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There's a Hale storm a commin, to your town!

Interview conducted in June 2009

by Jackie Lee King, photo by Dan Locke

Halestorm, Lizzy HaleHalestorm formed in York, Pennsylvania in 1998 while in middle school, Lzzy Hale (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and her brother Arejay Hale (drums, percussion), which now includes Joe Hottinger (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Josh Smith (bass, backing vocals). Lzzy grew up no more than a stones throw away from another famous Pennsylvanian, Taylor Swift, as her family probably bought a few trees from Swift family's Christmas Tree Farm over the years. That's where the similarities end. Halestom is a hard rock band that was singed to Atlantic Records a few years ago and has just released (April 2009) their first self-titled major label record.

I had lined up an interview with Lzzy at Rock on the Range (ROTR) in Columbus, Ohio but because of the madness of festival shows, I only had time to get a picture and a kiss on the cheek. The phrase, "call me" was uttered and I didn't think much of it; sometimes you just miss a great interview, luck of the draw man. It was about a week later that I got the confirmation that I would be doing a phone interview with her while in the midst of some tour dates. Among other things like cooking, i.e. crock pot donuts and where to find polenta on the road, this is what we talked about.

Jackie Lee King: What's been a memorable experience for on the road, just some weird story?

Lzzy Hale: Besides Rock on the Range? That was pretty crazy. One of the craziest things that has happened to us on the road or to me personally? There was this one time when we were playing in Pennsylvania and I still don't know who it was, but somebody cut off their boxer shorts in the audience and threw them up onstage to me. In fact I think they landed on my mic stand actually and so it was kind of like a perfect shot. I mean, somebody literally-- I'm just trying to picture this person in my mind-- a guy obviously with boxer shorts had taken a knife or a key ; it wasn't something that was so sharp because it was kind of ripped most times. Maybe he just ripped them off I don't know, but it's pretty much while they're still clothed ripped off their boxer shorts and threw them onstage to me. That was so funny to me. That's very flattering only because in traditionally male-fronted rock n roll you get bras and panties or whatever and so this was actually very new to me and I'm like wow. Somebody cared enough about me as a front woman to pretty much take off their boxer shorts in a haphazard either cutting off with a key or knife or whatever they had.

JLK: They were inspired by your passionate performance.

LH: Something like that and wanted to free themselves of underwear. Which is amazing. It's definitely flattering. It threw me off a little bit. I'm like wow.

JLK: So, being a music fan yourself, who would you like to see live in concert?

LH: Actually I'm a huge fan of Alice Cooper and I feel like he walks the line very well and he's very clever. I actually-- it's funny-- I actually gave him drugs in California. Alright, let me explain.

JLK: That's a great quote right there! I gave Alice Cooper drugs in California.

LH: Yeah, it was in a record store. I accidentally met him. I bumped into him at Amoeba Music in California.

JLK: Oh, I love that place!

LH: I would live there if I could. He was with his daughter Calico and I had met her a long time ago in Philadelphia she was dating a guy from a band that we both knew and we would play with a lot in Philadelphia.

JLK: Well, you know she plays the victim in his tour now.

LH: Yeah, I know. She's amazing.

JLK: It's like that's your daughter! Oh my God!

LH: Yeah. Talk about a family affair, right?

JLK: Yeah it's just sort of like yeah just the abuse that he puts her through and I'm like are you okay?

LH: Are you okay, honey? Exactly. Well, the funny thing was is that like he literally before hello everything because like first of all I'm a little star struck because it's Alice Cooper! Oh my God, I just bumped into Alice Cooper! He's standing right over there! And he's pointing to my keychain I have-- it looks like a pill holder. I carry my earplugs in it, and he's like do you have Pepcid AC in that? And I'm like, I actually carry my earplugs in it, but I just so happen to have a bottle of Pepcid AC in my jacket because my dad works at the company. My dad's a mechanic at Johnson and Johnson's Pepcid AC factory. So I'm like, you know what, here you can have that because he's like, I need some antacid. And he's like, 'so this is the good stuff?' It's like straight from the factory I said, and I got lost in it for a second and we were just laughing hilariously at each other and then I'm like hey man, I'm standing next to Alice Cooper right now! This is pretty sweet! I mean, I'm such a dork. I have his entire collection and the box set and all that stuff and I just think he's brilliant. And actually I had never seen them like live and in person. I've seen like live DVDs and everything but I've never caught them as they come through just because every time that they're playing somewhere we have a show and it's like I can't see them. And so hopefully that's one thing that I get to do before he retires from the stage.

JLK: So something that I've seen in your performances is the drum circle, how did that come about? And does it relate to some sort of high school band thing?

LH: I think that the only way that it relates to a high school band is that three of us were actually doing it in high school but not myself I was...

JLK: Did you go to band camp?

LH: You know what in another way maybe but not... No, I'm kidding! (laughs) Oh, man! I'm in trouble now!

JLK: (laughs) Were you a band geek?

LH: I actually wasn't -- I was in choir...

JLK: Which would make sense....

