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Exclusive Interview: Lzzy Hale from Halestorm
After scoring two top 10 singles (“I Get Off” and “It’s Not You”) from their self-titled debut and touring steadily for two years with acts as diverse as Shinedown, Stone Sour, Disturbed, Megadeth, Papa Roach, Godsmack and countless others, Pennsylvania quartet Halestorm are back with their second full-length, The Strange Case of…. Musically diverse and emotionally revealing, the album resonates with a newfound poignancy that takes Halestorm to a new level of creative achievement.
Halestorm started writing for the new record while they were on the road in 2010. Then when the band finished the Uproar Tour in May 2011, they entered the studio with producer Howard Benson (3 Doors Down, Seether, Three Days Grace).
Halestorm recorded The Strange Case of… in three sessions with Benson. By the time they entered the studio for the last time, they had written 56 songs, which they narrowed down to the 17 they tracked. The first single “Love Bites (So Do I)” is a storming rocker that illustrates frontwoman Lzzy Hale’s individuality, sense of humor, and willingness to represent young women in today’s fast-paced society.
One reason Halestorm has developed the ability to sound completely self-assured and cohesive whether they’re tearing down the rafters or gently massaging a bruised psyche is because they’ve had plenty of time to hone their craft and celebrate their exceptional chemistry. Hale and her brother and drummer Arejay started the group more than a decade ago when she was 13 and he was just 10. From the very beginning they were in it to win it even though they paid their dues along the way. Back in the day, the members lost a talent show to a tap-dancing cowgirl, played Friendly’s for free ice cream, piled the stage with homemade explosives that sometimes went off right in front of their faces, and even played at a funeral.
Halestorm’s determination paid off. Before long, they were playing local bars even though they were underage. They secured guitarist Joe Hottinger in 2003 and bassist Josh Smith in 2004, and in 2005, Halestorm signed a deal with Atlantic Records and released the live EP One and Done, which included an early version of fan favorite “It’s Not You.” The band continued to write, tour and record and in 2009 released their self-titled full-length album. Inspired by Halestorm’s exuberance and spirit, the band’s loyal legions rapidly grew. They became favorites at rock radio, highlights of music festivals and friends of the multitudes of groups they opened for or headlined with. Halestorm went on to sell more than 300,000 copies.
We caught up with Lzzy during the Mass Chaos tour which featured Halestorm opening for Staind and Godsmack. Lzzy talked about the songwriting process for the new album, meeting some of her rock idols, and the most important part of a band’s career and success – creating relationships with their fans. Like Lzzy goes on to say, “It’s not like we’re on stage and they’re watching us. It feels like we’re there together.”
I’ve gotta start out by giving congrats on the chart success for “Love Bites (And So Do I)” – #1 Active Rock. You’re the first female-fronted group to ever do that.
Isn’t that crazy?! It’s unbelievable. People started calling me to tell me that we were the first and I was like, “C’mon, there had to be another one out there!” It’s very cool. It’s humbling, you know? It’s very cool.
That’s something that will be in the books years and years after we’re dead and gone.
It’s funny. I was talking to my mother about that. I started this band when I was 13. To get to this point and have all these things happen in such a short period of time is really blowing my mind at the moment!
I know you’re on tour now. If anybody doubts whether on not you guys love being on the road, all they have to do is watch the JVC “Turn Me On. The Road” video and they’ll quickly learn how passionate you all are.
I’m telling you, those are some cool people. They have such a passion for music. It’s great to work with those guys. The promotion is so great because it’s about enjoying music loud, people enjoying music in their cars – believe me, I’m one of those people! You can only do the iPod thing for so long!
Seeing you guys enjoying music and blasting it out creates a relationship with the fans that a lot of bands don’t take the time to develop like they should.
I agree. We have a very strange and very intimate relationship with most of the people that follow us. In the beginning, when you start a band, you have to decide which way you wanna go. There’s really only two ways to go: the mysterious Tool route or you just put it all out there. We decided just to put it all out there. There is such a camaraderie with our audience. It’s not like we’re on stage and they’re watching us. It feels like we’re there together. We definitely like to emphasize that in everything we promote. In all honesty, it takes a village to break a band. We couldn’t have done this without them. We help each other.
We’ve got to talk about the new album. Tell me how you approached songwriting this time around. It sounds more live and raw.
