Zachary Williams of The Lone Bellow released his debut solo project, Dirty Camaro, on Friday, October 22nd. Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, Williams showcases reflective storytelling while covering musical territory ranging from rock, to gospel, to classic country, and more. The album was born out of Williams’ desire to stretch himself creatively, and what started as an idea for a simple, acoustic album, slowly turned into a fully-produced project created with producer Robert Ellis at Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, TX.
“I’ve had some of these songs for a really long time and a lot of them are not really the kind of songs that I do with The Lone Bellow,” Williams shared with Sounds Like Nashville. “The opening song is a ballad with no chorus about being scared on an airplane. There are songs on there about being afraid of the dark in the middle of the night. Then there’s unabashed love songs. It’s a little on the wilder side, sonically and lyrically, than anything I’ve done. I think part of that is because Robert and I have a great friendship, and we just have a really good time together.”
The album begins with “Airplane,” a reflective, orchestral ballad that spotlights Williams’ expressive voice. The folk-leaning “Anything” then leads into “Game For Guessing,” a spirited and quirky tune peppered with garage rock electric guitar and traditional pedal steel. The tune, which serves as Williams’ first single from the project, also features vocals from Ellis.
The musical journey of the album continues on the title track, “Dirty Camaro,” a driving rock song that tells the fast-paced story of a woman who escapes her boyfriend by fleeing in a Camaro. This story is visually told in the song’s cinematic music video starring Game of Thrones star Lena Headey along with Toby Huss, Liam James and Marc Menchaca. The song’s narrative was entirely conceptualized by Williams and it originally contained 50 verses.
“I was on tour with Lone Bellow, I was waiting for Soundcheck to start, and I just got my little moleskin out and just started writing this whole story about this lady that steals her boyfriend’s camaro in 1985 and he’s this really bad guy and she’s just running for the hills,” says Williams. “I had like 50 verses.”
Anderson East and John Paul White join Williams on the aching “Can’t Tell The Difference,” Williams brings back classic country sounds on “Elizabeth,” and Ashley Monroe lends her graceful voice to “Her Picture,” a tune the two artists wrote together.
“Ashley Monroe wrote ‘Her Picture’ with me, and I just thought it was so fun singing a heartache, love song from a woman’s perspective,” Williams says of the song. “As a man, I just thought that was a fun thing to do. I’ve never done that before.”
The project ends with the active “That’s Why I Still Sleep With The Lights On,” the sentimental “Losing You,” which Williams wrote 12 years ago, and the inspirational “Road Over That Mountain.” The entirety of the album was recorded live in studio with a live band, and producer Robert Ellis says the recording of the project came about in a natural way.
“Part of our process at the studio is we just assemble a really great group of players, and we try to create a band that feels like they’ve been playing together for a long time and sort of chase down the arrangements that way,” Ellis told SLN.
As for specifying which genre Dirty Camaro falls into, Williams prefers to stay away from labels, instead letting the music to speak for itself. One thing he knows, however, is creating the solo project was something that was necessary for him to do.
“I needed to do it,” says Williams. “It wasn’t even like, ‘Oh, maybe this will be successful.’ I don’t care. It was just like, I’ve gotta make these songs, I’ve gotta record these songs, and I’ve gotta play these songs live or I’m not going to be doing myself any justice.”