Judah & the Lion’s Judah Akers dives into the band’s cinematic fourth album ‘Revival’, a beautiful, uplifting record of earnest hope, inner light, and unbridled optimism.
for fans of Mumford & Sons, Bear’s Den, Blind Pilot
Stream: “Take a Walk” – Judah & the Lion
Bold, big-hearted, and unapologetically buoyant, Judah & the Lion’s fourth album is an electric embrace of what it means to be alive: Soaring through limitless euphoric highs, dwelling in gut-wrenching lows, and soaking up all the feeling in-between, the band radiate with a charismatic blend of alternative rock and folk pop that shines a light on the everyday. Moments, like people and emotions, come and go; the best we can do is hold on tight and be as present and engaged as we can, lest we let time pass us by. A cinematic celebration built on pure passion and raw vulnerability, Revival is a beautiful record of earnest hope, inner light, and unbridled optimism.
Let’s go take a walk downtown
And act like we’re the heroes
That we dreamed we’d be when we were young
We can be the giants
In the streets we learned to drive in
And we’ll ride away into the sun
Released June 10, 2022 via Cletus the Van Records / Virgin Music, Revival is, true to its name, an inspiring return for platinum selling band Judah & the Lion. Currently consisting of members Judah Akers (vocals, guitar) and Brian MacDonald (mandolin, vocals), the Nashville-based band have been basking at the intersection of folk and alternative music for the past ten years.
In a 2017 feature, Atwood Magazine writer Renae Weaver praised the band for their stunningly relatable lyrics paired with hard-hitting beats: “2016’s Folk Hop N’ Roll combines the three great, but often disparate genres: Folk, Hip Hop, and Rock n’ Roll. On paper it looks like it isn’t possible, but the band create magic with their instruments and blends the three effortlessly. They credit this unique sounding style to their love of all three genres, which proves that if you have the passion, you can do anything.”
Authenticity remains true to Judah & the Lion’s core artistic identity; that, along with Akers’ and MacDonald’s undeterred drive and determination, helped them make their most empowering and engaging album during a time of increased tension, disconnect, and unabating uncertainty.
“This record stemmed from both mine and Brian’s experience with the pandemic,” Akers tells Atwood Magazine. “Brian was in Sweden, I was in Nashville. Although we were keeping up with each other, we weren’t necessarily talking every day, but when Brian came back, we quickly realized that despite the distance, we were actually going through a lot of similar life things and growing in that way. It was the first time in nine years since the culmination of the band, we were home and not touring so that came with a lot of hardship and a lot of change and a lot of dealing with past things that I think the road can easily mask that were unmasked all the sudden. Being able to grow in that and to find the sense of clarity in our lives and what we were going through – a lot of the lyrical and even the musical framework of the record hold that in that the culmination of growth and trying to be a better person in the midst of what was a pretty hard couple of years.”
“I think the record did have a firm vision from the very start,” he continues, “which was essentially just learning how to let go of the things we can’t control and to accept what is and accept and breath in the motionality of how hard the past couple years have been, just for the world and for us individually. For me, it came when a close relative committed suicide in the middle of the pandemic and I started suffering from pretty bad anxiety attacks. I found myself in a really dark, mental spot. There was no show to run to. There was no thing to really mask what was going on with my family and with my own heart. I found it very difficult to get through but once I tried – and still trying to – accept what is and accept the sadness and grieving part of that and not just get past the grieving, but to go to it is what the record is about.”
For Akers, Revival is the result of being open, honest, and true to ourselves and our world.
He characterizes the music as sad-happy, “which is two words, but if you had to put a hyphen on it, that works,” he laughs. “We titled the record “Revival” because we felt it in our band: What we were going on in our lives was just restarting, what it means for us to be a touring band and to put out a record, since we hadn’t done that since the pandemic. We just felt like it seemed to fit our journey and again, when we realized the letting go – or the understanding of accepting of what is – is the spot where you start to reach a revival in a sense in your life because you’re no longer fighting against yourself if you will, but you’re moving towards growth and health and hopefully harmony.”
