FEATURE: HALESTORM ” I started to go down a rabbit hole thinking: “Can I even do this anymore?” LZZY HALE

Posted on by Oran

Halestorm have been lifting the roof off venues across Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe as they continue to celebrate the recent release of their latest studio album ‘Vicious’. Overdrive caught up with frontwomen/guitarist Lzzy Hale for a candid talk about writing for the new album, “Raise Your Horns” mental illness awareness and much more! 

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Lzzy Hale, you’ll know just how approachable genuinely pleasant she is.

Having spoken to her the last time they passed through Ireland, she didn’t disappoint on this occasion and greeted us with a wide smile and an upbeat, chipper mood.

Tonight see’s the band kick off their latest run of European dates in Dublin’s Academy with a sold-out show and as we sit down to talk about the journey Halestorm have been on over the last few years, it’s apparent that Miss Hale is in a good place right now and when discussing the process of writing the latest album ‘Vicious‘ you can understand why as things were not as straightforward as you would think.

OD – Firstly, I have to say the new album goes right back to a harder sound than that of ‘Into The Wildlife‘ (2015). Was this a conscious decision or something that just happened?

LZZY – We weren’t necessarily planning on it and I actually remember the moment that we realised that we were making a heavier record was when we were playing the tracks live and with tracks like ‘Black Vultures‘. We hadn’t finished the album and were testing the tracks out in a live setting and they just seemed to be way heavier than that of the other material.

I remember telling the guys after the first few shows and saying: “I think we’re going to be making a heavier album guys.” To be honest we were just chasing what made us happy and excited and this was the outcome. We had gotten a lot of things out of our system with each record. One of the things that we just don’t want to do it repeat ourselves and with keeping that in mind when we did ‘Into the Wild Life‘ we were obsessed with the ethereal stuff and a little more pop sensibility, and we just felt that it was time to shake things up again.

OD – You had said before that with each album, it’s just a moment in the band’s life. A reflection of who you are collectively at that point.

LZZY – Totally. If you think about it, even from a business sense things change so much and if you spend all your time trying to replicate the past, you’re gonna totally miss the present and ultimately change the course of your future. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to do what makes you happy

OD – You delved very deep with regards to your lyrics on this album. Was there anything that you decided to hold back on, or perhaps thought: “that’s a little too much?

LZZY – (laughing) There was a moment where I would normally hold back or stop at a twist of phrase or the more universal side of things. I decided at the moment we were about to start recording for two reasons. The first being, about six months before our pre-production start date, we were consciously starting to write for the record and to make a long story short. I really hated all of it and wanted to start all over again. I just didn’t want to make the same album or write the same song over and over again, you know?

I just found myself in this moment of thinking: “Crap! I really don’t know where to go here or what to do!“. Bearing in mind we had already had so much success and have been so very fortunate with the bands legacy to date. It’s been amazing!

But I was just missing that core feeling of excitement that just wasn’t there and I started to go down a rabbit hole thinking: “Can I even do this anymore? Have we peaked?” 

We then made the decision to just trash all of the songs and start from the beginning. I remember talking to our producer on the first day of pre-production and apologising about the fact that we usually have so much material and in this case, we had next to nothing. He was like: “That’s cool. You shouldn’t be trying to please anybody else but yourself.” So, that was a big realisation for me and once I got into that mind frame, the writing just began to flow.

So, every day after that, I would go home and write out the things that I was thinking and all of the things that I was a way to cautious to put out there in the world and when we got on the other side of it, I not gonna lie, it totally freaked a lot of our team out! As in like: “Are you sure you want to say that on the album?” (laughing) And in my mind, I’m thinking: “My Mom is gonna hate that song!” (laughing)

We just kept it the way it was and it was so liberating and it really was a huge learning process for us. I just really needed to that for my own sanity. I just thought when the album was just about to come out I thought to myself: “Well, we can’t turn back now, so let’s just weather the storm!

The fact that the album has been so warmly received by fans and the press is just totally blowing my mind!

OD – You recently posted pictures on Instagram of your different looks over the years with the release of each album, very much like Madonna used to do (and still does). Was she an inspiration on you when you were growing up and did her overall methods of ‘re-invention’ spark any ideas as to your own decisions with the release of each album?

LZZY – Absolutely! Madonna is one of my guilty pleasures. I just love how she goes with a vision and totally owns it. I like to think of a look or feel and also just try to own it as much as I can. I never really did it consciously and it was actually a couple of fans that were showing me images of myself over the last few albums and I just realised the variety of looks over the years with each album and thought it was really cool.

OD – Since launching ‘Raise Your Horns‘ have you experienced many people who struggle with mental health issues reaching out to you?

LZZY– Yes. I feel that I inadvertently open a door if you like. This came right on the heels after the passing of Jill (Janus, Huntress vocalist who tragically took her own life. Pictured below.) and I just wanted to do something for our community (music, bands, management, crew etc) that I know who talk to me about their own struggles. A lot of people started talking to me about it and I found it so inspiring and now I’m able to talk about my own mental stability which is a very good feeling and it helps a lot.

Mental illness runs in our family and in fact Arjay (Halestorm drummer and Lzzy’s brother) and I have talked a lot about this and he started going to therapy just for the peace of mind of being able to talk to someone outside of this business, outside of our circle, someone totally independent that he can open up to.

