Pennsylvania hard rockers Halestorm are known for being one of the hardest working bands in rock music, touring 275 days out of the year (a trend they’ve maintained since they were mere teenagers). That hard work has finally paid off with their current album Into the Wild Life reaching #1 on the U.S. Rock Album charts, not to mention their two previous albums, Halestorm and The Strange Case Of, achieving certified gold status earlier this year. However, the biggest honor to date for the quartet was their Grammy win for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. Although this is an incredible award for the band, it’s a huge achievement for women in the industry, considering front woman and band co-founder Lzzy Hale was the first female to ever receive a Grammy in that category. DIME sat down with the queen of rock to talk about Lzzy 2.0, the one skill she’s yet to master and everything in between.
JENN DEVEREAUX: So we are here in New Orleans forthe Carnival of Madness tour which features your band Halestorm as well as Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry and Whiskey Myers. How’s the tour been going for you?
LZZY HALE: It’s been absolutely amazing. We love these boys. It’s been super easy because we’re doing like 15 min, so it’s like “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.” So yeah, it’s been fun!
JD: You’ll be back on the road with Lita Ford and Dorothy in the fall. What’s it like playing alongside those talented ladies?
LH: Oh, it’s just so inspiring, you know, because it’s a different animal. Believe me, I’m all for equality. It’s not about gender, it’s about talent. But women approach rock ’n’ roll differently than men do, so it’s just really neat to be surrounded by that vibe. These are both my kind of chicks. They can hang with the boys, but they’re really in it because they just want to rock, man! There’s no other reason. No one is trying to save the world. No one is trying to get chicks — although that’s always fun too. <laughs> But yeah, they are just super fun girls, and they have their own brand of crazy that meshes really well with mine, so we thought, “We’ve got to do this again!”
JD: Do the bands you tour with end up influencing your sound when you’re writing new music?
LH: Yeah, sometimes. I love live music. Actually some of my favorite records are live records. And it’s really neat that whenever you go on a different tour, everybody attacks the stage in a different way and everybody approaches the audience in a different way. And sometimes you’re like, “Oh my god, duh! That makes so much sense.” And a lot of times your perspective when you’re writing, just kind of in the back of the bus or in your room, is so much more different than when you try to visualize yourself… Like, ok, if I were to take the song that I was writing today and brought it up on stage, would it be the same vibe? Would it be everything I want it to be in front of an audience. I mean, usually it’s the complete opposite, like, “no no no, we need to rethink this.” <laughs>
JD: Do you ever go back and listen to an album and wish you had changed a guitar part or sang a lyric differently?
LH: All the time, even with this one when we thought we had bridged the gap a little bit more to what we do live. As soon as you start playing songs live, they end up evolving into something else or something more exciting, or you’ll sing something a little harder or play something a little better. So then you’ll look back and be like, “Wow, why didn’t I do that.” I think I’m finally starting to realize that no matter what we do in the studio, it’s always going to change later, and I like that. It gives people incentive to say, “Hey! Let’s go out and see how they do it live.”
JD: Your new record Into the Wild Life is not like any other album you’ve put out. Did you all approach the recording process differently this time around?
LH: We did. We basically threw away everything that made us comfortable that we were used to doing on the first two records. We had a different producer, a different town, a different type of studio and also a different approach to recording it. For the first time, we did every song as a performance. So all four of us are playing at the same time in a circle, staring each other down. And the funniest thing was sometimes it would take 3 takes, sometimes it would take, like, 47 because some people kept messing up. The problem is when you’re recording and have all of the microphones there, not everything is super isolated and there is a lot of bleed. And for a lot of them, we didn’t do the click track either because we just wanted that ebb and flow, catching each other’s wave like what we do live. But the problem is, if one person messes up we all have to do the song over again. So, we decided to do this, and then halfway through the recording process we were like, “Why did we decide to do this?” <laughs>
JD: Did that process cause any animosity?
LH: Oh, absolutely not. We would lose our minds a little bit, but every time we would do that to each other, we’d just end up making fun of each other but, like, in a zany mood. Like we would start laughing uncontrollably over something stupid, and then we would end up going for a beer run. We would bring the beer back and be like, “Ok, let’s try that again.”
JD: You recently won the Dimebag Darrell Shredder of the Year Award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards. Not only is this a huge award in general, but how cool is it that you were the first female to receive it?
LH: Oh! I was like, “Who screwed up and gave that to me?” <laughs> It was funny because the DragonForce guys were presenting it, and I was standing next to them side stage, and they had this whole spiel. They were like, “Just so you know, we wanted you to win.” So they basically told me I’m not getting it and then all of a sudden they were like “Psych!!” It was really cool. It’s the first thing that I had ever been nominated for regarding guitar. My voice has always outshined that. So it was a really neat and humbling moment of mine. So I was like, “I’ve got this, but now I have to own it.” I have to live up to that now, so it’s actually made me sit down and keep practicing. Now I’m like, I’ve got to get some leads under my belt, and maybe some finger tapping. <laughs>
JD: Does it bother you when people say, “She’s a badass female rocker”? Would you rather just be a badass rocker, or do you take pride in standing out as a female in a male-centric industry?
LH: I don’t really care either way. Because it’s something that’s always going to happen. I know a lot of my friends in this business who would be super upset about it, like, “No, I’m just a person.” And, yes, I agree, but the stigma doesn’t go away just because you think it. It is slowly evolving out of that because there are so many girls now. And I always tell everybody that it’s not a matter of gender, it’s a matter of talent. If you, guy or girl, can’t go up there and give it 110% and win some people over every night, then it doesn’t matter what your gender is. You either suck or you don’t. But I don’t mind. I mean, I happen to be a girl, and I’m proud of it.
