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Interview conducted June 11 2018
Interview published July 22 2018

Lzzy: "There's some songs in the vault that nobody will ever hear."

Metal Covenant met up with Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger of American rock outfit Halestorm as they came to Stockholm for some promo work for their new record Vicious (Out July 27th).

Joe: "Someone once said that we were great. I don't know what they were smoking."

Tobbe: Vicious is kind of a varied album I think, with different kinds of rock music on it, and what is your plan when you try to put together those different kinds of songs?

Lzzy: I think our goal for many years has just been trying to not only write something that everyone can sing along to, but just kind of focus on some of the deeper layers and make sure there's some musical moments. We're always trying to bottle that feeling that we get when we play live. And it's very hard to do in the studio, so. (Joe:) I think we got close this time. We worked with a new producer, Nick Raskulinecz, and, you know, his resume speaks for itself. Yeah, it was fun, man. He knew how to get some energy out of it and he used a bunch of different techniques to do that and we learned a lot, I'd say.

Tobbe: What would you guys say if I say that I think that this album from time to time has kind of a punkish vibe over it?

Lzzy: There's a lot of attitude to it. You know, we've become much more comfortable with being ourselves, with our fans, and we like pushing things a little further and this record in particularly we just wanted to, you know, double down on being ourselves. So, like, the heavy songs got heavier and the sexy song got sexier and the more intimate songs got more personal.

Tobbe: So, after putting out 3 records and a couple of EPs, what kind of stuff is no longer a part of Halestorm's sound?

Lzzy: Oh, what's no longer a part? That's a great question… (Joe:) Well, this record doesn't have a piano ballad. I think it's the first record without it. Not for any reason; there'll be another one. You know, she's great on piano and writes killer piano songs. It's just… (Lzzy:) I'm a cheeseball. (Joe:) Heart Of Novocaine was written on piano, but we turned it into acoustic. (Lzzy:) But what's not longer a part of Halestorm's sound? The keytar, probably. (Joe:) Yet, coming back… (Lzzy:) We retired that in, like, 2000… [Laughs] No more keytar.

(Joe:) I think we did our best to keep kind of the more cookie-cutter feel out of this record and really aimed for great rock 'n' roll moments. You know, shit that… (Lzzy:) That gets us excited. (Joe:) Yeah, if we get excited as musicians and as fans of rock, then Nick's whole theory was "If you're excited, then your fans are gonna be excited, so let's just make the music that gets you guys pumped.".

Tobbe: And how do you find inspiration to your lyrics?

Lzzy: Lyrically… I think it was Chris Stapleton who said this best in an interview. You know "There's a point in time where you realize that your passion becomes your affliction.", as in I'm always writing lyrics. It's become, like, bad to the point that like: we'll be at a bar and I'm actively eavesdropping on conversations, because it'll be like "Uh, that's cool. Let me write that down.". I have notepads in my pockets all the time.

So, really, I mean, I like putting puzzles together, and especially when it comes to just everyday life in the conversations that I have with our fans online, or with the guys; I'm trying to figure out a way to make that into a song. So it's so much more than a hobby or a career choice for me; it's sometimes therapy and just an extension of what I do. So yeah, you can find inspiration everywhere. [Laughs]

Tobbe: And is it also hugely important to you to have songs out of a woman's perspective as well on the record?

Lzzy: Yeah. I think that in my songs there's always… I write all sorts of songs for myself that either somebody will hear at some point or nobody will ever hear. [Laughs] There's some songs in the vault that nobody will ever hear. But yeah, part of what I do is, you know, I take the position of power and empowerment and positivity a lot of times because I'm in a position right now where people do pay attention to what I say, whether that's a good or a bad thing, and so I feel like if you put something out there and you say something, make sure that you're lifting somebody up, you know. And I feel like that's just my choice, I guess. There's already enough negative stuff going on in the world right now. Let's knock 'em in the teeth, you know.

Tobbe: And a lot of women say that it's hard for a woman to be in rock music, or even metal, but there has to be some good things with being a woman too.

Lzzy: Absolutely. Well, I mean, there's two ways to look at it, because in the traditional, like negative aspect of it… Yeah, I mean, there's moments nearly every week or so where I have a situation where I'm like "Hm. If I wasn't a girl, this would be a completely different conversation.".

