BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When Judah & the Lion last performed in the Magic City, the show was memorable for not the most stellar reasons.
The indie rock band was scheduled to perform at Avondale Brewing Company on Aug. 21, 2019. The date was rain-checked, literally, as the band scrambled to set up a tent outside to perform acoustic music for their fans as lightning flashed in the distance.
It would be the last time Nate Zuercher would perform with the trio, as Judah & the Lion announced his amicable departure roughly two months later. Within the next year, the band was forced to put touring on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, three years later, Judah & the Lion will be returning to Avondale Brewing Company Tuesday. Band member Brian Macdonald says the duo is ready and excited to be back on the road during their “Happy Again” tour, entertaining their fans under their new “Revival” album.
“We were really happy about it and thankful that we had the time off during the pandemic to reset and feel a little bit more grounded,” Macdonald said. “I guess it’s easier to like go into those settings and not be quite as exhausted after feeling that groundedness at home.”
He says after roughly eight years of constantly being on the road, pre-pandemic, the break was well-needed.
“We were definitely getting close to hitting a point of burning ourselves out so it was very important to have that grounding and the time off to reset ourselves,” Macdonald said. “I definitely feel like I have a lot more energy going into the tour, like I have a lot more to give.”
Macdonald spoke about how Zuercher’s departure from the band and the pandemic shaped the “Revival” album, as well as the duo’s own personal journeys. While Judah Akers stayed in Nashville, Macdonald spent a year living in Sweden with his wife. The two men worked independently on their own music, with Macdonald even releasing a solo album titled “Moonlight in Visby,” before meeting each other again after a year of separation.
“I think we’re just starting to rediscover what [Judah & the Lion] looks like for us,” Macdonald said. “I believe that the core values and sound of Judah & The Lion still shines through the music and that the heart of it is still noticeable.”
One song featured on the “Revival” album is a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Macdonald said the cover was created as he and Akers were casually playing various songs while in the recording studio. With Macdonald on piano and Akers on guitar, the two began performing the song from memory and added the recording to the album after just a few takes.
“It definitely relates to the lyrics in all of our songs on the album and [the theme] becoming a new person while still remembering and looking fondly on the past and being sad about the things that have changed,” Macdonald said. “But looking at the reality that it’s all going to be different now.”
So far, Macdonald says fans have been receptive to the new music, especially “HAPPY LIFE” which was written with a certain person in mind.
“It’s based on Judah and I’s thoughts [on Zuercher’s departure], lyrically saying what we wish for him, that we want him to be happy and we love him,” Macdonald said. “It definitely can take on a different meaning for the listener. I think you could see it as more of a breakup song and still wishing the best for the other person.”
When it comes to the “Happy Again” tour, Macdonald hopes fans can relate to the album’s message: moving forward, recognizing hardships and celebrating living in the moment.
“Life is hard. We’ve all seen that in the last few years, and we don’t want to sugarcoat that in our music. But we also want to remain positive and supportive of each other,” Macdonald said. “We want people to walk away with more hope than they walked in with. Even if it’s just a little, we hope we did our job.”
Tickets for Tuesday’s show, as well as other dates for the “Happy Again” tour, can be found here.