When you think of rock stars, you don’t necessarily think you’ll end up bumping into one while waiting for a songwriting seminar to begin in Cleveland, but I did. Yep, I got up to use the restroom and somehow ended up swiping my purse against the head of a stunning chick that was sitting in front of me—hard. I was noticeably embarrassed, but she waved her hand and laughed it off saying, “Don’t worry, my head has a habit of getting in the way.” I gave her a grateful smile and thought to myself, “She was nice.” A few minutes later, the announcer at the seminar called for the speakers to be introduced and asked for Lzzy Hale to come up. I perked up, looking around. The chick in front of me stood up and started walking on the stage and that’s when it dawned on me: she was THE Lzzy Hale, one of the strongest voices in rock and roll, of Halestorm, one of the best rock acts of today.
That was a year ago. Today the members of Halestorm (Lzzy Hale, Joe Hottinger, Josh Smith, and Arejay Hale) are enjoying the success of their latest explosive album, Into The Wild Life, and have embarked on their most recent North American tour with Lita Ford and Dorothy. For a band that seemingly lives on the road and has accomplished so much already (like winning a Grammy in 2013 for Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance and having a Gibson guitar named after their lead singer) you would expect most bands to fall back a little.
But not Halestorm.
The members of Halestorm don’t fall back.
They come back for more.
First things first, Halestorm is infamous for endlessly touring. You’re currently touring right now. How has this tour been so far, Lzzy?
We love touring. I keep telling everybody that touring has now become my normal life and that normal life is like a very odd vacation. We have no plans to stop.
Where do you get the energy to be on the road for most of the year?
You kind of get used to it. It’s like rooming with a bunch of people. We’ve been doing it for so many years. I’ve actually been noticing it more now that I’m in my thirties, but there is always a point on tour like during our meet and greets that people will be like, “Hey, you look tired.” I’m like, “You know what, I am actually.” But it’s a good tired, it’s consistent. I kind of like it. I like working and I like being busy. It’s sitting still that I can’t stand.
On tour with you currently are legendary musician, Lita Ford, and up-and-coming Dorothy. Do you feel a responsibility to your fan base in supporting and promoting female-fronted groups?
Absolutely. This tour has been a long time coming for us. It just had to be the right fit because unfortunately, there is always going to be a stigma attached to an all girl-fronted tour. This one just seemed so incredibly right because we have Dorothy, who have only been a band for two years. They’re so awesome—they’re excited and new, and they plug in and they play. They really are paying a huge homage to rock and roll, even for being so young!
Then of course, there’s Lita, who basically kicked the door open. It’s a span of generations and we really wanted to display like, “Hey, you know all three of us are living proof that no matter what you want to be, gender aside, no matter what you want to do, you can absolutely do it.” The world is your oyster. For Heaven’s sake, Lita is legendary. She has been doing this since she’s 13 and so have I, we’ve been doing this as a band for 18 years. Dorothy is just going to keep carrying that torch.
It’s a really great thing for people to see. I can’t even tell you how many young people, especially young girls, come with their parents to these shows. Not to sound cheesy, but it’s such a magical night every night because you have these little girls looking up at you with twinkly eyes and you get to literally, maybe, open the door for them. It’s just so cool.
Your album, Into The Wild Life, received rave reviews. What sets this album apart from your previous ones? What kind of influence did recording Into The Wild Life in Nashville have on the sound of this album?
We kind of did everything different on this album compared to the last two: different producer, different town, and a different way of recording. Our first two records, we did with the same producer and it was kind of like typically what you do in a studio, kind of like an assembly line. You go in the studio and for two days Arejay would lay down the drums to a scratch track, I would go in and add in my guitars, Joe would add in all of his guitars, we’d add pianos and bass and then I would start singing for the record.
On this record, we didn’t do that. Our producer bought a refurbished church and made it into a beautiful studio. We were in the congregation room with all of these lights, just the four of us performing songs. It had such a great vibe to it. We would literally stand in a circle every day and perform songs from beginning to end with each other to see what kind of take we could get. It was like a free-for-all: anything goes and you could chase whatever gets you excited, without having a real regards to rules and plans.
It’s interesting because when I listen to this record, I can hear that ebb and flow and that weird energy that we have at a live show, just in studio form. We also ended up writing a lot in the studio too, whereas on the last two albums we had everything together before we stepped into the studio.
Can you tell me the inspiration behind the title for Into The Wild Life? Is it a not-so-subtle nod towards finally receiving the recognition you have fought for, and what comes along with that type of notoriety?
