While globetrotting over the past three years, The Lumineers brushed shoulders and locked eyes with some of the world's most arresting characters – the type of people that impact your life in just a single vulnerable moment. Through a look, a gesture or a perceived perspective, something clicks and in that instant, they've given you something, taught you something, shared with you a little bit of what makes them magic.

It's been four years since the platinum-selling, Denver folk outfit released their multi-Grammy-nominated self-titled debut album; one that earned them award show nods and presidential co-signs. And while writing amidst a whirlwind of world tour stops and jaunty 'Ho Heys' in celebration of their eponymous introduction, the Americana collective managed to turn their brief global interactions into the basis of their forthcoming long-awaited sophomore release, Cleopatra. Real people inspired the kind of real songwriting the band hopes to propel back into the mainstream, while defying their sophomore odds in the process.

With a new single, a new album and a new world tour ahead of them, The Lumineers are prepping to head back out on the road with a new batch of songs and stories to deliver, frontman Wesley Schultz explains just a few short weeks before the opus' release. And like that, their sonic cycle continues.

A new album, a new single, a new world tour. How are you feeling about everything right now?

I feel really excited. It's been a long time in the works. We were on the road for three years and then had six months to write a new album, so I think we were really eager, even into a couple years of touring, to put out and write new music. So this is a little overdue for us.

You're getting ready to release your sophomore album so what does that represent for you? What does the concept of sophomore mean to you and how did you approach diving into everything this time around after so many years away?

The sophomore album is pretty loaded for most bands. I think that there's this idea that you have your whole life to write your first record and then you have a short period of time to write the second. But with us, we had a unique situation, because we were on a one-record deal for the first one and we're on a one-record deal for this one so we don't have anybody telling us when to put something out. That's an advantage. I think we didn't feel that pressure that I think some bands feel to be on someone else's timeline. Beyond that, we were just overjoyed to get back into it and go back to the craft. We had been writing seven or eight years together and had written a lot of albums and songs under different names and so it wasn't really our first album. We probably identify as writers first and foremost. So it was kind of getting back to what got us here.

You guys secluded yourself in what you called The Clubhouse on the top of a hill in rural New York near Woodstock to record everything and put the project together. Describe that process of putting that together after so long and how did that place offer the perfect setting for all of that?

Yeah so we had two different spots, actually. We wrote the album in Denver in a little house there. We rented a little house and just sort of replicated the same conditions that we've always written in, which is a cozy little house, or something like that. Then we went to The Clubhouse and the idea was to go somewhere - we had done a little bit of work in the studio that was an LA parking lot vibe when we remixed our album, our first one. We knew we didn't want that. It didn't really help the spirit of what we were trying to do. So, we wanted a barn type of environment, something in the woods and something out of the way. And that's what we found in The Clubhouse, kind of by accident. Our producer is from that area and he called in a favour. We kind of needed it last minute. Our plans to record in Colorado fell through at the last minute. It was kind of the best thing that could have happened. It was a beautiful place right near the Hudson River. Me and Simon were riding motorcycles all the time just to clear our heads and it was that kind of area where you can do that really easily.

In terms of clearing your head, I read that during that time you were trying to make musical sense of the past three years. How did that reflection go in order to let everything inspire you further and how did that mature you creatively>

Inevitably, if you're writing your own songs, which is a big if, if you are, that reflection will seep into your music. For me, it wasn't so much a conscious effort to write about the reflection, it just sort of naturally comes out in a narrative or the characters that I'm speaking about, which is also my experience, mixed with this character that I'm trying to tell some story with. I do really admire people who can set out and consciously write something like that. But for us, I don't think that I can set out those intentions. I think they unfold and you just go with it. One thing I was trying to avoid from a lyrical standpoint was a song about life on the road. I feel like that's been done a lot.

What was something you were interested in changing this time around?

Well, from a practical standpoint, we wanted a little bit more time in the studio. We had ten days to record and four days to mix on the first album. This time we had something like forty-four days to record and fourteen days to mix. We just wanted to feel like we could really sink our teeth into each performance and each recording as opposed to mechanically performing the song as fast and efficient as we could and then it's done and there's no time to reflect on if you like it or not.

You mentioned before that you're songwriters first and foremost and on this record, your songwriting skills are on fire. We hear about reflections on your father, your fame, the people that you met on tour, like the charismatic taxi driver, who's the basis for the title-track. And you also mentioned that there's this character you're telling these stories with, so what birthed that character and why were the stories so important for you to tell?

A lot of the stories and the kernels that you start with, I think they've been set a long time ago. A lot of these ideas are upwards of three years or five years. Cleopatra, I've been writing since before the first album came out. I think part of it, for me, is trying to make things small. So, whether it's minimal sound or just actually saying something that's real and tangible and small, versus saying really broad things that tend to mean nothing. There's a place for that and sometimes you can be confused by what's doing that and what isn't. I put an onus on storytelling, because the artists that I listen to do that as well. I don't know if there's a ton of that in the mainstream. I feel like we're the Cinderella that's in the mainstream but we're trying to bring storytelling back into it. It doesn't mean that every song is like that, but I guess the idea being like character development in a movie. If you can feel like that actor has transformed into that character, then that character was probably well-written. We're trying to do that with these songs and just create this cast of characters that you feel like you would somehow know what they would do outside of the situation we're even talking about.

Cleopatra, specifically. Who is she to you and what can we learn from her?

I met a woman through my wife's best friend. She lives in the Republic of Georgia, near Russia. She was, I think, the first female taxi driver in the whole country. One of the things that's similar to the album artwork, the word "arresting" comes to mind. Her candor or her way of talking about her own life just stopped me in my tracks. I had to process why and I think part of it was, she didn't want me to in any way feel sorry for her. She felt defiant over what had or hadn't happened in her life. She was confronting it in a way that I feel a lot of us maybe choose to not confront the ups and downs in our own lives. We're encouraged, essentially, to put up billboards online that says how great our lives are and how everything always is and how we're good people. And this woman was more telling it like it was. I think that that's the truth about a lot of us. We're not going there much these days.

That's so real, especially in our constructed social media worlds where we show only what we want seen and not the truth. That's so relevant, bringing it back to humanity and showing what a mess that really is.

We're all these beautiful contradictions and these messes. If an alien came down and that was their impression of us, they would have a vastly different reality than if they just hung out with a person for the day or went to work with them or whatever it was. A single picture of a night doesn't depict how that night actually was. In some way, we're caught up in a race to make one another jealous of something that's not even real. I try and stay off of that as much as I possibly can, because I started to realize that it's this weird drip of this hollow high. You get this serotonin drip but it goes away quickly and then you're more unhappy for having used it.

Obviously your debut album had so much success, do you have any expectations moving forward with Cleopatra?

When we're asked that, it's almost said with this sadness. Like something bad had happened. But for us, we've used that success as, it was liberating, because we could go and make this record. There are a bunch of people that are now waiting for a new record and this sort of rushed feeling that we had going into this first record, as opposed to the second and this sort of manic 'get in and get out' idea we had in our heads, it's like your opening act and the crowd is pretty indifferent to you but they're ready for the headliner. And i feel like now, we can play things at our own cadence and our own speed and I feel that people are willing to hang around and hear what there is behind that. We felt like we had permission to shape it exactly how we wanted it and it just felt different.

Cleopatra is out April 8.