“I think you can hear mine and Brian’s musicianship better than any other record that we’ve done in this record,” he adds. “I think the sonic sound of us forcing ourselves – for Brian to learn the banjo and for me to try to play things that I’ve never played stringwise on the record. There’s this innocence that I think you can feel throughout but also hopefully some maturity because me and Brian both worked on music a lot during the pandemic and I think both individually as writers and coming together, it just felt like there’s a sense of maturity there. Hopefully, that is felt throughout the record.”
From the gentle, wondrous warmth of album opener “Open Your Eyes,” straight through to the stunningly charged, irresistibly optimistic finale “Things Are Looking Up,” Revival is a cathartic and captivating eruption of seductive, soul-stirring songwriting and enchanting music.
“I think my personal favorite is a song called ‘Blue Eyes,'” Akers says. “I wrote most of the song a few years back and it’s just been on this journey with me ever since my grandpa who I was really close with passed away. He was such a good man and we had such a good relationship. The way that he passed was very significant to me and my journey. This was a little bit of an homage and an ode to him so shoutout to Pa.”
I miss the beautiful and innocent blue of your eyes
The comfort of your coffee with your bible right by your side
I must admit I get emotional in chick fil a lines
Cause you’d mess mess mess with the kid and he’d stress
That he didn’t get your order right
And I know where you are looking down
You’d say “I love you and how proud”
When the sky is without a cloud
It feels like your blue eyes look into mine
It feels like your blue eyes look into mine
Further standouts include the dynamic, driving “Take a Walk,” the volatile, explosive anthem “scream!” (a true outburst of tension if anyone needs one), the softly tender and light-filled cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” and the groovily glistening “Be Here Now.”
As a lyrically-forward artist, Akers cites the title track as holding a particularly special place in his heart. “I think the base of the record is the thought, “Do I need to die to find revival?” It’s not talking about a physical death, but like a death to ego, a death to self, and an understanding of that, which that’s on the title track, “Revival”. I think that sets the pace, it’s the middle point of the story that we’re trying to help people with within our own journey. The dying is when we do find rebirth.”
Someone, could you help me find the wisdom to know
What I control in life and the things that I don’t
Cause lately I’ve been fighting for things I need to let go
And it feels like I’m losing my grip and it’s starting to show
Someone, could you help me find the wisdom to know
Cause I don’t like letting go
How do I let go of what I control
I don’t know what Will be left to hold Will I be left alone
If I don’t let go, I’m fighting my own
Lost fight, grip tight, on a heavy rope that wasn’t mine to hold
Revival proved a source of light for Akers and MacDonald, and they both hope it offers the same to anyone who listens and needs another reason to look up and smile.
“We just hope that people can find this record is not a false optimistic record,” Akers shares. “There are a lot of sad songs and a lot of songs that talk about real shit, and hopefully honoring those emotions, but also learning and wanting to point people to the fact that there’s life outside of those emotions and there’s life outside of seasons. Seasons change and emotions come. You have to accept them and let them go out. Hopefully it’s encouraging to people without making it noise, whitewash on false optimism. People can truly find their own sense of awakening in their life through the record.”
This is music coming from and speak to the heart. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Judah & the Lion’s Revival with Atwood Magazine as Judah Akers goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s fourth LP!