He’s like: “Sis, you know I’m going to talk to someone and I don’t even have the volume of people crying on my shoulder like what you have.” I’ve always been a kind of mediator with people and tend to carry a lot of emotional connections with other people. It’s just so important to talk about your feelings and not hide them away.

OD – Do you find that people think that when you have fame and money, all your problems just disappear?

LZZY – Yes, there is a total misconception that people who are successful, wealthy and popular don’t seem to have any mental illness problems. The truth is your world gets so small and for me, I’m just blessed that I have an amazing circle of friends, crew and people around me that are going to tell me if things are not right. It’s very easy to lose trust with people in this business as a lot of people are not really looking out for you as a friend but are trying to get something off you and that can be a really lonely and heartbreaking situation to be in.

OD – You’ve said that this new album was almost a journey for you and stated that is helped you; “find your mojo again” and not to worry about what others would think and to just put your faith in what you believe in. Do you think that a lot of bands today are keeping things very ‘safe’ with their music/writing?

LZZY – Something that we noticed in the last couple of years is the music industry is what it is and we have a responsibility to many avenues in the business like management, record label, booking agent etc. There are many bands that have the same responsibilities also, but with us, we have had to really fight for our own identity. It’s like; “No, we’re not Imagine Dragons, we’re not going to do that.” 

There are so many bands that are being told: “Well, this is what’s really popular now and if you want a hit record, you need to do this!” and then you have the bands that consciously do that and we know both sides of those bands, you know, the ones that are like: “We gotta do this because we want to be huge and we need to have a crossover hit and go Pop a rock flavour” etc.

What I’ve noticed on American Rock Radio (which doesn’t make any sense to me) there are bands that are making crossover songs that are trying to compete with the likes of say,  Lady Gaga, who is not part of the Rock genre. I personally try to serve our community, the rock community and do what I do as best I can.

There are bands that are playing on rock radio stations now that sound like Justin Beiber and we’re just like dumbfounded! What is going on? How is this considered to be “ROCK“? They just add in a crappy guitar tone and think that it’s gonna be the crossover element that is needed to tap into both audiences. I don’t get it. It needs to stop!

OD – Do you find that it’s just bands chasing what’s popular at the moment rather than being true to themselves?

LZZY – Yes, totally! Bands that do that just lose sight of who they really are and what their music is, never mind their audience. It’s actually sad to see happen. If I felt that Halestorm was just ‘calling it in‘ just to make a couple of bucks then that would be everything against why we all collectively got into this business in the first place.

OD – When you put out “Vicious” I’m sure there were some people that were raising eyebrows with the track ‘Do Not Disturb‘ as it was kinda left of centre for what most Halestorm tracks in the past have been about. Did you find it amusing that people were so shocked about your sexuality?

LZZY – Personally, I loved it. The reaction was kind of split down the middle with some people saying: “I can’t believe you did this! You went way overboard this time!” It’s funny that you can have a song that can be so explicit without having any “F-Bombs” in it. Then you have the opposite from the female community where they are saying: “Thank you for owning it! We think about this stuff too!

I grew up on my parent’s music which was a lot of hard rock and heavy metal, so when I’m listening to Tom Keifer (Cinderella) talk about having a one night stand or Van Halen with David Lee Roth practically having an orgasm on the microphone, but God forbid! When a woman does it, some people are outraged!! (Laughing)I just think: “If I’m gonna go there, I might as well go all the way!

I had a moment after the record was done and we were rehearsing all of these songs and I was thinking to myself: “Of all the guys in the band Arjay – my little BROTHER – has the perfect backing vocals for this track.” (Laughing). He’s so good about it and was like: “I support you, Sis. Female empowerment! You go!” He was totally fine about it. I was thinking to myself: “I hope we don’t have to have a weird conversation about it.” (laughing)

It’s just awesome to be able to play this live and have everyone singing it back to me. That’s the payoff with taking risks like that.

OD – With reference to the heavier side of the metal genre, what would be your choice if you were looking for something brutal heavy?

LZZY – From a classic standpoint, I would have to say Opeth. I’ve gotten very deep into those guys and it’s just incredible music. I have huge respect for Slayer who are also a classic band. With regards to new stiff, I’m really into Code Orange at the moment, who just blew me away when I saw them live when they were opening for Gojira who are another band that I just love.

There’s just something about the way Code Orange attack the audience that I found so captivating. There’s another band also called Turnstile who are awesome.

Code Orange

OD – What’s the most ridicules rumour you’ve heard about yourself to date?

LZZY – There’s a few! (Laughing). Some that come to mind is that I have a child. I was apparently pregnant while on tour a few times and the only way I managed to hide it was by wearing long T-shirts. (laughing).

Another one was that I had been in a relationship with Brent Smith (Shinedown) and we have a secret love child together. There’s just loads of stuff out there but it’s all garbage! (laughing)

OD – An album that you simply can’t live without would be?

LZZY – I would have to say “Heaven & HellBlack Sabbath. When I was first introduced to Sabbath, it was the Dio years first as my Dad was a fan of both Ronnie and Ozzy. From that point, I just went back through their catalogue and I’ve never looked back!

Vicious” is out now via Atlantic Records. Pick up your copy here.

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2018

Live photos – Down The Barrel Photography © 2018