JD: You guys have a tradition of coming out with EPs of cover songs in between albums, and I read that another is in the works. Can you give a hint about what songs might be on it?
LH: We actually have no idea. We had a list, and then when we started talking to Nick Raskulinecz, which is one of our favorite producers, and one of our marketing guys who I always trust with these things, and we just weren’t feeling the list. It was just the same stuff we’ve always done, so we trashed it the other day.
JD: With more and more albums under your belt, does it get harder to be creative?
LH: No, I mean, especially when we are doing our headlining tours. We’ll switch up the set every night. We have four albums and a couple of EPs under our belts, so you aren’t able to play absolutely everything with the time slot you are given. Even when we did the Evening With tours with no openers, it was impossible to get everything in. So we switch up the set every night and then with something like [Carnival of Madness] we started putting in some little parts that we enjoy from other songs but then add them into what we’re going to end up doing. Which basically, we’re doing all of the hits from this run.
JD: When was the last time you overcame a fear?
LH: Oooh! Geez. It was something I didn’t think I could do. I went zip lining with my mother because my mom wanted to do something fun, and we were spending a little time together with some of our time off. The zip lining didn’t bother me, but they had a 70-foot drop that you, like, attach yourself on and it slows you down as you go down. It’s kind of like bungee jumping, but not. I didn’t think my body was going to let me do that because in my mind I’m like, “Thats stupid. Why am I doing this?” But I totally did it, and I was freaking out.
JD: What was the best advice you ever received from Lita?
LH: Lita holds nothing back, and we didn’t really talk about advice because we talked more about the similarities in our paths. We both have very supportive parents. She’s been touring since she was thirteen, and I do remember asking her, “Is there anything you would have gone back and changed?” and she told me, “Absolutely not,” because even all the things she did that were stupid or embarrassing brought her on this path. She literally lives with absolutely no regrets, and I love it. She’s just so funny because she would volunteer information sometimes. Things that I can’t, now, unknow. I love it because I told her, “This is a life goal for me. I want to be as cool as you when I’m your age.” And she gets in those leather pants every night, and she looks great.
JD: You currently live in Nashville. Are there any local Nashville bands you like to go see when you are in town?
LH: Yeah, there are a group of guys that are actually responsible for the whole Nashville rock ’n’ roll scene called Thee Rock and Roll Residency. They are awesome. I sit with them all the time, and they know every song from the 70s through the 80s, so we always have big heart to hearts about that. There’s also an all girl band from Nashville called The Dead Deads.
JD: If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life, what would it be?
LH: One of my favorite quotes is actually from Helen Keller: “The greatest risk is never taking one.” I definitely think that every aspect of my life has been absolutely worth it. This band, my personal relationships and everything I have done with my life have taken that dive head first into the shark tank to figure it out. So yeah, I definitely live my life that way, and I trust that more than planning. Because planning has never really gotten me very far. <laughs>
JD: I know you have had some issues with your voice in the past, and you have referenced this transition in your voice as ‘Lzzy 2.0.” Can you tell me a little bit about what that means and how you overcame the challenge?
LH: It’s something I had never faced before. I was doing the same thing I always do, and I started losing my voice a lot and not being able to last through a tour. Or I would just have to muscle through and be hoarse every day I was off and just have to be quiet, and I was like, “This is impossible.” So I found out I was going through a vocal change and this transition started before we did the last record. I would get some squeaks and pops…
JD: So like you’re going through puberty?
LH: Exactly! Like, I am not a 12-year-old boy, what is going on? Basically what I ended up doing was going back to lessons that refreshed on all the basics. And then what was recommended to me was to actually warm up less. Don’t freak out so much about it. Don’t start two hours out. Check your voice during the day, and if it’s there, great! Go out and kill it. Trust that. Don’t use so much air and all that stuff. The thing is, the more tours we were doing, the more I felt everything starting to settle and balance again. And the craziest thing that came out of it was that my lows in my range got richer, but then I have this really crazy high. My old vocal coach is now calling it a “baby resonance.” It’s something I have never used before, and it’s super high. Like, I can do all of these Sebastian Bach things. One other thing is, I was in denial for a long time. I was like “No, I want to sound like I did when I was 17,” and the biggest advice that was given to me by both my coach and a couple other local Nashville rock ’n’ roll people was basically, you’re 32. Own it. Don’t deny it. Accept it. So it’s been really therapeutic just being like, “Ok, I’ve got this. I got my little badge. I went through it.”
JD: What artist or band changed your life the moment you heard them?
LH: Wow! Digging back to when we first started this band, I was listening to a lot of my dad’s music. If I had to narrow it down, the two guys that were monumental in my sound — when that spark went off, and I was like, “Oh my god, I need to do that!” — was Ronnie James Dio and Tom Kiefer from Cinderella. The first female that really blew me away was Ann Wilson from Heart.
JD: What’s one skill you haven’t mastered that you would like to?
LH: Oh! Driving a car. A lot of people do not know that I don’t have my driver’s license. Just because things keep happening, and I keep not wanting to do it. We are on tour so much, and then we come back for four or five days. I don’t want to spend time at driving school. That’s happened for many years, so I’m going to see when we end this record cycle, if I can master that. Because no one wants to take me out. They’re scared shitless of me.
JD: What’s a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
LH: I’m a damn good cook... I make a lemon rosemary chicken that’s pretty amazing, and I make a really good meatloaf. I just did my first fish fry. I live next to a lake and went fishing and caught a catfish and two bluegills. I cleaned them and had a cast iron skillet, got the mixture together and fried those suckers up. Plate to table!