Being a girl and being into rock music isn’t always fun, mostly because a lot of men just assume you like the music because you think the bands are attractive. Fortunately, nowadays there are some badass women who are heavily involved and influencing the rock scene, and one of those women is the Queen herself, Lzzy Hale, guitarist and frontwoman of Halestorm. I was lucky enough to score some time with Lzzy to chat about the new record Back From The Dead which is being released this Friday, May 6th, through Warner Music Australia.
I open with asking Lzzy how her day has been so far, and with a wide smile she tells me, ‘It’s been really good! It’s a little rainy here but it’s alright, I like the grey.’ Looking out my window I jokingly tell Lzzy that it’s looking a little cloudy here too, and that rain is probably on the way (Melbourne, amirite?) to which she says ‘That’s probably my fault!’ and we share a good laugh:
‘I’m not kidding though. Be careful what you name your band! There’s been so many tours and festivals and strange things that happen that have to do with weather and we always get blamed for that because our name is Halestorm! We couldn’t name it Bright Sunny Day?’
Weather predictions and conversations complete, I move the topic towards Back From The Dead, asking Lzzy if she has a favourite track:
“Oh my goodness. It’s almost too soon to tell, because every time I think about it it’s like I love this one, but I really like that one too. I’m just excited to play all of them out live. We begin rehearsals for our next tour soon, and we’re trying to relearn what we wrote in the studio because it’s been a second! I really love ‘Bright Side’ because it’s sarcastic and fun, and I also love ‘Wicked Ways’ just because I get to scream my head off! I do have a soft spot for the piano ballad at the end, for ‘Raise Your Horns’. Which is so funny because, there’s been so many people now, including our parents, who were like ‘oh we thought that was gonna be a barn burner because it’s called ‘Raise Your Horns’ I’m like ha, got ya! We’re gonna have a song called ‘Raise Your Horns‘ and it’s not gonna have any drums or any guitar. It’s crazy.”
Sharing another laugh, I told Lzzy how listening to ‘Raise Your Horns’ the night before made me cry!
“Oh I’m sorry about that!” Smiling, she continues, “It does have a special place in my heart.”
Fans are really going to enjoy this record because as a whole, it’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster. You’ve got your big highs, and then you’ve got your lows and then that last song it uh, it really pulls on your heartstrings:
“Oh that’s awesome. I mean it kinda was a roller coaster ride, when writing this, or at least I should say from my personal standpoint subject-wise and all that. I was writing very much in real time, in the present and just trying to kind of deal with whatever I was feeling at the moment because it was literally the only weapon in my arsenal to kind of figure the things out that were rolling around in my head.
It was kind of an emotional roller coaster, ups and downs, sideways, and I don’t care anymore, and I care too much and what am I doing, you know? You have to kind of work your way through it and almost write certain things in this hopeful way so you can remind yourself that it’s all gonna be okay. When we were trying to work out the sequence for the album that’s when that really came into play. We wanted to put people on that journey, and that took forever! We listen to the entire album like 34 times with all the songs in different orders and thinking okay, not that song there, that one needs to go here, it was a crazy process.”
How do you guys go about choosing what songs are going to go on the record? Do you write a list?
“Usually the cream rises to the top. So really it’s, we picked our favourites from all of the songs that we recorded. I do have to tell you this little insider information that we pretty much have an entire album’s worth of B-sides where we were being like, really weird, and there’s some very strange songs that we loved, but at the same time didn’t necessarily go thematically with the majority of the songs we really loved.
We chose the best ones out of the bunch. It is really hard to do that, but also with any record, the entire process is hard. It’s hard writing the songs and not settling and always pushing for something to be better. It’s hard recording and trying to play at your best. It’s hard to pick out the sequence and then the artwork and everything. It’s so worth it at the end when you have this body of work that you’re so proud of and sometimes it seems like it wasn’t really you that did it. I think that the music chooses you, not the other way around sometimes. It’s like an out-of-body experience like okay we have this, and now we’re done with it and now we get to give it to the world and it’s no longer ours, it’s theirs. Soon.”
