It is not every day you get to interview one of your biggest inspirations in music. Today, I got to do just that. I interviewed Lzzy from Halestorm. The interview lasted over 30 minutes and it was 30 of the best minutes of my life. Without further ado, here is my interview with Lzzy Hale.
How is the tour going so far?
It’s been fantastic so far. This past tour we’ve been doing shows with Eric Church and in between we’ve been doing headlining dates. It’s kind of the, no pun intended, calm before the storm because we are about to release a record.
How did the tour come about?
They sought us out, actually. His band mates are all hard rock and metal fans. His guitar player had our records and he said to Eric, “Hey, you need to check these guys out.” Eric, being the adventurous guy he is, had his people call our people and he said “Hey, do you wanna do a tour?” and thankfully we have very adventurous booking agents. We’ll play with anybody! I like the idea of blurring the lines a little bit because, from what we’ve seen, from us playing in front of his crowd, there have been a lot of his fans coming to our headlining shows because of our friendship now. I feel like there is no real existence of genre. It’s been really cool.
I know you’ve collaborated with Eric on “That’s Damn Rock N Roll.”
Yes. That song is actually on his record. The female part of that is actually his back up singer, Joanna Cotton. He called me after the tour was already put in place. He said that the CMT’s had asked him to play his single, but he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to do That’s Damn Rock N Roll but only if I would do it with him. I was like “Sure!” It was so cool. So I go to the CMT’s and it was my first real country experience. I’m backstage and I’m like “OK, that guy looks like he is somebody. Who is that? Oh, that’s Kenny Chesney.” I’m sharing a dressing room with Kasey Musgraves and several other people. It was so strange. I’m leather clad and the country girls are getting their legs rubbed down with makeup because that’s a thing.
That is seriously a thing?
Yeah. Have you ever looked at a country star and thought they had great legs? They have special make-up for legs. It’s kinda like what we do to our faces. It was very interesting. But anyway, it was a cool experience to be playing for an audience who had no clue who I was. After the CMT’s we actually wrote three songs together and it was really awesome. It was neat. It’s also a neat community. I’ve lived in Nashville for a year and a half and the community there is so accepting of all things music. If you play an instrument, it’s like “Hey, come over to my house and let’s write a song! If something happens, great. If not, oh well. Let’s do it!” They are all very supportive.
I’m going to transition into the new album. How is it coming along?
It’s done! It’s actually being mastered this week. We are going to be releasing a single very soon. And then we are pushing this record out into the world. We actually recorded it in Nashville. It’s funny how all this stuff came together. We didn’t plan on everything being so incestuous. but we ended up using Eric’s producer. He is also Cage The Elephant, Little Big Town, and a lot of strange band’s music guy. He is a mad scientist. We used to call him Batman because he would be there standing with us and then all of a sudden he would disappear and then he would come back with a cool idea like “Hey!” And we would be like “Where did Batman go?” His name is Jay Joyce and he is very cool. We did this album so differently than the last two records. It was very grassroots. We did every track live into tape. It was the first time we recorded the entire song all at the same time: in a circle, recorded it in a church. Jay Joyce bought this old church and turned it into a studio. It’s so beautiful and we are in the congregation room in a circle playing through the songs. The nerve-wracking thing about doing it live into tape is if one of us royal screws up all of us have to do the entire song over again. It was a lot of fun. The last two records we recorded very differently. We did them more assembly line. My brother would go into the studio and record all of the drums first to like a scratch track vocal guitar. Then we would do all of the guitars the next day. All the bass for the next two days and then I would start singing. So we were never actually playing the whole song front to back recording it all at the same time. It was so refreshing to listen back to these songs and try to capture that we were all in the same wave together and we all peaked together. It’s kinda how it used to be because everyone keeps telling me that’s how they did it in the 70s when people actually had to be good.
Exactly! It’s interesting because Jay Joyce and his engineer, Jason, ended up keeping us to that standard. We went into the studio with this precedent and Jay was the one person who had the balls to do it with us. I would be doing vocals and it would be beginning to end. It wasn’t “Hey we are going to go in and punch this.” or “Hey, we’re going to go in and tune this.” You have to actually hit that note. Like really? we can’t just use a little bit of tuning. NOPE! You actually have to do it.
