Nothing compares to the comfort that southern music brings, and Judah & the Lion supplies just that. The Tennessee-based band brings energy and folk spirit to their music and performances. It’s one of those bands where you have to clap in rhythm to every song and really can’t fight it. Tennessee comes to Athens for Athfest, and Judah & the Lion are sure to provide a memorable show…and maybe a barrel of cookies? Their newest music video for “Sweet Tennessee” embodies the bluegrass roots and gospel sound of the south, complete with shotguns and suspenders. Although Judah & the Lion are but mere cubs, there’s no doubt they will continue to create beautiful music that will remain timeless and comforting.
Vinyl Mag: Y’all are from Tennessee – how do you incorporate that culture and your roots into the music? When did you first know you wanted to make music?
Judah Akers: Well, we aren’t all from Tennessee. I am from Tennessee, and I think the culture, rootsy, Johnny Cash vibe definitely comes through, but you have to add a little Chicago sass and Colorado vibes to really get us as a band !
VM: Who (or what) is your inspiration in music?
JA: Backstreet Boys, Boys 2 Men, [The] Gap Band.
VM: How did the group come together? How do you hope to evolve in future albums?
JA: Came together randomly in college. I called the other guys on a wim, and we really hit it off. We hope to revolve and sculpt our craft as the years go. We hope to be the best at being us. Nothing else.
VM: Sweet Tennessee is your most recent album – what challenges have you had to face as a group in order to create the album? How has the response been?
JA: The response has been amazing. We are super grateful. Especially to Athens. We’ve felt so loved by this city since the start!! So thank you!
VM: Where was the video for “Sweet Tennessee” filmed? What process did you have to go through to create the video? How long did it take to make a bucket of chocolate chip cookies? Were there any left over?
JA: [Laughing} No cookies left over – luckily, we had moms and girls involved to help with the cookie-making. We filmed it in my hometown of Cookeville, Tennessee. Right down the road from my house. ‘Twas a special few days.
VM: What do you guys do when you aren’t playing music? Do you have any other creative outlets besides music?
JA: We have a special community of friends we love to be with. Lakes, cliff jumping, bon fires, The Office. We love writing and working on other things as well!
VM: Have you been to Athens before? How has your experience in Athens been so far? What are you looking forward to most during Athfest?
JA: WE LOVE ATHENS. ATHENS IS FAMILY. IT HAS CHANGED US! We have been three times now and will continue to come back, ’cause we love the culture, the people, and feel loved too!
VM: Athens is a hotbed of striving musicians. Since you have also just started, what advice can you give musicians who are trying to find a starting point? From personal experiences, what encouragement can you give artists, in general?
JA: Stay true to yourself. Don’t change for anything. Work hard, keep your head down, and have fun!!
VM: What is next for Judah & the Lion?
JA: New record drops in September, and be road warriors!!! We love it. And can’t wait to share it with people like you!
Nikki grew up in an imitation German town in Georgia by the name of Helen. It wasn’t until middle school that she started to get interested in the arts: painting, music, and writing. She wrote in her diary, sketched in art class and listened to regretful music. By high school, her tastes became a little more refined. She found Fiona Apple, Lou Reed and Giant Drag, and they remain her favorites in college. She was accepted to the University of Georgia in 2012 and is currently majoring in English. Upon moving to Athens from a town with more trees than people, Nikki was a bit overwhelmed. However, there is certainly no lack of inspiration in Athens, and she appreciates its love for the arts and its service as a platform.