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Halestorm Interview

A Conversation with Vocalist/Guitarist Lzzy Hale

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Halestorm

Halestorm

Chad Bowar/About.com

Halestorm are one of many artists on the new tribute album Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, along with Metallica, Rob Halford, Anthrax, Scorpions and more. It benefits the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout cancer fund. I spoke with Lzzy Hale about the Dio album and many other topics.

Chad Bowar: How did you get involved in the Dio tribute album?
Lzzy Hale: Wendy (Dio) knew that we got to play with him, so she asked us if we would do it. At the time she was asking, we were recording for our covers EP.  So we said we’d just do it while we’re here and hand it over to you. It was very cool. It’s such a tremendous honor. I’m such a huge fan. I always have been, thanks to my parents. Just to be surrounded by so many amazing musicians all coming together for one thing, it blows my mind a little bit.

How did you decide on doing “Straight Through The Heart” for the album?
I love Holy Diver, the album. It’s just amazing. That was my introduction to Dio. “Straight Through The Heart” has always been part of my life. We did it because we wanted to go off the beaten path a little bit. So many of my favorite songs never get played on the radio. I always hear “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow In The Dark,” and I thought it was important to show that there are so many great songs that nobody ever hears. Hopefully it sheds a new light on it and introduces it to people that aren’t as obsessed with Dio as I am.

How did you approach doing the song?
I don’t think we can do a song without spreading ourselves all over it. You always have a choice when you are covering songs.  You can either try to do it absolutely exactly the way that they did it or you give a nod, but do it the way you would cover it or do it live. We did it the Halestorm way, because I’m never going to be Ronnie James Dio, and there’s no way I can beat that. I thought it would be more respectful to do it our own way. It’s just a fun song. We feel great playing it. That was a big part of the decision, too.

Tell me about your recent experience at the annual Ronnie James Dio awards in Los Angeles.
That was so cool. Musicians in rock and metal tend to have tunnel vision. We’re doing our own thing. Some of us are on tour, some of us are making records. We’re always doing something. It was so cool seeing everybody come together and drop everything they are doing to pay tribute to Ronnie, and to also help Wendy out and make sure that it was a big event and raised money.

We had a great time and got to meet a lot of people that we normally probably wouldn’t have met. It was such a cool thing to hang with all these people and come together for one guy who touched us all in a very significant way.

We performed, which was nerve-wracking. I look over to my left and there’s Lita Ford and Corey Taylor and Scott Ian. Everyone is standing there watching us. But it was so much fun. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity.

You released your second covers EP Reanimate 2.0 a few months ago. What has the response been like?
So far, so good. We did it differently than we did the last one. There was very minimal production, and we actually recorded it during Grammy week. So there’s any excitement that you hear on the tracks, that is why. That was a crazy week for us. (They won their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance). 

We like doing that stuff. It’s a nice thing for the fans, and it’s fun for us. We get to try some new stuff that maybe we wouldn’t have tried. The inspiration comes full circle because we end up trying new songs with different tempos and things like that.

You’ve done a lot of collaborating with other artists, such as doing “Close My Eyes Forever” with David Draiman, and often get up on stage and jam with other bands. What it is about those collaborations that you enjoy?
I like to make myself uncomfortable and I enjoy the challenge. I also really like these people. The strangest one was with Dave Draiman. We got to know each other on tour and he had mentioned how he had this idea to do the Lita Ford and Ozzy cover. A year and half or two years goes by, and I figured it was just tour talk. Then I get a call out of the blue. He said, “How fast can you come to New York? Remember that song I told you about?”

If David says he wants something done, he will get it done. I remember when The Sickness came out, so it’s kind of strange to have lunch with the guy. He’s the most amazing person, so smart and so enjoyable to talk to. Then I walk away saying, “Oh my God, I just had lunch with David Draiman.”

I’m still a fan of all these people, regardless of whether I know them or not. It’s wonderful just to be thought of for those projects. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I have only kind of broken into the scene. It’s great to have these people take me under their wing.

Is is true that when you were younger, you took music lessons from Kix’s Steve Whiteman?
It is true. I got to meet him when I was 15. His project at the time was Funny Money, and they were playing at the Tourist Inn in Hallam, Pennsylvania. We used to play there all the time. We ended up opening for them. I’m an ‘80s head. I’m a child of the ‘90s, but my heart is very much in the ‘80s, so I knew who Kix was, and I was really excited to play for him. I was amazed that he sounded the same as he did in his 20s. I asked him if he could give me some pointers. I had never really warmed up before. I didn’t know what that was.  

He said that he had a space at Marty’s Music Store in Harrisburg and asked me if I wanted to come down and he’d show me some stuff. I went there every single Thursday for like the next two years. He showed me what I had and how to use it; how to project my voice and how to breathe right,all the basics. I still have his little “isms” and things that he taught me. One of the stranger ones is that I warm up into a towel to muffle the strange noises. Everybody always thinks I’m huffing something, but I’m really not (laughs)  I owe what I can do every single night to that guy.

Have you ever considered doing a Kix song on one of your covers albums? You guys would do a great version of “Blow My Fuse" or “Cold Blood."
Dude, I’m telling you. I just met his manager for the first time at the Dio awards. His manager knows everybody of that era. I literally told him that. We’ve never covered a Kix song, and we really should. I don’t know why we haven’t yet. That’s definitely in the cards.

