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Halestorm Interview

A Conversation with Lzzy Hale, Arejay Hale, Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith

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Halestorm

Halestorm

Atlantic Records
Updated May 23, 2011
Vocalist Lzzy Hale and her brother Arejay (drums) have been performing together since they were very young, and even released an EP over a decade ago. The current incarnation of Halestorm has been together for more than 7 years, and their self-titled debut album was released in 2009. Since then they've also released a live CD/DVD, and their most recent effort is ReAnimate, an EP of cover songs. They tackle everything from Skid Row's “Slave To The Grind” to Guns 'N Roses “Out Ta Get Me” to Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance.”

Lzzy is an imposing presence on stage, with a powerful voice and a lot of charisma. Offstage she's very friendly and laid back with a great sense of humor. I had the chance to interview Lzzy and the rest of the band (Arejay, guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith) on their bus after their set at the Carolina Rebellion festival in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chad Bowar: How did you go about picking the songs on ReAnimate?
Lzzy Hale: It was a long process because we like so many different bands and were influenced by so many different bands. Basically we ended up picking a lot of stuff that was close to our hearts. The Beatles cover “I Want You (She's So Heavy)” was actually one of the first songs we jammed to as a band many years ago.
Arejay Hale: It was really fun recording that one, too. We did a lot of layering and stuff like that. It has a really cool build to the end.

Most of the songs are pretty well known. “Hunger Strike” by Temple Of The Dog is one that some people may not be familiar with. How did you pick that one?
Lzzy: We were going to do a Pearl Jam song, but we also wanted to do a Soundgarden song because we love both of them. Then somebody at the label said why don't you do Temple Of The Dog and do both?
Arejay: Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell are two of the greatest male rock singers. I thought it was cool she could do both.
Lzzy: We did it as a non-duet, which I thought was funny. Like I said, we love so many different things. We wanted to put this together for our fans, because we've been touring on this one record for two years now. We put out a live DVD, and that satiated everybody for a while. We also wanted to put something else out there. We had six days between tours. We went into a studio in Western Pennsylvania and did a song a day. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am!
Joe Hottinger: They were 12 hour days. We started with the drums and ended up with the vocals.

How far along are you on the next studio album?
Josh Smith: We already have two songs recorded and in the can. As soon as this month is done we're heading out to L.A. to finish writing and recording. Hopefully we'll get it out by the end of September.
Arejay: We've been playing the two new songs live on this tour, and they have been getting a great response. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Are you allowed to say the title or producer or anything yet?
Lzzy: We don't have a title yet. We do have pages and pages of possible titles. We're going back to Howard Benson as the producer. We're doing it kind of crazy this time. We're doing basic tracks and all the drums to tape, so it has a crazy feel.
Arejay: We're doing it at Sunset Sound in L.A., where Van Halen recorded all their albums. It's a great big room and the drums sound enormous. They sound really warm on tape.
Joe: We met with Howard earlier this year. We didn't feel the first record captured the energy that we put out live. We talked with him about how we can do it better, get Arejay's personality on the drums in there, because there wasn't much of that on the first record. It's all a big experiment. It's fun doing it on the go like this. We'll improve every time, hopefully.

Have you been writing on the road, or do you wait until you're home and do it there?
Lzzy: There's no time to go home! We had 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there. It's very different than the last time. We had our whole lives to write the first record. We actually weren't planning on putting the record out this year. We were planning on touring through 2011 and releasing it in 2012. But the head of our label basically said, nope, you're putting out a record right now.

It's neat to be writing while we're touring, because you come up with an idea, and you say if I had to sing this to an audience tonight, would they get it? I don't think we took that into account last time. We got so wrapped up in just the recording end of it. Now we're thinking more about how a live audience will react to it. It's kind of taking it back to the early days of Halestorm, when all we cared about was whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Does that mean the new stuff will be heavier?
Lzzy: Oh yeah. The new stuff is definitely more aggressive. There's more riffs going. It's closer to what we do live. The subjects are funnier and the riffs are heavier. (laughs)

Is there any pressure from the label to record a radio friendly ballad or two?
Lzzy: They actually told us to keep it down to one or two! We were surprised, but after the covers album where we did heavier songs like “Slave To The Grind” they want us to do songs more in that vein.