Yeah, pretty much. I can honestly say that I’m living the dream right now and I’m not saying that in any egotistical way, but I’ve been in the same band for years. I’m touring the world with my best friends and we have a Grammy under our belt…who knew, right? People still come to see our shows, we’re still writing and I laugh so hard every single day to the point of tears, especially with this tour because we really all just enjoy each other. Our crew is great, they work so hard, and of course we all play hard as well. It was like one of those really cool things where we were like, “We are at a really cool place in our lives”, and yeah, of course we partake in a little bit of the wild and crazy times.
I think the craziest thing is that we are all super comfortable with who we are, whereas it took a long journey to get there. It’s a long journey for anyone to get to that point where you are comfortable in your own skin. Lyrically, not only did I want to display the debauchery of where we’re at right now, like with “Apocalyptic” or “Sick Individual”, because all of that is really true as well, but I really wanted to put into the lyrics a lot of empowerment and a lot of encouraging people to not only be themselves but to be their own hero. Something that I had to learn over the course of many years is that the only person standing in my way is me.
I think that once you hit your thirties, you reach a new form of self-recognition and it works in your favor if you want it to.
Oh, absolutely, and I think that as the years go by you give less and less fucks. I have like, two really good ones that I’m really saving.
For when they really count, right?
Yeah! (laughs) It better be for a good reason!
Regarding Into The Wild Life, it’s undeniable that rock plays a big part, but I heard a lot of blues, as well as pop and country that made their way into there as well. How does infiltrating different musical genres impact the legendary Halestorm rock sound?
We’ve always had this mentality that if it’s good, it’s good. We listen to a lot of different things. Josh listens to a lot of Motown and old school soul, like James Brown and Nina Simone, lots of old bluesy stuff. With me, a lot of my influence comes from ’70s, ’80s hard rock and metal. We’re always just listening to new things and whatever inspires us…we kind of end up wearing our influences on our sleeve.
So that was the taste of this record. We were just excited to make a record, excited to write and listen to whatever came out. As long as everyone was excited about it and it was good, we would record it. We have a weird melting pot of different things and I like doing that. I don’t like recreating the same thing. I like moving forward and I truly get off on that next step forward, whatever that may be.
“I Am The Fire” is the most powerful song on Into The Wild Life, almost as though it is your anthem. Can you tell me what inspired the bold lyrics? What do you hope listeners take away from that song?
The inspiration behind the lyrics was kind of about being your own hero. There was a point in time when I felt really frustrated, guitar player-wise and singing-wise. I actually ended up going through a vocal change. It started about two years ago and it’s only been recently that I found my balance again. Vocally, I couldn’t figure out what was going on, my lows were getting lower and my highs were getting higher, everything felt weird.
I didn’t know that women go through a vocal change, which is called “thickening”. Basically, it’s like when your body gets ready for childbirth and so it just grows in a weird way. When I figured that out, I was frustrated with it. I was down on myself and I was a little depressed about it. I was like, “Man, I’m literally at the top of my game, why does this have to happen?” Then I realized, “Why am I blaming this and that? I can do this, I got this, I’ve figured out worse before.”
I ended up training again and literally made it my mission to get myself back to zero. And I did. I wrote this song about that time, as a reminder to myself. There’s a line in the song, “I am the one I’ve been waiting for” and it’s just a reminder that no matter what, nothing is ever going to be perfect. You’re only human but even with the ups and downs, you got this—there is nothing you can’t actually handle when you put your mind to it. Like I said before, the only person standing in your way is you. I wanted to put it on the record because it was a big part of my personal journey and hopefully by me being honest with all of that it helps somebody else too.
What song off of Into The Wild Life is the most personal to you? Why?
I used to say “New Modern Love”, but at the moment, in light of this tour and a couple of conversations with my parents lately, it’s currently “Dear Daughter”. Not to get mushy, but I realized after talking to my parents what absolute guts they must have had to let their teenage daughter be in a rock band, play in bars, do all of that. They never admitted that to me until recently, when they were like, “You know, we were terrified, but we saw that fire in your eyes and we knew you were going to do it anyway, so we might as well support you.” It’s funny, because my father was a bass player so he knew the ins and outs. I wondered if or when I have a daughter, would I have the guts to let her be whatever she wants to be, regardless of consequences and dangers? I think I would.