No pressure.[Laughs] I know I said this how I wanted to do it, but… But really it was really cool and I am so proud of it. I don’t know what the rest of the world is going to think but either way, we are freaking stoked.
I’m excited. I try to keep professionalism whenever I do this but it is hard sometime because I am a fan, but I feel like you get better stories when you love the bands you talk to.
It’s totally real. I get it. I got to meet and perform with my all-time favorite person in the world. He is the guy that got me into guitar. I grew up on a lot of 70s and 80s Rock because of my parents, so I kind of skipped a generation, or more so reverted back, so to speak. Tom Keifer from Cinderella has always been “the dude” since I was like 11 and I just got to perform and I was like “I gotta be cool. I’m a professional, but inside my 14 year old self was like AHH!! and I was freaking out. So I know how that is.
Oh yeah. But, back to the recording process, you’ve touched on how it’s different than previous albums, but whenever you recorded the last two albums and the cover albums, what did you want to be different on this album?
The bottom line was that we wanted to bridge the gap between what people see in our live shows and what they hear on the record because the way we’ve done our past two records with Atlantic has been based on perfection and we would go in and do everything until we get it perfect. We would go in and gloss it up and add fucking weird stuff to it, not saying we didn’t add weird things to this record, but it was based on perfection, whereas our live show is based on imperfection. That’s Rock N Roll. We go out on stage and we have a great time and no matter what happens, because ultimately, there is someone who screws up, and there is always going to be someone saying “Haha! That was you!” and there are times when the guys will come over and start screwing with my stuff and start throwing out my picks and I’m like “God-damnit, guys!” So we wanted to capture more of that on the record. Not necessarily making a live record but kinda like what I touched on before. That’s the reason we did all the basic tracks live to tape – we actually played everything front to back. All the vocals were based on performance, not on perfection because, no matter what, it’s not going to be live because it’s not in front of an audience. It’s not going to be the same, so it’s not going to be a live record but we wanted to make sure there was some kind of moment. Some moments that you could not have created. They just had to happen. There are a couple of songs on the record where you won’t hear it until you listen to it like three times, but there is something where Arejay is yelling, or someone is yelling at someone and we are yelling at each other in one of the tracks we ended up keeping and you can hear it through the mic. I think they are yelling at me like “Sing it, Lzzy!” or something. I can’t quite understand it. But the guys are goofing off and it’s such a neat feeling in the song because it adds some type of personality to it, regardless of it being like “Oh, this is the chorus, this is the verse.” Everything isn’t shiny.
Y’all have been playing new songs live. How has the response been to those? I know you’re not technically on a headlining tour, but how has the response been?
On our headlining shows, everyone is stoked and trying to figure out what I’m saying through Youtube videos, which is so funny. There are these two super fans in Germany and they have been trying to take the Youtube video and put it into some program so they can slow it down so they can hear what I’m saying. And it’s not even close and I’m not going to give it away yet. They were like “can you just give us one hint?” Well, you got the first line right. Then they were like, REALLY? But the rest of it is wrong?” Yep. There’s been a lot of speculation of what is on the record, or what isn’t on the record. Like “is she singing the right lyrics? Is she singing all of the song? There was actually one girl last night, we are kind of hinting at two songs. Tonight, I am going to be starting the set a cappela, and singing a piece of something we put on the record and then we start in with a new song called “I Like It Heavy” because it’s kinda old school, and has this 70s groove to it and it’s a little easier to digest than me just coming out screaming everyone’s heads off and then easing into it. But, it was weird. Last night for the first time, there was this girl in the front row that was singing to my a cappela part. Somebody must have gotten it on Youtube and she was singing along to it and she was pretty good and I was like “Oh my God, that’s awesome!” But yeah, it’s strange because the people at the Eric Church shows, some of them are aware and, depending on the region, some of them don’t know who we are. So, it’s kinda hard to gauge. But it’s about when we get to the third song, we’re like “Yeah! We got ’em!” and some are like “What is this?” for a little bit.