Stream: ‘Revival’ – Judah & the Lion
:: Inside Revival ::
What up my friends. Judah here, from the band Judah and the Lion, I hope you’re super well, I’m so excited to talk to you guys about our new record Revival. This has been the longest record in the making for us, we, we really took our time, obviously with the pandemic we had more time then we even thought and so excited that it’s here. The origin and the story kind of comes from, a lot just from what it was like to live in the pandemic for me and for Brian and we actually started the record in separate locations Brian was living in Sweden and I was here in Nashville Tennessee and through my therapy and through walking through the pandemic in a, in a very messy way to say the least. The one thing that I’ve learned throughout is there’s so much beauty in choosing hope and choosing love and that’s kind of always been our story and what we want we’ve always wanted to point people back to but in some ways before the pandemic I, I was saying that and feeling that but found it really hard at times to not be mad at the world, not be mad at, just everything that was happening as I know that most people can relate to but my, I had a very, really close relative commit suicide in the middle of it which kind of spurred this journey that I was on and I was already living with the stresses of the pandemic obviously, obviously you know whatever but when that, when my uncle passed it just shot something in me that I had never really experienced before because this was the first time we were off the road as well and so we were, I’m not getting the distraction of going on stage or whatever and I started just facing things that I hadn’t faced before like panic attacks and depression and lack of or lack a sense of purpose or worth and I know that’s all part of the human experience but I just really feel ike I felt that heavily for the first time. So this record is kind of about that process of, there’s a lot of things kind of going wrong with the world, with my family, with my friends, with my relationships and at the end of the day doing work to find innocence again is what this record is about which is to me like revival because we’re all born into innocence, we’re all born into, as kids, we have this kind of glow like there’s nothing wrong with the world and then something happens or maybe multiple things happen, sometimes it’s way earlier for certain people but for me it’s been like the last ten years of just feeling like the innocence of the world was kind of robbed and so this record is kind of about finding that innocence again because first innocence should be given and second innocence is taken and chosen and that’s from a book also it’s like I can’t really take credit for that.
The Sound of The Record
So the sound of this record we really took from old school records and I, I’m gonna sound like an idiot when I say some of these references because I would never be stupid enough to compare ourselves to these legendary artists but, we’ve really gotten I got super obsessed with Tom Petty during the pandemic. I love that he’s a southern boy but it’s not like country music but it’s like rock it’s like that great american band it’s, it’s I mean it’s Tom Petty I mean absolutely iconic. But I just loved how he kept his voice throughout his career and he was who he was not without trying to be like anything else and I love that about our band that we, we can sound like a folk or a rock band or whatever and it does, since I am southern, it does come across like a southern dude. There’s other influences like John Denver, what an icon, my mom was obsessed with him so I was obsessed with him growing up. Just the way that he would write guitar lines and all these kind of really amazing parts in these timeless songs that we’ll sing for forever. It’s so done in an organic way and we, we kind of went back to it being where you can just hear the banjo and the mandolin parts and that’s always been a part of our music but in some ways we have to go a little bit more electric or whatever you want to call it with the last record and so this one we kind of took back our roots al little bit. Bruce Springstein, another just kind of, we wanted it to feel like a band and you can hear like wooo like every now and then like keeping the, the band vibe kind of going and it’s just really exciting we’re so excited about these live shows with these songs, I mean we don’t write record without thinking about performing these live and we just cannot wait. I hope you guys love Revival and it, it encourages your heart.
Open Your Eyes
So Open Your Eyes is the opening track of Revival. I just remember sitting at the piano one day and these words kind of coming out pretty fluidly and I just kind of had this thought of during the pandemic with what I was going through with depression with kind of really lacking like a sense of purpose you know I had this thought of man like I want to find the colors in life I feel like everything of kind got so foggy and gray and at times I can tend to, especially in the wintertime, I can really tend to linger in my own, I don’t know gray or fog and I felt like in the spring when you start seeing all of these colors that are vibrant and beautiful it’s easier to kind of get up and move forward with your life. So Open Your Eyes was almost just this kind of like prayer that in the midst of the gray and the things in our life that take that innocence from us I wanted to, we wanted to open up this record like in a way that is saying like hey this is the journey that we’re gonna, we’re going on together and we want each of our listeners, each of our people to, to start finding the beauty and the color in their life and that the black and white has tried to, you know, take away from our hearts. So I kind of had this vision of me on the piano like seeing everything in black and white and then all of a sudden starting to see color again and finding that innocence again in life.
