ENVOYEZ VOS INFOS :

CONTACT [at] RADIOMETAL [dot] FR

Interviews   

Halestorm: for the stage


With Halestorm, everything’s about the live performance. Because the band is always on the road, but also because that’s what they think about when they write their music. The artistic purpose of a Halestorm song is to perform it on stage and their albums are written with that in mind. In one of his sketches, the French comedian known as Comte de Bouderbala laughed about American’s nearly-constant enthusiasm, as opposed to the cold attitude of the French. There is some of that enthusiasm in Lzzy Hale, Halestorm’s frontwoman. And one must admit that it’s effective, because that candid joy that could be annoying is actually communicable.

Because Halestorm, in the beginning, was a story about kids aged 10 to 13 years old who decided to form a band and who were, for years, encouraged by their parents: “No one is calling anybody and saying ‘You should cut your hair and get a real job!’” says Lzzy Hale. This invaluable luck has continued to shine upon Halestorm time after time, from Atlantic Records falling in love with their music, the love they get from their fan-base or countless opportunities such as the use of one of their songs in the TV series Glee. The band has indeed forced this luck through years of hard work which has paid back: life is smiling at Halestorm and Halestorm gives back with all its enthusiasm and its catchy, sweet and spirit-lifting music. Their path has also had its share of mistakes, which Lzzy easily admits, such as the overthinking of their first album, for example, having spent too much time thinking about how to write catchy songs that would please their audience.

In this interview with Lzzy, we have covered all sides of an already rich – though young – career. An over-40-minutes interview, rich with anecdotes not to be missed, and – as a result – essential for anyone interested in the band.

« We were on Atlantic Records for a good three-and-a-half years before we were ever making them any money. So they really have a true belief in music »

Radio Metal : You have a strong relationship with Atlantic Records. Could you tell us more about it, what is so special about this company?

Lzzy Hale (vocals, guitars, keyboards): We’ve had a relationship with this company since 2005, actually. We were playing shows in New York City, in the US, and they started coming to see us. They didn’t really talk about a deal for about 7 months, when we got to know all of their families and how amazing the people are there, when finally, they popped the question. When they asked us if we wanted to do a deal with them, it was kind of a no-brainer, we said “yes” right away. The great thing about this company is that instead of just throwing us into a studio and throwing us out there on the road, we ended up going out on the road first, to kind of build up a fanbase, and we had a 5 song EP that wasn’t even put on the radio. You know, honestly, we were on Atlantic Records for a good three-and-a-half years before we were ever making them any money. So they really have a true belief in music and developing the bands and not just throwing the bands out there to see what happens, and we really like that. They were really excited about what we wanted to do and they really wanted to give us the opportunity to find ourselves and to prove to the world what we could do.

Atlantic Records is quite a big powerful machine. People always say those kind of record labels are very greedy and not passionate about the music at all, and that doesn’t seem to be the case when you describe them..

Oh absolutely, we’ve heard crazy stories from so many other bands and their labels, and they tell us they hate everybody there, but we really have this unique relationship with our label. We get a lot of creative freedom, sometimes too much [laughs], and it’s a partnership. They’ve invested in us because we can do something and we invest in them because they know how to sell records. So it’s very unique and I’m thankful for it.

« It feels like we base a lot of the songs that we write around the live show, and it’s always taking into consideration how something is going to perform live »

You started your career by doing a lot of touring and you even released your first live EP before you released your first studio album. So do you think the ultimate goal of Halestorm isn’t to release records but is to play live?

Oh definitely. That’s always been our first love. We love performing and we love touring. I tell people this all the time: touring is easy; it’s real life that’s hard. It’s wonderful, I love to travel and I love being out every night, not knowing what’s going to happen and something special always does. It’s wonderful, it really is. It feels like we base a lot of the songs that we write around the live show, and it’s always taking into consideration how something is going to perform live, and how it’s going to connect with a live audience. That’s such a huge part of who we are and how we do things, you know? Even on the new record, we have a song called “Freak Like Me” and a song called “Rock Show”, which were both influenced by our fans. “Freak Like Me” was influenced by our fans overseas, in Europe and “Rock Show” was influenced by a little girl that I met. Her very first show was coming to see us. It changed the course of her life; she’s in a little band now. She wrote me this beautiful letter and I ended up taking it to one of our writing sessions and said “here, we have to write a song for her”. It’s definitely a huge part of what we do.