You’re headed to Europe for a tour. What’s Halestorm’s level of awareness and popularity there compared to North America?
It’s really grown in the past two years. It’s taken a huge leap. In places like the UK, it’s pretty equal to where it is here in the U.S.  It grew very quickly. It’s definitely crazy in Europe as well.  The language barrier really doesn’t exist because they know all our songs. I don’t know any Italian or French, so I admire that so much. I love going to Europe. It’s a different animal than it is here.  The attention span and loyalty level is very different over there. It’s not better or worse than the U.S., just different.

I remember the first time we went over there. I wasn’t trying to get everybody to clap to a song, I was just tapping my leg to myself, then everybody started clapping along. They are very observant, and ready and willing to do whatever you want them to do. I’m excited about going back to Europe, because we have started to see this huge growth there. That’s why we’re going over for the whole month of April and doing a headlining tour. We definitely want to keep that alive, and it’s fun for us.

For the first time in many years you aren’t on the U.S. summer festival schedules, like Rock On The Range, Carolina Rebellion, etc. Do you plan on being in the studio during that time?
Yes. We’ll be in the studio then, so we couldn’t commit. It will be very strange not being at shows like Carolina Rebellion, because I think we’ve played every single one. We want to be there. They are some of the most fun things to do in the summer. It’s like a big family reunion. So we’re a little bummed, but at the same time we have work to do and have to get this album out.

How far along are you in the process?
We’re almost done completing the songs and narrowing it down and trying to figure out what we want on this record.  We haven’t gotten into a studio. We’re actually in the process of choosing a producer. There’s a lot of stuff you have to do and go through to be able to spend a few weeks in the studio. Recording it is the easy part. By the time you get to the studio you have a clear view of what you want to do and you get it done. But the whole buildup is just crazy. Touring is so much easier (laughs).

Expectations for the outside will be higher for your third album because of the success of the last one, with hit singles and the Grammy. Do you feel added pressure as you get ready to record it?
We haven’t felt too much pressure. We have a pretty good relationship with our label. They’ve been very good to us over the years and really believe in what we do. Pressure comes and goes. I’m always kind of teetering on that. You want to be aware of the things that maybe you should accomplish on this record because it’s your third record and you’ve done a lot with the last two.

But really, at the end of the day, if you’re not chasing after what gets you excited, you’re never going to reach that next step. For me it’s more about trying to keep on that path and chase the old song dragon and that these songs get you excited and you want to play them and show them to everybody.  The bottom line is that we’re going to have to be on stage and sing these to people and really mean it. As long as we keep that focus I think we’re going to be fine.

You guys did the album Live In Philly a few years ago. Has there been talk of doing another live album or DVD?
We’ve definitely been talking about that. I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to pull it off in Europe, but we definitely want to do it again. It’s overdue. Our goal is to do it for every album cycle. It’s a moment in time. When we did Live In Philly it captured that moment and where we were at in our careers. It’s really cool to have that and to see that. We’ve definitely been talking about it, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

You’ve always been a band that’s been very close to its fans. As your profile and popularity increase and you get pulled in more directions, is that something you will still keep as a priority?
Of course.  To bring it back to Ronnie James Dio, that’s why he was such an amazing human.  He left nothing unsigned and would meet everybody. I heard so many stories at the Ronnie James Dio awards gala.

We have it easy with social media and the way we can keep in touch. I love people. It’s so important to touch as many people as you can and be involved. The inspiration comes back to you. A lot of their stories and by them opening up their hearts to us, it ends up inching its way into the songs and gives me a greater understanding of who is following us and what people are going through.

Not all artists are like that. Your parents obviously raised you right.
I have seen people get crazy jaded in this business. You start thinking too internally. The guys in my band, we’ve been a foursome for 11 years and I’ve been in the band for 17. They are my rocks. We’re all perpetually 14 inside, but we’re also a very stop and smell the roses type of band. Look at how far we’ve come, and this is so cool. I’ve seen a lot of bands that lose that, or are unable to be happy with where they are. It could all end tomorrow. You’ve got to love it and be happy and appreciate where you’re at. And to answer your question, yes, my parents were very cool.

You recently introduced an apparel and accessory line recently. Talk about that a little bit.
There’s going to be a point in time where I can’t do everything, but for now, whee! It’s a four piece launch line, Scissor Happy By Lzzy. It’s very simple right now, kind of figuring out where I want to go next. The idea came about at least a decade ago. I started making things for myself and the guys in the band. We all come from blue collar families. We would go shopping to try to look like rock stars and see a $300 pair of jeans that has a leather patch on it. So I said, give me your jeans, and I’ll sew it on. I made them jewelry and all that stuff.

It evolved over the years from doing it for them, then I started doing it in the back of the bus and making jewelry for bands like Seether or Evanesence we would tour with as a thank you. One time my merch girl was wearing a jacket that I made her, and a woman offered her $200 for the jacket off her back.

So I did this to introduce that our to our fans, giving a little something back and see where it goes. It’s kind of exciting. It’s the same kind of excitement as when you first start a band. What do I want to do and where do we want to go? You never know where it’s going to go, but you’ll never know until you try.

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