Take A Walk
So Take A Walk is, it’s just a song that kind of wants to start this story out to me. I, I remember just thinking one time when one of my friend was going to rehab and was just thinking man there’s so many different relationships that are, people were really having a hard time, including myself and I just had this thought of being like childlike and how when you’re a kid you have all these dreams to save the world and like help people and you’re gonna be fine but you don’t really realize how hard life can be at times and really like in certain moments during the pandemic it was hard for me to even take the next breath. This one, this song that we wanted it to be a representation of the record which is, yes things are messed up but let’s remember who we are and try to believe that that is still who we are and still who we’re gonna be because at the end of the day life is really hard but choosing to look at beauty and find the child within yourself in the midst of the craziness that’s happening around your world is such a beautiful thing.
Alright, Scream is my rage song. I love shows and I love the energy that live shows bring and that’s a big part of our journey and our story and just not having that energy, I, day in and day out, I could feel like I had something kind of stuck inside of me and I was in my counseling session with my counselor who I call Father Owl he’s kind of become a beautiful just kind of nurturing figure in my life and he said it sounds like you just need to go home and like scream in a pillow and honestly I came back home and I felt like a complete psycho but went back home, Lyndsey was gone, so I went and just screamed my guts out into a pillow and which the scream kind of turned into tears and it just felt like this energy was finally getting out that was kind of stuck inside and so we wanted this song to start out with like it’s okay that you feel rage it’s okay that you’re pissed off. What’s wrong or what Father Owl would say is beneficial is just when it gets stuck inside you have to get that stuff out and do it alone so you don’t look like an idiot or whatever. But Scream is just, yeah, just stating all these things that are happening in the world and how lonely it can feel at times but screaming was a very normal practice that I practiced during the pandemic.
Happy life is about a specific relationship for me, but it’s really just about life, how we have breakups, how we have let downs, how we have shortfalls. And for me again it’s so hard for me to let go of it like with a relationship that is maybe toxic or something and for whatever reason it doesn’t feel right to let go of it. It only kind of hurts both parties and this song is about wanting the best in a relationship but also learning to let go and learning to push on and hope the best for each other but also acknowledge how beautiful the relationship was and how challenging it was at times. So this one’s got a little dance lane to it too which is kind of funny. This is kind of a sad song but we wanted people to feel like it was fun and danceable because it’s okay to also dance in the midst of heartbreak.
So blue eyes is, it was a song that actually started out as a pink laundry song which is a side project that i made during the pandemic. And it went to this acoustic style thing for judah and the lion and it went back to this sort of electric judah and the lion song. The song is clearly about my grandpa, i had such a special relationship with my grandpa we called him “faf”. My older brother named him by mispronouncing pop. Faf was an amazing man he had all these really really beautiful quirks and we just wanted to write a song about grandpas so that people could think about loss and heartbreak but also the beauty of that relationship and how Faf like clearly impacted our whole family and that’s something I just want to acknowledge, and I know we all have people like that in our life that are gone that when you think about you think in sadness but you also just think of the amount of love that they had for you and connected. It just makes you feel like you’re still connected somehow and so after we sang “It is Well” when he passed he passed in the last chorus and I just had this thought because he had these big blue eyes. I thought I’ll think about Faf when it’s a clear sky.
Well Landslide I don’t really get to talk about writing but the reason why we covered is it’s just such a beautiful song about letting go. It’s obviously stevie nicks beautifully written about a breakup that she was going through and I feel like throughout this journey of finding innocence again which is what revival is about letting go of things and I tend to be so hold on tight. I like order and control and I think when we learn to let go or learn to realize man like I’ve been afraid of changing that’s such a beautiful way to describe like I’ve built my life around all these different things. It could be your relationship, it could be your career, it could be your children, it could be whatever and when that feels like it starts to get out of your grip it’s really scary. So we wanted to cover this because we felt like it was just a song that we can’t rewrite this message any better than stevie nicks so dont judge us but we love this song we covered it.
