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Posted November 16, 2018 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Halestorm: Putting Their Truth Out There

Halestorm by Jimmy Fontaine
Halestorm by Jimmy Fontaine

Ten years ago Halestorm signed a major label deal. It’s been full-steam ahead for the hard rock group (singer-guitarist Lzzy Hale, drummer and percussionist Arejay Hale, guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith) ever since. Released earlier this year, the band’s fourth album, Viciousdebuted in Billboard’s top ten. A fall tour finds it sharing the stage with In This Moment and New Year’s Day. In a recent phone interview, Lzzy Hale talked about the new album and the tour

How did this tour come together?
We’ve known each other for years and it was always something we talked about. We were always like,”What about next year?” Finally, we did it kind of selfishly. I’ve never been surrounded by more estrogen on a tour. It’s been great. I can borrow eyeliner and I don’t have to ask the one guy in the other band who wears makeup. I don’t think we realized how important it has been until we got out there and did it. We watch the audience and see these girls just owning their moments. It’s their show.

What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?
A lot of my early influences were actually dude singers. I grew up listening to Van Halen, Sabbath, Dio and Alice Cooper. When I was 15 or so, my mother told me, “You need to hear Janis Joplin and a live record from Heart and a Pat Benatar compilation.” I could connect the dots from there. All those elements go into who I am now.

You and your brother wrote together from an early age. How did that happen?
I give my little brother all the credit for it. He’s been a prodigy of sorts. He’s always been able to do that on the drums. All I had to do was write these stupid little songs. He could put a beat behind them, and he made me look really good. We’ve been doing it ever since. It’s always been the two of us. In the early days, when we were trying to find band members. We’d have these 15-year-old guitar players and their parents would pull them out of the band because of school or whatever. I asked him if he thought we were crazy for wanting to do this. He said, “What else are we going to do?” I said, “You’re right. Point taken.” He’s followed me down every rabbit hole I’ve gone down. He’s always there. We have the same contract we always had. He gets to play drums with me. It’s the same dynamic. It’s just what we do together. It’s so fulfilling. He’s my little buddy. We’re also polar opposites as far as personalities go. If we didn’t have the music, we would see each other at Christmas. It’s really neat to do this with him.

Did the fact that you were a woman leading the band present an issue in terms of finding band members.
It’s funny you ask that. In the beginning, if there was any type of discrimination because I was a girl, I was naïve to it. I didn’t have that on my radar because I had parents who didn’t really tell me about the differences. They just told me to do whatever I wanted to do. There really was no glass ceiling. It was only when we were trying to shop to labels that that was actually thing. There’s this “screw it” attitude that takes over after that. It’s nice to be on the other side and be on a stage and look at these teenage girls and tell them there is a path. It’s neat to be in that position now. The biggest difference was having that work ethic and the attitude toward it. The last bass player we lost realized they could join a cover band and make more money. We told them to go do their thing and it was nine months to a year later that we met Joe and Josh, and that’s when it started to feel like a band rather than dragging people to practice or to go flyer.

Did you try to do anything differently with Vicious?
There’s a lot of truth to this record. I wrote a bunch of songs and got together with a bunch of people and wrote songs with them. Every song felt like it was an out-of-body experience with a few shreds of truth. It was like, one was for the label and one was for fans. We tossed all of those songs and went into pre-production with practically nothing. I told our producer if he wasn’t excited about it, no one else would be excited about it. Every day, we’d come in and ask who had a riff. We were recording as we were writing. It was like a light switch went on. I realized I should chase after what got me excited in the first place and that’s why I was here. It was really freeing. It was great to write that way and to have a producer who was seriously just your cheerleader.

He was a fan of Halestorm. He knew I could sing higher and my brother could get crazier. He kept us on our toes. It was fantastic and we came out the other side swinging. We had renewed respect for each other.

A song like “Conflicted” varies the instrumentation. Talk about that.
I love the acoustic parts of the songs. It’s something we shied away from on records. When I was coming up on the scene in Pennsylvania, there were the two types of girls. There were the girls who wanted to be David Draiman, and there were the girls who wanted to be Jewel. I was smack dab in between that and stayed away from the acoustic guitar out of spite. It’s been slowly entering into our music. I love the acoustic guitar. Joe is such an amazing player. When we tried to put that in there, we realized we wanted to rock but still have that attitude in it. He cracked the code.

What do you hope people take away from the show?
It’s awesome. It’s a free-for-all. All three of us own our different corners of the genres. No one caters to the other audience. We just do our own thing, which is awesome. You see so many different walks of life. It’s really inspiring. All three of us encourage each other and we all watch each other’s shows. It’s really fun. We’ve done it a couple of times. Each time, it gets a little more intense because we’ve gotten used to each other.

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.