Did you choose to do that because selling records isn’t the best way, nowadays, to live from your music, so you have to tour a lot?

You know, it’s interesting because first the label, they do a great job selling and promoting to radio and even distributing through the stores and everything, but it’s still so incredibly important to tour and to have a relationship with your fans, you know? That’s one of the biggest strengths that we have is quite an intimate relationship with our fans, and we see a lot of them over and over again, and you get to know their names and their families and hear their stories. It’s very inspiring, actually. I know that, lyrically, I get inspired a lot by my fans and by the things that they tell me. I don’t know, I just think it’s extremely important for any band to tour. Last year alone, we did nearly 300 shows [laughs], and it’s only about to get crazier because we just released the second record. I don’t think that we could survive without touring.

(about Lady Gaga) « It’s a natural thing for her to be weird and I don’t think you can fake that »

Last year you released an EP with only cover songs. On that EP there is a cover of “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga seems to be very passionate about hard rock and metal, and it also seems like metal bands are very interested in her music. How do you explain that?

That one was an interesting one. Actually, we didn’t decide to do the Lady Gaga cover, that was our fans [laughs]. We picked five songs to do on the EP – a lot of them were more classic rock, “Slave to the Grind” [by Skid Row], Guns N’ Roses, Heart, the Beatles and all that. And we needed one more song, so we decided to put a poll on our website and ask the fans what they wanted to hear. And the number one most requested song was Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, and this is coming from our fans which are a lot of hard rock and metal fans. So we were completely blown away by the fact that they wanted us to play this song, but we did and it turned out great, in fact it’s a really great song. It was fun to try to make it our own and rock it up a little bit. I’ve actually heard that Lady Gaga is a fan of heavy metal and hard rock. Either way, I think it was a good idea, but it was definitely funny to me to hear. We played it out live a couple of times and you can pick out the manliest man and he’s singing along to this Lady Gaga song, it was awesome to see.

How can you explain that the metal audience and metal musicians are so interested in Lady Gaga’s music? What’s so special with it?

You know, it’s definitely unique, I have a lot of respect for her because at first – and I will be honest – at first when she came out onto the scene, I thought “Oh no, here comes another one that’s trying to get attention and is very made, with a manger telling her what to do”. And then I started to get to know her and her craft, and I thought “well, she really is that weird” [laughs]. It’s a natural thing for her to be weird and I don’t think you can fake that so I have a lot of respect for what she does and her performance art is amazing.

« The Beatles cover was actually the first song that the guys in my band and I ever jammed on. We picked that song in my parent’s basement [laughs] […] We figured it’s a long song anyway, so by the time we get to the end of it we got a pretty good idea of whether we’re able to work together or not. »

By the way, how did you choose the songs to cover on the EP? What do they represent for the band? Were those songs your primary influences, or the first bands you listened to, maybe?

There were a couple of different things, a couple of reasons why we chose these. Some of them were our influences, like the cover of “Slave to the Grind” by Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses. I grew up on my parent’s music, so it was a lot of eighties hard rock and metal, so it was a lot of Van Halen, a lot of Alice Cooper, a lot of Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses, so I wanted to definitely try those on the EP, it was a great opportunity of mine to kind of wear my influences on my sleeve. The Beatles cover was actually the first song that the guys in my band and I ever jammed on. We picked that song in my parent’s basement [laughs], learned it and jammed on it together. We figured it’s a long song anyway, so by the time we get to the end of it we got a pretty good idea of whether we’re able to work together or not. It was a special thing to us, so we wanted to put that on the EP. And then, the Heart song was my karaoke song for a while [laughs], the boys in my band and I were going to these bars that had karaoke and they would sign me up to do this song and sometimes we would get free drinks, whether or not I did it correctly [laughs]. So that was the funniest one. I told the guys “If we do it on the EP, then we have to pick another karaoke song”, they said “that’s a deal”.

« That was nuts, the people of Glee contacted us, they said ‘Hey, we love your song’ […] I was so taken aback by this because I thought ‘there are three words in this song that I’m sure that they cannot say on Glee’ [laughs], so I had to go and record a clean version without any curse words »

Your song “Here’s to Us” was on the TV show Glee a few weeks before this new album came out. Did it help the band to have more attention? Can you estimate precisely the result of that?