You know, and I've had to grow up in that and kind of, you know, learn how to cope and learn how to navigate all of those waters. At the same time, by being a girl in rock and metal and loving the genre, I stick out like a sore thumb, so in a lot of ways we've gotten a lot of attention just because, you know, I'm a girl. And I take that as a good thing, I take that as a positive thing, and I've used a lot of, even the negative things that happen to me, I use a lot of them as a weapon, as in "Okay.

Maybe you're not expecting me to even be in the band right now. You think I'm a girlfriend or the merch girl or something, but you don't know this, but I'm gonna get up there and I'm gonna kill it and then you're gonna come up to me later and be like 'Oh, I didn't know…' and maybe you'll be a fan.". So, you know, you use that. So when people ask me what it's like being a girl in the business I just tell them it's fucking fantastic. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You guys tour a lot, and even if you say that you enjoy it, will there maybe come to a point when someone wants to slow down a little bit?

Joe: I mean, maybe… Who knows? But we still love it. (Lzzy:) It's become almost a primal need. You know, like: we don't have a gig for a while and we're just like "Why am I bummed?". [Laughs] (Joe:) It's just fun, like getting out and traveling the world. We're all best friends and we've curated an amazing crew that we've got going right now and everyone's positive and we all just like to laugh and hang out and drink some beers. You know, having as much fun as we possibly can. If we're gonna be doing this and traveling and getting tired and busting our ass, then we might as well have a good time doing it, otherwise I don't know if it would be totally worth it. [Laughs]

Tobbe: A hard question to answer, but out of these 3 options, which one would you prefer? Being a musician in the '70s, in the '90s, or today?

Lzzy: Uh. Man, that's tough. I mean, honestly… (Joe:) '70s. (Lzzy:) Well, that was what I was gonna say. (Joe:) I'd probably be dead by now, but the '70s. (Lzzy:) I know. Well, to me, it's like: I think if I could go back to the '70s… I just love the aspect of the musicians then, when, like, you really didn't know, like in both positive and negative ways, like, 'cause you didn't know about drugs either; everybody was just doing them… You're right, we'd probably be dead by now.

But just the aspect of that you didn't… You know, you just got up there and you sang. You didn't think about any of the technological things that could go wrong. And in a lot of ways we do that now. You know, even today, like: we don't run the tracks, or click tracks, or, you know, any trickery or anything. So I think that we would be welcome there. I'd be a little Janis Joplin wannabe, I think. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Which are the biggest lies you have ever heard about Halestorm?

Lzzy: Somebody thought I was pregnant once. Another rumor was that I was dating Brent Smith [Shinedown], which I never did, even though… You know, nothing against him; he's like a big brother to me, but that never happened. What else are some of the biggest lies of Halestorm? That we're a Christian band; we're not. [Laughs] It's not I get off on Jesus. [Laughs] (Joe:) But we're pretty honest, so it's hard to make stuff up about us without just straight up making it up. Someone once said that we were great. I don't know what they were smoking. (Lzzy:) Yeah, all right. It's the biggest lie. [Laughs]

Tobbe: And Lzzy, as a singer you have a huge, important role in the band of course, and being female as well, and if you would ever decide to go separate ways with the band, what could ever happen to Halestorm then?

Joe: We'd fine some young, fresh blood to sing… (Lzzy:) We're working on my stunt double as we speak. Funny, Joe, funny… But Arejay would probably try to be the singer, I think. My little brother and I have had this kind of unspoken, friendly sibling rivalry where it's "Who can outdo who on stage?" and he recently started singing in his drum solo and so… it's inevitable. He would try. He'd be like "I can do it, guys.".

Tobbe: But is it important to have a designated frontman or frontwoman?

Joe: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. (Lzzy:) It is. I think it is and for me, and I'm not saying this because I'm a singer, but it is hard and I've seen bands, even successful bands, never really reach that point that they were with their original singer. Because it's tough, it's hard. You know, you're the spearhead of it.

Tobbe: Do you ever worry about losing some of the strength in your voice?

