks, which gave us the chance to really concentrate on the songs and focus on how we could make each one come alive.
We were also looking to separate ourselves some from the pigeonholed folk sound that a lot of people are doing right now. We added a large synth bass with more groovy, hip hop-style beats. We were trying to expand our horizons and our sound, and become a little more individual.
Nate: For the EPs, we had the six songs ready, and knew exactly what we wanted. We went into the studio with those and recorded them right away. For this one, we came in with the mindset that we would write a lot in the studio.
NYMM: How did you decide what songs would go on the album? Did you already have a theme in mind?
Judah: When we were picking out songs, the lyrics and the feel had a consistency throughout. They’re about being a kid, throwing caution to the wind. There’s a song in particular that we love about having a conversation with the devil, but it didn’t make the record because the melody and feel wasn’t sonically right.
Brian: We didn’t even know what the record was going to be called when we recorded it. These themes became clear through the lyrics and feel of the songs. We ended up naming the record later once we saw those themes coming together.
NYMM: Is there one song in particular that captures the feel of the album?
Nate: “Rich Kids” is like that. It’s about being young, having fun, and living full lives, even if you don’t have what other people think you need in order to live fully.
Judah: That song really symbolizes the record. We can make things so complicated – especially at our age, when you’re transitioning from college to the real world. We’re preparing ourselves to really understand what it means to be ourselves, make real-world decisions, and prepare for life beyond. It can get complicated really quickly, especially if you allow things like money to get to you. Sometimes you have to make things simple again, take a step back, and realize that you’re rich in many other things.
NYMM: There is a lot of positive energy to the album and some themes that indicate a certain belief system. Was this intentional?
Brian: We’re completely open with the fact that we’re Christians, and our themes portray that, but we don’t think that means that we have to write traditional Christian music. Because our songs don’t display that belief system in a direct way, we think you can enjoy the music even if you don’t believe in the same things. What we want most is to connect with people.
NYMM: What sorts of responses have you had so far?
Brian: The mark of success is when someone totally rails on you about how much they hate your album [laughs]. We finally got a hate review, so I guess we’ve made it.
Nate: Other than that, we’ve had really good responses to it.
Judah: Some of the best compliments we’ve had are from people who have said that the songs describe them as a person. We believe in these songs, and if they inspire us, hopefully they can inspire others. When other people say that these songs fit their lives, that carries a lot of weight.
You can find more Judah & the Lion here:
Photos by Jon Karr.
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