What comes first – the music, or the lyrics? Or does it vary for you?
“There’s many ways to do that, sometimes it’ll start with a riff, and sometimes it’ll start with an idea. For me I do both, sometimes I work on them both at the same time because that helps me vocally and then guitar wise get the relationship going. Sometimes it’s a melody, sometimes it’s a title. Really, it’s almost, my work process, is I kind of dive headfirst into the shark tank and figure it out as I go along. You gotta just kind of chase what makes you excited. I’m also a serial draft and re-drafter. It hardly ever comes out perfectly the first time, you have to live with it for a while and keep going through it and combing through and trying to make sure your truth doesn’t get lost in everything else that you’re thinking about like ‘Does it rhyme?”
Laughing, Lzzy continued:
“One of the silver linings of going through lockdowns and COVID and all of that is a lot of those, you know, questions that you might have like ‘is our fanbase gonna like that?’ or ‘Is it gonna be good on radio?’ all those little things that you really shouldn’t be thinking about when you’re trying to be creative, they weren’t really there. We didn’t really have a definite plan. We didn’t have this future that like we have touring and we have to get the album done. We were in purgatory for so long, so again silver lining is that there’s a lot of my truth that just ended up coming to the surface and I almost rediscovered ‘why’.
Why I love writing music and it’s not just because now I can call it a career, which is a perk by the way, that’s not the whole thing. I was writing for the sake of writing and so that I could figure that out, almost in a very therapeutic way. In a way coming out of the other side of this album I feel like I’m a better person because of it, and I dealt with a lot of things that maybe I haven’t, or maybe I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have the time. It was one of those.”
100%! I found that you sort of write quite cinematically, is that intentional, or do you find it sort of just ‘happens’?
“I think that I come by that naturally. I do refer to myself as a reformed introvert because as a teenager and as a child, I was an extremely shy child, I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone. My mother has this story, and I don’t remember this but apparently I was in the second grade and they were trying to teach all of us to yell out for a fireman if there’s a fire and you’re stuck, you have to be loud and you have to make noise, and apparently I wouldn’t yell, or do any of that. Which is kind of weird because I literally make my living yelling now! That’s basically my whole thing. I do cite this band with giving me this outlet and almost this armour and permission to be outlandish and be an elevated version of myself. Really a better version of me and the person I want to be. I think that always comes through in the songs, and I don’t necessarily plan on it always, sometimes I do, I like attacking the songs.
Also something that maybe is relevant to the question is that we recorded this in a different way, obviously there’s some many different ways because of the pandemic. We recorded all of the vocals first to the demos before we got into the studio to build up the tracks, so really a lot of what you’re hearing is my voice kind of leading the charge. In the studio we’re all basically writing all these parts around the song. We’re being inspired and kind of led by the vocal takes I did to the demos, we built the pyramid upside down. Usually it’s the opposite, we’ll get done with all the music then I’m the last one in the studio to go in and sing on top of everything. There’s definitely some drama.”
Do you agree that this record is heavier than your previous records? Especially your earlier albums?
“Absolutely. You know I don’t think that we even try to do that either, but I think that kind of came with this being the only weapon in our arsenal to get all of those things out. If it seems a little angsty, we had to channel that somewhere and it came out in a big way! Man, when we got back in the studio and we were jamming together for the first time again, there’s nothing like my language that I have with my bandmates. We’re all still best friends, we have this musical chemistry that I don’t find with anyone else in this life and so I think going into this album we wanted to be on eleven. We wanted to be the best versions of ourselves and it was more or less, if we’re gonna do this it has to be ‘go big or go home’.
Everything has to be 110% because we don’t know if we’re ever gonna tour again, or is anybody even gonna hear this record? We did this from a very selfish point of view so we’re doing all the things.