That was nuts, the people of Glee contacted us, they said “Hey, we love your song” they had heard it on kind of an EP that we had been passing around amongst our industry friends; our label and our management. They had heard it and they wanted to use the song “Here’s to Us”, which was the last song on our CD. I was so taken aback by this because I thought “there are three words in this song that I’m sure that they cannot say on Glee” [laughs], so I had to go and record a clean version without any curse words or anything on it. Of course we’re very honored to have been picked for it. It definitely gave the band more exposure. We did catch a lot of flack from our peers and some hard rock die hards who were like “Why?! Why did you do Glee? You’re selling out” or whatever. My take on it is that we exposed ourselves to so many kids that wouldn’t normally seek us out, they wouldn’t normally go and try to find a band like us. So it really gave us a lot of exposure and a lot of little kids started to come to our shows, following us and getting CDs. So it was very cool. I will tell you that it was very strange to see it on television, though. To see their version. But I watched the episode and really that was the first full episode of Glee that I ever watched, so I had no idea what was going on [laughs]. I was being taught by two little girls, one of my record-label-people’s daughters. They were there to watch the episode with us and they were giving me the blow by blow on all of the gossip that goes on with Glee [laughs], the storyline, so I was being taught by two little girls. But it was wonderful and I’m so glad that they did that with our song, and really, like I said, they exposed us to so many kids that wouldn’t normally know who Halestorm was. So I think our fanbase definitely increased from that.

In the last few years, hard rock and metal has opened itself to a much younger audience. We see many more eight-year-old kids wearing Slipknot T-shirts etc.

Yeah, it’s really nuts. I’ve seen that a lot lately, I’ve seen kids at the shows wearing Megadeth T-shirts. It’s really wonderful. I see a lot of young kids picking up instruments too, which is really encouraging, I feel like the next generation is going to be like the future music of rock n’ roll. I think that they have a real grasp on what’s real and what’s not. It’s exciting to see.

« If they had given us all the time in the world to make this record, we probably would still be working on it […]. On our first record, we were thinking so much about ‘is this going to be on radio?’ or ‘is the label going to like it?’. On this record, we were just focusing on what made us feel good »

This new record is shaping up as Halestorm’s biggest release thus far. The album has made a stunning #1 bebut on billboard hard rock albums chart while also making a top 15 entry on the billboard 200. How can you explain that success?

That’s the thing, I can’t explain it. I had no idea what this record was going to do. It is our first time doing a second record [laughs] so we really had no idea and all of a sudden it started to kind of grow its own way, and it just snowballed from there and we just kept watching it climb up the charts. We were like “Are you serious? Is this happening to us?” So we’re very happy with it. It’s good to know because we’re very proud of this record, we put a lot of ourselves in this record. There’s a lot of human elements to this that is what we are. I think it’s encouraging to see so many people that love it, and have it getting some critical success is wonderful. It’s such a huge compliment. At the same time it’s only the beginning, we’ve been out on tour for about a month on this record, now. It’s already doing so well – actually, we can just kind of keep it there [laughs]. I don’t know, it’s really humbling and incredible to see everything happening with this record. I’m so proud of it.

I definitely think it was a good thing. What I realized is that when we have a deadline and we don’t have time to think, we get things done, whereas if they had given us all the time in the world to make this record, we probably would still be working on it, because we’d probably say “Oh well, we’ll work on that song tomorrow, let’s go eat lunch!” With this record, we really had no choice but to just take our mind out of it, all the thought out of it and just focus on whatever got us excited and whatever the song was trying to be. I think that on our first record, we were thinking so much about “was this going to be on radio?” or “was the label going to like it?” or “are the fans going to like it?” and everything kind of became a little stale after a while. On this record, we were just focusing on what made us feel good and whatever got us excited and got us all riled up. So we recorded so much, we recorded everything – any thought that we had and thought was good, we recorded it to see. In turn, we came out with a very eclectic picture of songs that range from the most intimate that you’ve ever heard from us to the heaviest that you ever heard from us. It’s really a special thing to do and I’m glad that we pulled it off. And because it’s such a rushed job, I’m so glad that it’s getting the attention that it is because I feel like this record, beyond the last record, is much more who we are.

By the way, the way the album is organized is pretty unique. The album begins with four very powerful, heavy songs, right after that there are three ballads. Why did you choose to put those three ballads together in the middle of the album instead of spreading them out?