You've done a lot of package tours. Was that a conscious decision to get yourself in front of a lot of people that may not have been familiar with Halestorm?
Josh: Absolutely, and I think it's more common now, the package tours.
Arejay: It's a really cool thing, too, because it's band helping other bands. When a band gets to a certain level they can pay it forward and help another young band.
Lzzy: It's actually a very small community. A new band will come in that you've never toured with and bring their own audience. Skillet, for example, on this tour. Everybody has been amazing to us and welcomed us with open arms.

Do you notice any difference in fan response if you're playing a more rock oriented bill as opposed to a metal oriented one?
Lzzy: We're amazed every time the audience gets into it. The heaviest band that we've played with this past year was Megadeth. We weren't sure if their crowd would like us at all. Not only were we getting up there with a chick, we're not Megadeth! But I think people recognize when things are real and tangible.
Arejay: We've been very blessed with rock crowds and metal crowds. We even opened for David Allen Coe years ago. Pretty much every type of audience we've played in front of has welcomed us with open arms.

Did you meet Dave Mustaine when you played with Megadeth?
Lzzy: We met him twice before we played with them, and he is a really sweet guy. But when we played with them, nobody was allowed to look at him. He gets in a zone, which we can also respect.

You've been on the road pretty much non-stop that past few years. Is it tough being away from home so long?
Joe: This (the bus) is our home!
Lzzy: It's strange when we're not on the road. Even if we did have time off we'd be doing something with the band.

I imagine your accomodations haven't always been as nice as this bus.
Lzzy: We had a 7 passenger conversion van with a trailer for about 8 years. Then we went to a '92 RV.
Josh: We had it for four years, and by the time we were done with it, it was a junker. It was full of mold. We named it Stormin' Norman, the greatest urine colored piece of crap RV on the road.

Where haven't you toured that you'd still like to get to?
Arejay: We haven't been to Wyoming yet. We've been through there and Louisiana, but for some reason have never played those two states. We also haven't played Alaska and Hawaii.
Lzzy: One thing I love about the road and the people that come out and see us is that it's something we can all do together. We're comfortable. We're all friggin' dorks from Pennsylvania. In fact, we don't really have a life other than this. We've created this weird community. It's neat to stand up on stage and be surrounded by people just as crazy as you are.

Was it difficult to adjust to the success and increased profile the band is attaining?
Lzzy: It was more of a relief!
Joe: It's been a slow climb. The first single did well, so did the second. We are grateful for it.
Arejay: We are just thankful every day that we have what we have. A lot of bands take it for granted, forget what got them there, the people who come to the shows. We feel it's good to have a slow build and slowly build their fan base. The quicker you go up, the quicker you go down.
Lzzy: When we were signed, we had already been a band for 8 years, and had to figure out how to do everything. I would never have wanted to be signed right after we started the band. I encourage people to start small and keep building.

Would you rather be an opening band at a huge festival, or the headliner in a small club?
Arejay: It doesn't matter, as long as we get to play.
Lzzy: They are two completely different animals. The good thing about being the opener is the pressure is off you to carry it. But the great thing about headlining, and we have headlined a few small club tours, is that it's a great intimate setting. You're past the handshake. They know us. You get to tell stories and give them a little bit more. It's cool.

Anything else you'd like to mention?
Lzzy: Just thank you. Everybody that follows us enables us to do what we love every day. We didn't think we'd be here. We're extremely lucky, and it's all because of you guys. We've also gotten to know a lot of fans through Twitter and Facebook. It's nice to be able to communicate with everybody.

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