Lzzy: Oh yeah. I mean, I've been singing for 20 years now, doing what we do and touring the way we tour and... Yeah, I mean, you work hard to keep it and everything, but you know, you never know, you get older. And I think about it a lot; I also try not to psych myself out, you know. [Laughs] (Joe:) It seems like it's becoming more of a mental game than ever before.

(Lzzy:) More of a mental, yeah. And I tell this to singers all the time, whereas you can literally think yourself out of singing, like if you're having a bad day or if you think… You know, I've talked about this with Myles Kennedy [Alter Bridge / Slash] because he and I both have that sometimes, where it's like "Oh, am I gonna be able to do it today?". And as soon as you get on stage and you stop thinking about it, even if you have a cold, all of a sudden "Why is everything back?", because you stopped thinking about it, you know. We send each other texts to remind each other, like "No, you got this. You got this; this is cool.".

Tobbe: The band has been together for a long time now and did you have any things to fall back on if things hadn't worked out for you?

Lzzy: I can always be a stripper. I mean, that's a fact, I can still be a stripper. (Joe:) Anyone can be a stripper. All you got to do is take your clothes off. (Lzzy:) Well, that's what I'm saying. That's all that's left. But we decided… (Joe:) Our backup plan was music. (Lzzy:) Yeah, we decided we weren't gonna have one a long time ago, because the more we thought about it, A) We couldn't decide. B) It was gonna take more work to try to figure out "Well, let's have another skill set." than to just put everything all in to Halestorm.

(Joe:) And before we got signed and started going down that path, it was like "We're making a living playing around Central Pennsylvania." and it was expanding and we were getting paid more and shows were growing and we were building it up on our own. And actually, like after we got signed and had to go and make the record, like gigs, you know, that was always our thing. Like: our A&R guy got fired our first day and right before we even started recording our first album we were like "Oh, this is probably it for us.". We got cheap champagne and we were like "It was a good ride.", you know.

(Lzzy:) "We can always go back to PA." [Laughs] (Joe:) "We can always go back to Pennsylvania and play the clubs again." and that was our backup plan. It's still our backup plan. (Lzzy:) Yeah. If this all goes away we're getting back to playing The Rusty Nail in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania [Laughs] or, you know, The Chameleon Club [In Lancaster, PA].

Tobbe: But isn't it a huge risk to kind of sacrifice everything? Because if you don't make it you're kind of screwed.

Joe: The bigger risk would be not trying at all. (Lzzy:) We had intense conversations about that. (Joe:) If you don't make yourself happy, who are you making happy? And in that point, what's the point of any of it? (Lzzy:) And I think that we would have regretted it more if we didn't try and we didn't do it.

(Joe:) What we were trying to do was just keep playing music. We were trying to make the best music we could and, you know, there was always like "We have an opportunity here where maybe this could work out and you could, like, tour the world.". So "All right. Well, let's at least try it. Otherwise we'll just go back and play more music somewhere else.".

(Lzzy:) I remember my dad saying, you know "The 9 to 5, the job everybody hates going to, is always gonna be there. You can always do that. But to go after something like this you have to go now. You have to try everything.". And we're still trying. But you know what? Honestly, if it all goes away and we can for some reason never play music again I can sit in my cardboard box under a bridge somewhere and be like "You know what? I did it, man!". [Laughs]

Tobbe: But do you realize that you will maybe do this for probably 30 years more?

Lzzy: Yeah. And we just got to play with Cheap Trick and they are so cool and so good. I wanna be as cool as those guys when I'm in my '60s, pushing 70.

Tobbe: What will Halestorm look like in 2048 then? In 30 years.

Joe: We will look like we got hit by a truck. (Lzzy:) We will look… tss… like… we… e… (Joe:) Did you soak yourself in whiskey? What is that? (Lzzy:) Yeah. It will be kind of a blurrier version of the way we look now. [Laughs] (Joe:) Gravity stricken. (Lzzy:) Gravity may not be kind. I don't know. We'll see. You'll [Joe] probably have white hair. You silver fox.

Tobbe: He won't have any hair at all, unless he wears a wig.

Lzzy: Right. (Joe:) I'll just have a skullet. What's left of it. (Lzzy:) Right, yeah. Just keep the long hair, but no hair on top.

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