judah and the lion, pep talks
[Photo by: Connor and Rachel Dwyer]

Judah & The Lion are constantly trying to send out good vibes of happiness and hope, including on their upcoming record, Pep Talks. The LP was extremely personal for vocalist Judah Akers as he opens up about some of his life experiences.

When he was young, Akers would lash out by hitting walls or lockers; he never wanted to intentionally hurt someone. When he discovered songwriting, he was able to turn his “passion and energy into something beautiful.”

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“For me, songwriting is some of the best therapy,” he admits. “People probably wouldn’t know this about me, but I tend to be a little bit of a ‘bottler.’ I bottle a lot of emotions up, [and] then one day I just explode.”

The vocalist says creating music has helped him express his pent-up emotions and hopes his work can have a positive effect on others as well.

“It’s helped me to process them in ways that come out through a creative outlet instead of blowing up or getting angry,” he explains. “I think releasing music has done just that. We wanted to release these songs hopefully to encourage people in all aspects of life—whether you’re going out of control, you’re feeling depressed or you’re feeling alone—that you’re not.”

Before Pep Talks, the band—which also includes Brian Macdonald (mandolin, vocals) and Nate Zuercher (banjo, vocals)—had never had another artist featured on a track. They decided to mix things up a bit by recruiting Kacey Musgraves and Jon Bellion to join them in the studio.

“We’re super honored to have both of those artists,” Akers says. “We look up to them in our own way very much. We’ve crossed a lot of genres off in our records and we’ve never had a feature before. But this time we’re like ‘Man, it’d be really cool to dive into what it would be like to have a guest vocalist.’”

In addition to mixing it up with new contributions, Pep Talks has a wide array of sounds. There are beautifully intricate instrumentals such as “Pep Talk” and powerful dance tracks such as “Quarter-Life Crisis,” but there’s one song that’s especially close Akers’ heart.

“Queen Songs / human.” is a personal reflection about Akers’ mother’s struggle with alcoholism and what his family’s experience has been like helping her through it.

“It’s not even a song that’s talking about the negatives of it,” he says of the track. “It’s just more like hurting for her and what she’s going through [and] how we move forward and learn to hope. That was a song that I didn’t think I would ever have the courage to release, but it’s on the record, and I’m really excited now.”

While Judah & The Lion have dreams of selling out arenas such as Madison Square Garden, Akers admits that if there isn’t an underlying meaning, there’s no point in going forward.

“What we really love about our shows and about traveling, the reason why we’re able to leave our families and travel as much as we are, is because of the message that we’re trying to bring to the world,” he says. “I think [it’s] super important for people with any type of influence to have a message.”

What’s their message? Everyone is equal, everybody’s lives matter and every individual is important.

“It’s stupid that we have to say it, but, race, politics, economics, wherever you’re from, whoever you are, whatever sexuality, you as a person, your story matters so much,” Akers says. “Your story and your perspective and what you’re going through matters so much because you are human. You are worthy of love because you are human.

“No matter what your story is, your story doesn’t define who you are. You get to define your story,” the vocalist concludes. “We’re trying to define our story with hope and with a message of unity and hopefully love.”

Pep Talks drops tomorrow, May 3, but it’s available for preorder here. Judah & The Lion hit the road this summer for Pep Talks worldwide tour. Tickets can be found here, and check out where they’re headed below.

Dates:

07/16 – Glasgow, UK @ King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
07/17 – Dublin, IE @ Workman’s Club
07/19 – London, UK @ Oslo
07/24 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso (Upstairs Hall)
07/25 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
07/26 – Berlin, DE @ Lido
07/27 – Falkenberg, SE @ Hwitans Tradgarg
07/28 – Stockholm, SE @ Fafangan
08/10 – Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Amphitheatre
08/13 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
08/14 – Lincoln, NE @ Pinewood Bowl
08/16 – Indianapolis, IN @ Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River Park
08/17 – Cleveland, OH @ Jacob’s Pavilion at Nautica
08/21 – Birmingham, AL @ Legacy Arena at the BJCC
08/22 – Charlotte, NC @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
08/23 – Raleigh, NC @ Red Hat Amphitheater
08/24 – Nashville, TN @ Ascend Amphitheater
09/05 – Columbus, OH @ Express Live!
09/06 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
09/07 – Portsmouth, VA @ Portsmouth Pavilion
09/08 – Greenville, SC @ Bon Secours Wellness Arena
09/12 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem
09/13 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Met
09/14 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
09/20 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
09/27 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe Live
09/28 – Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore
10/01 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
10/02 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
10/03 – Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater
10/15 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Union
10/16 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
10/17 – San Diego, CA @ The Observatory
10/18 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
10/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
10/23 – Seattle, WA @ The Paramount Theatre
10/24 – Vancouver, BC @ The Orpheum
10/26 – Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall
10/27 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall
10/31 – St. Paul, MN @ Palace Theatre
11/07 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
11/08 – Atlanta, GA @ Coca-Cola Roxy