My brother (drummer, Arejay Hale), he’s just on eleven the whole time and playing the best he’s ever played, and the same thing with Joe (guitarist, Joe Storm) with the leads and my bass player (Josh Smith), brought out all the Moog synthesizers and all his basses and everybody just went all in.”
The term ‘Female-Fronted’ gets thrown about a lot as a genre which annoys me, and it’s not. You are a female and you are the frontwoman, but you’re a rock band! How do you tackle that kind of stigma?
“It is annoying that you become kind of a sub-genre of the genre that you love so much. What I always tell people is that I didn’t get into rock music because my boyfriend loved it, or somebody drug me to a rock show you know? It’s like, we, all of us, myself, Amy Lee (of Evanescence), Taylor Momsen (of The Pretty Reckless), all of my peers, we love it because it’s part of us. That beautiful thing that I’m seeing now on this whole wave is that I’m seeing more and more women in this genre, we’re basically taking over, especially over here now! I remember just a few years ago, me being on a lineup and not only me being the only girl onstage, but the only girl backstage. Now that’s just not true, not only are there other female musicians, but there’s female tour managers and lighting directors, and sound people and producers and don’t even get me started with the audience! I mean 10 years ago, it was definitely more male dominated in the audience, but now I wanna say it’s 70% female, especially at our shows! I always tell my friends ‘you wanna meet a beautiful and crazy rock chick? You have to come to a Halestorm show’!
“There’s all these beautiful young women who are just owning the genre because it’s what we love. It’s a part of us. I always say we’re proving one day at a time that rock is genderless.”
If you’ve ever been to a Halestorm show, or seen videos of them playing you’ll be familiar with Lzzy and her signature style, which includes stilettos 99% of the time, I had to ask Lzzy to please tell me her secret to rocking out in heels! I’m often a baby giraffe in flat shoes, let alone go as hard as she does on stage in sky-high shoes!
“First of all – practice! I started doing that when we were just a local band in Pennsylvania, because it was one thing, again, speaking of which I was one of the very few rock girls in the scene, and it was one more thing that the guys wouldn’t do. I’m like okay, I’m gonna play guitar and I’m gonna sing my head off AND I’m gonna do it on heels. A, practice, and B, what you need to do is, two words – stripper heels! You know why? Because they’re built sturdy and they’re made for dancing. A lot of the ones that may look more dangerous that they actually are are really well balanced and I’m able to do a lot with it! I will say stay away from tiny rocks, like gravel, and most carpet. Those things are the devil. It’s a lot of fun to play around with that.
I started doing this thing a couple years ago, the guys call it, I look like a flamingo, especially with the guitar because you can kind of counterbalance. I can stand on one foot for a long period of time, and it’s fun to do that when there’s some like, camera people down the front, or press, because it takes them a second to figure out, they’re like ‘oh, wait, she’s just balancing on one leg. Really, you’re just toying with people at that point.”
Cue the slightly evil giggle. Sadly, our time together was coming to an end so I asked Lzzy, you’re touring in the States, and in the U.K with The Pretty Reckless, Australia too? Soon? Pretty please?
“We literally just had a meeting with management this afternoon about trying to put together an Australian tour, so fingers crossed we’re coming to see you soon and it all works out. Come on, we can do this. We miss you guys! We miss our Aussie fanbase and just being over there. You guys are absolutely some of the best rock fans in the entire world. There’s such a different energy every time we come over so we can’t wait!”
We miss you guys too, and we can’t wait to see you soon and for everybody else to hear the record. Good luck with the tour and have fun, and hopefully we see you soon!
“Absolutely! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, and thank you for your kind words on the record. I appreciate that.”
Interview by Kelsey Trevan. @kelsey_139
Back From The Dead is out this Friday via Warner Music Australia.
Pre-Order it here.
Halestorm – Back From The Dead tracklisting:
1. Back From The Dead
2. Wicked Ways
3. Strange Girl
5. The Steeple
6. Terrible Things
7. My Redemption
9. I Come First
10. Psycho Crazy
11. Raise Your Horns
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