You know what’s so funny? I never really thought about it, but I feel like, subconsciously we were writing out the songlist as if it were a setlist, how we would play it live. This is what I’ve realized, because I didn’t really know why we did that, why this is so comfortable for us and I think it’s because – like what we were talking about in the beginning of the interview – we are primarily a live band, you know? We love live shows, so I think writing out setlists is a part of us, so when we were writing out the list for the album, I feel like we went into “setlist mode” [laughs] subconsciously and wrote it out as if we were to play the entire album live. And the funny thing is that when you see us, that’s actually what we’re doing, we start with “Love Bites” and we end with “Here’s To Us”, it’s really funny. That’s why I think that it’s amazing that you asked this, because you actually noticed that there is something a little funny about the [laughs] album list. So yes, I think we did that subconsciously because we’re a live band and that’s what we do, I guess.

But weren’t you afraid that this choice could somehow break the rhythm of the album?

You know what? Now that I think of it, yeah, but the thing is: it could’ve gone the other way and be a complete roller coaster ride where you might be a little confused. Because the intimate songs are so separate from the more metal side of this record, I don’t know, I think it would’ve been odd doing it the other way. I still feel like if we had gone one song in your face and then we go to the ballad, it might get a little confusing, maybe someone would end up with a headache at the end of it [laughs].

« I love being a leader and I love being funky and being on stage and baring my teeth to everyone and letting out some aggression, but then there’s this definite other side of me – that maybe even scares me a little more than the aggressive one – that is much more vulnerable and much more intimate. »

The lyrics of the album are pretty nasty. You’ve got song titles like “You Call Me a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing”, “Freak Like Me”, “Love Bites, So Do I”, that tends to indicate that you’re a pretty bad girl [laughs]. What it some way to say that you’re not one of those female vocalists that play in bands with an orchestra and talk about the sky and dolphins, etc?

Oh yes, well definitely, I learned a lot about myself while writing this record [laughs], to put it nicely, I guess. There were certain times where I feel like I scared the member of my band [laughs]. They would look at me and be like “Are you serious? You want to write about this?” [laughs] But it’s interesting, because there are two definite sides to me. There’s this side where I love being a leader and I love being funky and being on stage and baring my teeth to everyone and letting out some aggression, but then there’s this definite other side of me – that maybe even scares me a little more than the aggressive one – that is much more vulnerable and much more intimate. It’s interesting because on this record I figured out a way to let both of those coexist. Not even necessarily just in songs, but in my own head and in my own soul and body, I’m able to be both. It’s like a switch to flip, somewhere [laughs], you know? I think that there’s the Lizzy Hale that you see that is on stage, and then there’s the Lizzy Hale that some people have met off stage, that still calls her grandmother for mother’s day [laughs] you know? So it was definitely confusing at first when we were writing this record, because there was so much coming out of me, so you just write about everything that you feel and everything that you’ve ever felt. For some reason it all worked out on the same record but I definitely scared myself a little bit on this record.

But do you feel close to metal bands that also have a female vocalist but that play completely different music, bands like Epica or Nightwish that have a very clean and nice image compared to you?

You know, what’s wonderful about all these girls is that we all kind of stick together. There’s no real competition because we’re all very different, you know, and we all represent a different area of the rock n’ roll spectrum. So we like Nightwish and I met Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil, she’s a sweetheart, I’ve met Amy Lee from Evanescence, she’s also a sweetheart, and Maria Brink from In This Moment; it’s really wonderful to be part of this kind of exclusive club, where there’s a few of us. There’s a handful of female-fronted bands that are working right now, that are touring and I’m quite honored to be a part of that now. It’s taken me a while to come up in this scene, but it’s lovely to be here now and to see everybody.

Mike Orlando, the guitarist from Adrenaline Mob, said about you “she’s like a female Russell Allen”, which is something I kind of agree with because, just like him, you have a very powerful rock n’ roll voice and at the same time you can sing very high just like Russell Allen does. Do you agree with that comparison?

It’s crazy, that was so much fun to do. You know, Mike Portnoy and I became friends when he was touring with Avenged Sevenfold, because we went out on tour with them. We exchanged numbers and we had just a great time on tour, he’s such a sweetheart. And when we were making our record in California, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to do a Duran Duran cover of “Come Undone” with his band. Of course I said yes, but it was such an amazing experience to sing with those guys and to be a part of that camaraderie for a little while. They’re legends and they really know what they’re doing. It was humbling too, because they could’ve asked anybody if they wanted to, but the fact that they asked me, I’m very flattered by it. It was definitely a challenge, it was a challenge to stand in front of Russell Allen, who has an amazing voice, and also Mike Portnoy’s drumming style is incredibly amazing and he’s a legend. So I was a little nervous, I was thinking “I hope I can do this great for them”. So I’m glad that hey enjoyed what I do.