Revival is the title track, obviously of the record. This to me feels so much like I just kind of see rainbows I had this kind of vision or picture of myself in the midst of making this record where I was kind of holding on to this rope really really tightly and in the dream or vision, whatever you want to call it, I let go and it was like somehow like I could fly or somehow I was flying like I looked happier than ever and for my personality that just seemed so twisted because I want to hang on as tightly to the things that I can’t control but it’s like the AA prayer it’s like I need to have the wisdom to know what I can and what I can’t control or the wisdom to know both and for me during this season it’s been hard to really understand what is in my grasp and what is not and obviously the things that are out of my control, me trying to control it is only hurting me and so a lot of times for me finding that second innocence is about letting go and accepting what is coming and accepting what is happening and then moving forward despite if it’s my choice or not. So we wanted, we called this one Revival because it just felt like that picture that we, me and Brian, kind of saw early on as just like letting go of that rope is so important in this season and yeah if you’re hanging on tightly to something that you should be letting go there’s so much freedom in letting go and you’re gonna be okay.
Find Another Reason Why
So find another reason why, it was the first chance that I got to write for a movie. I got this email one afternoon from Ted Milphy who is an incredible director and he had this new movie coming out. It’s a netflix special called The Starling with a bunch of some of my favorite actors in it. So I was immediately excited about the opportunity to write for this and sing in particular and the movie in itself is a really beautiful story of kind of finding hope again and going through a difficult time in life and learning to keep moving forward. I was really struck by the tone of the movie and the tone of the scene is when Melissa McCarthy whos playing the protagonist is going through this rough time with her husband and it feels like she’s kinda finding that point of moving forward regardless of the situation that’s going on and I think that that’s really important for us as humans is the art and the beauty of moving forward in the midst of the shit show that life can be sometimes. So find another reason why is just kind of came from this thought of its our choice to find another reason to move ahead and move forward. It’s easy to sit there and sulk or whatever that I can even tend to do at times but it’s really about going out there and finding that beauty and finding that thing that makes you want to push ahead in life. So shout out to Ted Milphy for using that song.
Be Here Now
Be here now is a song that I was on the beach and in florida and that was the first time I brought my guitar to the beach which is sad because whatever I just didn’t want to get my guitar sandy or whatever. I bit the bullet I took the guitar down to the beach was just kind of having a writing week by myself and I just this thought that I am so guilty sometimes of looking at the future and looking into the past and bringing the past into the future and vice versa and how its so important for us during this pandemic during this life to look at the person that’s next to you in the face and be there in that moment because those are the moments that are real. The past is gone, the future is not promised it’ll be there when we get there but what are we doing to live and to give ourselves to people and to love and to hope and this song as I was just looking at the ocean, it reminded me i can get so wrapped up in all the other stuff. But not just sitting there at that sunset and just breathing in and breathing in conversations and relationships that I am having rather than being on my phone. Breathing in certain moments in your career instead of moving onto the next thing. So this song is so special to us because we just wanna be people in a band that like, lives and cherishes everything, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs.
Thing Are Looking Up
So Things Are Looking Up this one, this song has had a journey we, we were gonna release it, I wrote when it looked like and I can’t remember the date but in 2020, I think it was 2021, when it felt like the pandemic was maybe subsiding or at least my optimistic brain thought it was, I wrote this song and then of course Omicron and all these other variants kind of coming out and it didn’t look like things were looking up it looked like things were still kind of FUCKED, so we thought of changing the title but we didn’t and I think for this journey in finding, finding innocence again or finding, you know, revival or like a rebirth in yourself is, it’s so important to have this mindset of moving forward regardless of the situation regardless of the, you know, again like your past or your future it’s just choosing to move forward and I think that that’s obviously really difficult in storms, in hard situations, I mean it’s like your in the desert or, you know, the mountains that you’re living in are too big or feel too big I, I totally did not feel like moving forward a lot in this last season but this song is, in the midst of all that, try to start pushing yourself to see light and grace and give yourself grace and when it’s not flowing like it, you know, usually should or does but Thing Are Looking Up is about having a mindset of moving forward regardless of, of what it is and it’s a little bit of like a prayer for all of you that are listening that, that you, that you’re best days are in front of you and that you are beautiful and this season, if it’s a good or bad one, either way it won’t last forever so we’re the ones that get to choose to move forward and yeah, you’re hard times just took youtube higher bless. I totally believe that for you.
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📸 © David OD
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