It’s cool for this tour in particular, being surrounded by these powerful women, but also these young girls coming to the shows. You literally get to look them in the eyes and tell them that they can do whatever they want to do. Then we play the song and it makes everyone cry, so it makes me emotional.
You’ve covered a majority of hits on your Reanimate albums. What made you decide to dedicate two records to covers?
Oh man, it’s just fun, really—that’s the bottom line. It has kind of become a weird tool for us that we didn’t realize it would be and it helped us figure out what we want to do on our next records. We didn’t realize that was going to happen but when we first did Reanimate, we decided to do “Slave Of The Grind” and “Out To Get Me” and we had never really done or written songs in that particular tempo before. So when we sat down to write The Strange Case Of we ended up listening to “Slave Of The Grind” and being like, “Okay, this is the tempo, let’s write something around this” and we ended up writing “Love Bites”.
So in a lot of ways, we wouldn’t have had the songs on the records that we did if we hadn’t done certain covers. It’s so much fun as a songwriter not necessarily having the pressure of writing the songs that you’re going to record but you also want to have that feeling like, “This is my favorite.” You get to sing a Heart song and then in the back of your mind, you’re like, “I want one of my songs to feel as good as it does singing this.” It’s all around inspirational and it’s a fun thing for the fans because they get to see us do different songs and not just our own originals. We also learn as musicians by listening to songs we haven’t written.
In 1998, your father was a part of the band and your mother played her own role in you and your brother’s musical career. How influential were your parents with the decision of getting involved with music?
My parents helped us out from the beginning. My mom helped us book shows and drove us around because we were too young to drive at the time. My dad was our roadie and for the first year and half that we were a band, he was the bass player. My poor dad! You go through a phase where it’s like, “Dad, it’s cool” but then you’re 14 and 15, and it’s like, “Dad, it’s not cool anymore.” That was a bummer. I was like, “We’re going to look for people our own age now, but you can still drive the van, Dad!”
My dad is so funny and my mom is awesome, she continued on as our tour manager through the first record on Atlantic. Now she’s just ‘Mom’ and now my parents are just parents. They were subtly influential, but they were never stage parents. They were optimistic, but kind of cautious. They never pushed us into it but they were always subtly there, yet not too out in the open. To me, that was very influential because I knew I had their support. Because of their presence around us, we never got into drugs or crazy stuff when we were younger. At the time I probably got frustrated with that but now I am really thankful. I can successfully say that I’m 32 and I’ve never had a coke problem—even though I’ve been offered it a lot.
You are an empowering inspiration for females who have aspirations of one day fronting a band that makes an impact on their listeners. What advice would you give to all of the young women who are fighting for spots in industries dominated by men, musically-driven and otherwise?
In all honesty, you have to go for it and you kind of need to have blinders on. When we first stared this band, maybe it was my own young naivety, but I truly didn’t pay attention to any negativity or any stigmas that were attached to me being a girl. In fact, we ended up using that to our advantage on some of our first few tours.
My simplest advice is that you have to put everything else second and just go for whatever that dream is, whether it’s being a mechanic or a rock star or a rodeo clown. Whatever you want to be, you absolutely have to go in headfirst. Most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t sweat what people are saying about you, whether it is positive or negative. The whole goal is that you get to do what you love. You have a choice to create your own happiness.
Where do you hope to see Halestorm and yourself in the next five, ten, twenty years?
In five, ten, twenty years, I want to still be doing this! I want to still be making records and touring the world. When I get to Lita Ford’s age, I want to still be rocking out tight leather pants like she does every night. I think that’s the end-all, be-all goal with all of us. We always talked about how the goal is to continue and not stop, regardless of where life may take us. Hopefully we will continue to be a band and keep writing, keep touring, keep bugging everyone on the road.
Do you have any words for your fans that will be coming out to see you at the Rock’n Derby, or any of your other stops on tour?
If I may, I want to just give a huge thank you to everybody for coming out to the shows and literally enabling us to live the dream right now. I hope nobody forgets how absolutely important they are to the bands they come to see. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them! What fans can expect is the absolute unexpected, especially if you’ve never seen my little brother perform. It’s a surprise for all of us every night because he’s a crazy man. No matter what, we always have a great time. We do a different set every night, so it’s awesome and new for all of us. It’s going to be a great time! We’re not trying to save the world; we just want to rock, man. (laughs)
Halestorm will perform in Schaghticoke, New York, on May 21 for Rock’n Derby. For more information, go to halestormrocks.com.