And what do you think about his statement, comparing you to Russell Allen, vocally speaking?

I think it’s amazing. First of all, the high notes that that man can hit are amazing [laughs], and the challenge for me was trying to match his vibrato, because he has a very controlled vibrato in his voice, and just the power that he has in his voice. So that was definitely a challenge for me. And the fact that he compares myself to him is great, I take that as a compliment. It’s funny, I get compared to more male singers than I do females, and I’m not quite sure why [laughs].

I think you should ask yourself some questions about that [laughs]

Yeah, I’m gonna have to clear that up! [laughs] But right now, I’m definitely taking all of that as a compliment. I think out of all the singers that he’s been associated with over the years, the fact that I’m compared to one of his greatest ones, Russell, is amazing. I thank him for that.

« My mother, for fifteen years, was tour-managing us. […] My Dad used to drive with us and for us when things got busy. […] When my brother and I started this band, we named it Halestorm and we started the band when I was thirteen and he was ten years old. So the fact is that my parents were very encouraging […] No one is calling anybody and saying ‘You should cut your hair and get a real job!' »

You sang on Shinedown, Adrenaline Mob and Black Stone Cherry songs. It seems like you do enjoy duets. Have you considered inviting some special guests on Halestorm’s albums, or maybe higher a male singer?

Definitely, I would love to do that. On the deluxe version of this record, I ended up having James Michael from Sixx:A.M. sing with me on a song that we wrote together, called “Private Parts”. So that was the first time that I’ve ever had someone else singing on our records with me. But a dream of mine, actually, is to see if I can get another female to sing with me, because I’m not quite sure if that has been in a long time, if ever. So the next time that I see one of my female counterparts, I’m going to ask them to sing with me because that would be fun. I’m not quite sure what we would sing about without it sounding really dirty [laughs] but we’ll figure that out if that comes to fruition. But I love singing with other people, I love doing duets and I love singing on other people’s albums as well. I mean, singing with Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry and Adrenaline Mob, they’re all family at this point and I love them all. So anywhere that I’m able to do something for them or help them in any way, I’m always there.

When saying that you dream of having another female singer on an album, who do you think of?

Well, automatically, I just met Amy Lee, I think that would be awesome because I think she has a very haunting quality to her voice that I feel would complement some of my more guttural stuff, whatever I do [laughs]. I think that would complement that well. Also, Cristina Scabbia. Maria Brink would be fun because she can scream harder that I can, so that would be funny. At this point I’m not quite sure, I think it depends on who’s available and it depends on the song as well. But if it’s more of a ballad-type song, I think that I would choose Amy Lee, because she has that type of voice. Whereas if it’s more of an aggressive song, probably… Even Nightwish, that might be good too. I don’t know. You know, it’s funny, now that you’re making me think about it, I’m gonna have to come up with a list [laughs].

This will be my last question. I heard that the parents of all the members of Halestorm were involved in the managing of the band. Is it still the case?

It’s actually my dad and my mother. My mother, for fifteen years, was tour-managing us. As in coming along and doing whatever she could with the band. She recently retired from the road. So is my dad, actually. My dad is retired from driving, he used to drive with us and for us when things got busy. They both retired from the road as of this year. It’s a little emotional and it’s a little sad but it’s also good because they’ve enabled us to kind of fly on our own and do our thing, really, they enabled us to do what we love. When my brother and I started this band, we named it Halestorm and we started the band when I was thirteen and he was ten years old. So the fact is that my parents were very encouraging, even then, so they said “You know what? You have to go for it! Because if you don’t try now, you’re going to regret it later” so I’m very thankful that they let us do that and let us start a band and were always very supportive. The great thing with the other members of my band, Josh [Smith] the bass player and Joe [Hottinger] the guitar player, their parents are amazing as well. They’ve very supportive and always coming out to the shows. No one is calling anybody and saying “You should cut your hair and get a real job!” no one is saying that so, so far, that’s good.

Interview conducted in may, 2012, by phone
Transcription : Stan

Halestorm’s website : www.halestormrocks.com
Album : The Strange Case Of…, out



Laisser un commentaire

  • Arrow
    Arrow
    Rival Sons + MNNQNS @ Cenon
    Slider
  • 1/3