I get that. Switching gears again, for personal reasons, I want to ask about the cover albums because my radio show is called Crimson Covers with Kinsey. So every week, I always do a Halestorm cover, except for the week I did bad cover songs, I didn’t play a Halestorm song. But it was like the Brady Bunch doing American Pie and then Big & Rich doing the Beastie Boys song “Fight For Your Right To Party.”
Oh, God bless them. Now, I have to hear this. Jesus. They did that song?!
Yes! I wanted to ask why you picked the song you did to cover. I played “Out Ta Get Me” and forgot to censor it.
OOOps. [Laughs] Hopefully, no one was listening when that happened. We actually do those covers very selfishly. For two reasons: number one, if we like the song and we’ve never played it or even if it’s a different genre, we’re like “Let’s try this” but for the second reason besides just loving the song, it’s a simple and safe way to try some new stuff, new genres, or take a different approach to a song that we’ve never tried before in our own original songs. For example, our first cover album we did “Bad Romance” and “Slave to the Grind” which were two songs that the tempos and the type of attitude in each song we had never really delved into before. So, technically if we hadn’t done, after we did Slave to the Grind, we decided we needed a song with this tempo because we had never done that before and it was so crazy and the attitude made me feel like a dude singing it. It’s kinda hard to see yourself from the outside, so we are always kinda trying to take the out door in sometimes, eww, that sounded horrible. [Laughs] Sorry, I live with a bunch of boys so everything I say is like a sexual innuendo. But anyway, we try to reach outside of what we think is cool and go with it. Technically, we wouldn’t have “Love Bites” if it weren’t for covering those songs. We wanted to try and write a song kinda of like those. With the last one, we did Gold Dust Woman.
I play that on my show every week. It’s my favorite.
That’s funny because it got such a huge response. I have a problem with not doing anything less than 110% so by showing out, we have a song on our new record called “New Modern Love” that was inspired by that type of groove and idea. It’s different when you have to cover and breakdown somebody else’s song that you love and build it up as your own. You learn so much as a song writer and it’s different when you have to sing it rather than just listening to it and being inspired. When you sing it and perform it, you’re like “Wow, this feels good. We need to have a song that feels like this.” If that makes any sense. So we do those covers selfishly for that reason.
I noticed that Out Ta Get Me is not a very popular GNR song because on my show I always do other people that have covered the song and no one else has covered that.
That song in particular, I always envisioned like, Pat Benetar would have done that song. Axl isn’t really doing those crazy acrobatics in that song that he usually does [Imitates Axl Rose]. It’s just a down and dirty punk rock song. It’s always overlooked because it’s not really flashy but man, it’s fun to play live too.
I know you said selfish reasons, but I also wanted to ask why you covered that cheesy Heart song. [Laughs]
I know it’s cheesy. I never actually listened to the radio version. It was very Pop radio at the time they put that out. The first Heart CD that I ever got from my mother was On The Road Home. It was this live CD of theirs and they do that song very much like what we did on the record, but it was slower paced with piano and guitar and more soulful. Back-story: the reason we did that song was because I struck a deal with the guys. I would always cover that song in karaoke. But the first time I covered it, or maybe the second, way before we were signed to anything, we would go to bars, sometimes when we were underage, and the guys would get free beers because I was singing it well. People would be like “That girl can sing! You guys get a round of beers!” So they would make me sing that song because it was only ever if I did that song. So they would make me do that song all the time. Our first time in Nashville, we broke down and we ended up going to a karaoke bar and they made me sing it again and they got free drinks because of that. I was like “I’m getting you fuckers free drinks.” And so they were like, “Lzzy! We are doing a cover CD. You have to do this!” I was like “No! I am NOT doing that song!” They were like, “We’ll make you a deal: you do it on here and we won’t ask you to sing it in karaoke again.” So, sweet. They have yet to ask me, but I feel like it’s going to happen.