Definitely. With the first record we were thinking, Does this song have mass appeal? Is the label gonna like it? Will it do anything on radio? With this record we really didn’t think about that stuff at all. We almost didn’t even have time to! We literally got off tour last summer, had 24 hours to pack and flew straight to LA and started in the studio the next day with a handful of songs. Some of them weren’t even finished. We thought we would have the entire summer write the record and record it. No, no, no. It was, We need the record now! We had no choice but to follow and chase after whatever got us excited. We compiled a bunch of ideas and anything that struck us as true and human we recorded. We could always delete it later! We ended up falling into this eclectic mixture of everything we’re interested in. I’m so proud of it because for some odd reason it all goes together. I don’t know how! There are still some songs I can listen to from this record that get me a little emotional because of where my head was at at the time. I can’t say that about the first record. This is the first time we can collectively say that.
What did you guys use as inspiration while you were in the studio? Did a certain song set the tone of the record?
It went in a few different stages. When we first started recording we were fresh off the road and the amplifiers were still ringing in our ears! We wanted to write something hard and fast and with a lot of energy. One of the first songs we wrote was the first single, “Love Bites (So Do I).” That was directly inspired by our time on the road and our covers EP. We experimented with tempos we’d never experimented with before. One was Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” and the other was Guns N’ Roses “Out Ta Get Me.” We never thought we could pull off tempos like that and now that we had covered those songs we decided we needed a song of our own! A lot of the songs after that were inspired by people we met on the road and the energy we feel live. We even went as far as recording the drums on 2-inch tape so my little brother had his work cut out for him! If you record on tape you have to get it right! You have to do the whole song – you can’t just cut in on the chorus! We really wanted to create that live feel.
Halfway through – when all the aggressions had settled – we started writing more intimate songs. I turned to the guys and said, You know what? You brought this on yourselves! They told me in the beginning to write whatever I feel and not worry about trying to represent the band. They didn’t want me to think about it too much – just keep my brain out of it. I did and the floodgate opened and I wrote some of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. The label was like, We didn’t even know this about you! The album is kind of like two different sides of myself and that ended up inspiring the song “Mz. Hyde.” The record is very Jekyll and Hyde. After everything was done it was like a whirlwind of creative purging. I’m really glad because in the beginning I was afraid it was going to be a rush job. I realized we can work on a deadline and that’s much better than giving us all the time in the world!
How have you changed as a front woman over the past few years?
Now, this is my career. I’m making a living doing this. I still have the fire I always did when I was 13. It’s still just as exciting every night. I still get this tingly feeling in my hands. I don’t attest that to adrenaline. It’s part of what I love about playing live. I’ve got that since I was a kid. I might be less shy now but the feeling is still there. The love is still there. The love of the chase is still there. The four of us have such a passion for whatever happens next. We keep one foot in front of the other and we’ll keep doing this as long as we can and be happy doing what we love.
You’ve got a nice following of fans. A lot of those kids look to you as inspiration. Who are some of the artists you looked up to as inspiration? Now that you’re in the business have you met any of them?
I’ve always been about 20 years behind when it comes to music! Growing up I was greatly influenced by my parent’s music: Alice Cooper, Pat Benatar, Ronnie James Dio, Van Halen. Also, anybody with a color in their name: Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath. I remember kidding my dad when I was little about only liking bands that had a color in their name! I related more to that kind of music rather than the artists of my generation. I nearly missed the nineties! When the guitarist and bass player joined the band I remember them introducing me to STP (Stone Temple Pilots) and Nirvana. I remember them telling me listen to a song by STP and I was like, Who is STP? Not that I was sheltered, I just didn’t relate to a lot of that music.
I have got to meet some of them. I’ve been extremely lucky. I got to meet Alice Cooper and the Heart sisters. I’ve got to talk to Pat Benatar and Ronnie James Dio. I’ve got to tell you, of all the people I’ve met, those two are the coolest. I know Ronnie isn’t with us anymore, but they’re two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.
We ended up opening for Ronnie for, what my manager tells me, was his last show. It was incredible. It was one of those fluke accidents. We were on our way home to Pennsylvania after a tour and Heaven & Hell had a show in Atlantic City at the House Of Blues and the opening band dropped out. My manager called and asked if we wanted the gig. I said I would walk if I had to – we were gonna do this. It was such an amazing experience. It was just Halestorm and the guys from Heaven & Hell. I was so nervous. They ended up hanging out with us at one in the morning. I just remember watching Ronnie as we walked out to the buses. He stopped and signed anything for everybody. I said to him, I’m sure they would understand if you wanted to leave and go to bed. He turned to me and said, You know Lizzy. It’s a moment in time. You may not remember their name or the day you met them but they hold on to that moment forever. They play that moment over and over again. You better make it good!
I got to do an interview for Revolver with Pat Benatar. She had questions for me and I had some for her. It was only supposed to be a 30-minute interview and we ended up talking for an hour and 45 minutes! I hope I’m that cool when I’m 60 years old!Got a news tip or correction?
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