Judah & the Lion has transformed considerably since forming in Nashville six years ago. The act started out as a Christian band, releasing the worship-themed 2011 debut “First Fruits.”
“But we moved on from that,” banjo player Nate Zuercher says in a phone interview from Louisville. “We’re all Christians, but we didn’t want to exist in that Christian music bubble. We want to perform for everyone.”
The emerging band shed the Christian tag. But then it was pigeonholed as a Mumford and Sons knock-off after the release of 2013’s “Sweet Tennessee,” which blends folk and bluegrass.
“We were never trying to be Mumford and Sons,” Zuercher says. “We’re much more than that. People can label us however they want. But it’s been an interesting journey. When we started this band, we got some bluegrass instruments and were curious about how far we could go. We never placed any limits on it. We just knew we would try different things and evolve.”
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Judah & the Lion, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Judah Akers, guitarist Dylan Oglesby, mandolin player Brian MacDonald, pianist Daniel Weatherby and drummer Spencer Cross, impressed with the provocative 2014 release “Kids These Days,” which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Folk chart.
However, Judah & the Lion really hit its creative stride with 2016’s “Folk Hop N Roll,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart courtesy of the catchy single “Take It All Back.” The single reached the top spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart for three consecutive weeks and remains a staple on satellite radio’s alternative channels.
“We had no idea that so many music fans would embrace ‘Take It All Back,’ ” Zuercher says. “We took a chance with the song and the album. The risk worked out well for us.”
The band slyly combines hip-hop beats, raps and synthesizers with its old-time folky sound.
“Anything goes was how we felt about this album,” Zuercher says. “If we wanted to add a Moog synth, we did it. If we wanted to add a drum machine or play the banjo or mandolin through amplifiers, we went for it. We pushed it to the limit and played with effects with the hope of coming up with something new.
“We wanted to push the boundaries. We know eclectic is frowned upon today, but who cares? We had no idea if this album would appeal to anyone, but there was only one way to find out.”
After spending much of the last year as a supporting act for such high-profile bands as Green Day and Twenty One Pilots, Judah and the Lion is now a headlining act. They will perform Oct. 15 at the Ritz in Raleigh.
“It was amazing going out with a pair of really cool bands with large fan bases, but we couldn’t wait to do our full show,” Zuercher says. “We’re really looking forward to playing North Carolina. We used to live there, not very far from Asheville. We always get an enthusiastic response there.”
The band is working on new material but won’t focus on fresh songs until the tour ends later this year.
“When things come to a complete close, we’ll make the new album, which I think will be out in early 2019,” Zuercher says. “Expect it to be different, like all of our albums. We move on and there are new things that have an impact on you that affect recording. In the meantime, we’re enjoying this tour and the success of our album. It was a nice surprise how well it was received by fans. It’s cool being up there onstage watching them singing along to the songs when we play live.”
Who: Judah & The Lion
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 15
Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh.
Info: 919-424-1400, ritzraleigh.com