It totally will, eventually. I meant to ask this question earlier, so it is sort of out of place, but how has the band evolved over the last few years. I remember the first time I heard “I Get Off” on Octane. I was like “Ooohhh I like this.”
Aww! Thank you! We live life kinda fast. Mentally, I don’t think we’ve evolved at all. We are perpetually 14 inside. We are very immature. Even last night, sorry guys I’m going to embarrass you, but there was this huge fart in the freaking bunk hall and everyone just busted out laughing and I thought everyone was asleep and all of a sudden I was like “Ahh!” Like, Jesus, guys!” We still have the same fire that we did when we were teenagers and coming onto the scene. Truth be told, I’ve been in this band for 17 years with my little brother. None of that has changed. The view hasn’t changed. The goal hasn’t changed. The maturity hasn’t changed. I think musically, because we are just out here all the time, I gauge how many years have gone by our fans bringing their kids. All of a sudden, the kid that was this tall is now this tall [shows height difference with her hands] and I think “Oh my God, it’s been four years!” I think because we travel a lot and meet so many different people, there is always something to write about because of that. There is always music to be heard. And no matter what genre, we do a lot of this stuff. We’re listening to Country all the time now on this tour and a lot of stuff seeps in. We keep chasing after what gets us excited and that leads you down the rabbit hole. I think we have definitely evolved musically and for the better. I think we have a very wide view of what our future could and could not be. It’s kind of freeing right now. I am feeling the same type of freedom right now that I did as a teenager. You go through a phase. I was writing about mythical people and stupid stuff that no one could ever relate to and then you get signed to a label. And even though our label and management have been incredibly supportive but, just by having that type of responsibility as a writer to think “Oh, this has to be good for radio. Is the label going to approve this record? Will it even make it past management? Are they going to like it? Is everyone going to be digging this song? Are the guys going to be ok with me actually saying this in a song?” You go through a phase where you aren’t thinking “Do I love this song?” Some of that stuff starts seeping in and it becomes less about you and more about everybody else. I feel like we are finally over that hump. Especially from making this last record. We were just like “Fuck it. Let’s do what we want.” So we did. We did everything we wanted to do. Right now, I would say with the upcoming record, we didn’t stray from who we are. It’s just a lot more of who we are. So, I warned you. [Laughs]
Anything else you want to add?
Just a big “Thank You” to you, obviously, not just for talking to me, but actually listening to our music and enabling us to do what we love every single day. It’s crazy to think about. It really is. I was talking to my mom about this the other day and I was like “Mom, do you remember when we were in grocery stores or restaurants and I used to remember saying to my little brother, we would leave picks or little things that said our name, in the napkin holders just in case somebody would check out our band. And now, more times than not, people know who we are and it’s just so weird to think about. It’s strange and very humbling. And the whole reason for that is it takes a village, man. A lot of people talk and we are spiraling outward and I get to say I do this for a living now and that’s thanks to everybody.
[We bantered about college football and the phrase “Roll Tide.” Then, she did a stinger for our station which leads into the next bit of content]
I was writing this song with Eric [Church] and it’s funny because when you listen to the song that we wrote, it didn’t make it on the record because it was a little too country, but it was awesome. It was like this stomp song. I still think we should put it on an EP or something, but you can tell what lines are mine and what lines are his because I remember asking him something like “What’s jump and rally? Like what is that?” It was me being schooled in the language.
[I talked to her about Will Hoge, and my journalistic dreams and she was extremely understanding. We talked about freelancing and traveling for our lines of work and Hanson.]
The only pictures my dad has in office are a picture of me with Hanson and of you and him. Hanson is my favorite band.
Oh my gosh! That is so funny! I can honestly say that, by them coming out at that point in time, in ’97, that is when we started our band. Because we saw them, my brother and I were like “We can totally do that” and that’s when we started playing in our living room and in talent shows and we were like, “MOM! They’re doing it!”
That is the best thing I have ever heard. They are my all time favorite and I want to interview them so bad.
Yeah, them and their 20 something kids!
Yes! They have 11 between the three of them. But now we are just rambling. Thank you so much for allowing me to do this.
Of course, darling!