LH: ...when I was in middle school, but the problem that I had was when I started the band I was around 13 in middle school and my music teacher absolutely did not understand why I wanted to do. This lifestyle and all this, and again I was a kid and believe me I didn't write songs like "I Get Off" when I was 14 and 13, so that did not happen until much later. But of budget cuts on the music program, I kind of had to reach outside of the school system for that. But as far as the drum circle goes-- we decided to do that-- I mean we had done it for fun like at hometown shows and we decided to incorporate it into our set because right after we signed to Atlantic in '05 we went directly out tour with no radio play-- no real promotion whatsoever-- just to do it. And what would happen like just out of a trunk of a car type thing. And we incorporated that into it so that the audience would have something to remember us by and something that you didn't need to know the lyrics to. You can get into this because you bring it back to the basics. It's primal. It's drums. It's a beat, you know? And so it's a part of the show; there's kind of like a couple different levels of oh wow, I've never seen that before. On most of the tours I was the only girl on the bill so there's one thing that makes us stick out and then this is another thing that we could throw in that none of the other bands on that tour were doing. You knew about this and you could get into that. So, that's kind of why we started doing it. But then the problem was that we created a monster and then especially on these last couple of tours promoting this record, we decided we don't need to do that for this show. There was like hate mail! 'I brought my sister to come and see that and you didn't play it' and so now we kind of have to incorporate it into every set.

JLK: It's like if you make a good potato salad you'll be expected to bring it to the picnic every year.

LH: Every year. Exactly. Well, it's our equivalent to a potato salad is the drum circle. (laughs)

JLK: That would be just a really great quote: "our drum circle is like a good potato salad."

LH: Exactly. It's like a good homemade potato salad that you bring to the 4th of July picnic every year even though you might make a good fruit salad every now and then you still got to bring that potato salad. (laughs)

JLK: So would you consider yourself a domestic? Are you the cook of the band or--?

LH: Actually unfortunately not. I am the Vanna White of the kitchen. Meaning I chop vegetables and make popcorn every now and then or keep things from not burning while they're in the skillet, but the cook actually of the bus is normally Josh actually.

JLK: How have the pranks been or has everybody just kind of like been wary of each other?

LH: You know what I think what happens when you know each other so well is that you know exactly how to either scare them pretty good... and it's funny because like especially for me like my whole thing is that occasionally I'll just be writing or something or I'll be zoned out just in kind of my own world not paying attention to what's going on and gives everybody else the cue to hey, I can jump up behind her pretty much, not too much, but definitely scare the living hell out of me. It happens to me almost on a daily basis.

JLK: That's not fair!

LH: It's hilarious. And my brother is notorious for-- this is pretty much the consequence if you get wasted and pass out-- he draws obscene things all over your face and things and you won't know. Like you've got to make sure, that if you get wasted, you look in the mirror before you walk out of the bus. Before you walk outside just see what the hell is on your forehead in permanent Sharpie. So far he's been very good to me because he knows I would just make his life a living hell if he does that to me, but our sound guy was not as lucky. That was one of the last times that happened. It was just bad and he made the mistake of not looking in the mirror so he wakes up, he's hung-over and he goes right outside into the venue and he's getting all these weird looks and he's at the soundboard getting all-- I mean, it was the funniest thing that I've seen in my entire life. It was just-- and then he was really mad after that when he realized he had stuff written all over his face. And I think he'd draw like a Hitler mustache, too. Eventually the fun had to end and someone had to tell him that he should go and wash his face. Ah, the poor guy. Sometimes he deserves it, though so we pick on him a lot.

JLK: Well, good. As long as he makes you sound good he should be rewarded, too.

LH: He's the best. Well and that means we stop at Wendy's occasionally. We as a rule like as a band we do not like fast food. We'd rather cook it or like go to Walmart and make a chicken salad or something but he is the junk food king and so going to Wendy's or McDonald's is...

JLK: Do you get him a Frosty?

LH: A Frosty and some fries and he's all good.

JLK: What things do you miss about home when you're on the road that you wish you could take with you?

LH: Personally--not to get all mushy-- but actually my dad. My dad comes out every now and then when he has time off and he'll help us drive the bus or tech or something with us. My dad's a bass player so he's a musician as well He loves, loves, loves being a part of all this and seeing it grow and just being there when things happen to experience it with us and at the moment he's at home paying bills and stuff because my parents still have a mortgage and they do all that. And I know he just does not like being there and he'd rather be out with family so it's-- that's actually the thing that I miss most. I mean, our fan base in PA is pretty sweet, too. Every time we go back it's kind of like every milestone we go through they feel like they go through it too. In fact there has been more than one person-- and sometimes it's just a little bit creepy-- but there's more than one person who refers to Halestorm as we--? So when we got on the cover of "Revolver."

JLK: Well, four of us were, but you were there in spirit.

LH: You were there in spirit. But it's cool, though. I'm from Central PA and it's kind of this eclectic mixture of Amish people and rednecks. So they're really into rock n roll. There's really nothing to do in Central PA. So they come to the show and everybody comes out and it's funny because a lot of people who live close to me are like ha, you got out of this hellhole! Yeah, but it's nice to come back the hellhole every once in a while and see everybody and you always get crazy new stories. Maybe somebody you knew a little while when you see them in a couple of years they won't have any teeth and but they're cool with that. They got a new truck. It's like oh no! It's funny. We were just talking about this. It's like rednecks, but now that Walmart has iPhones it's like rednecks with iPhones.

JLK: That's just disturbing.

LH: It's disturbing, but what it's so endearing because I mean we're-- at least where my parents live. I don't have a house on my own-- but where I'm from I mean we're the type of people that we put out the couch on the front porch because-- yeah I mean-- there's a couch-- and oh! There's a local cemetery literally it said open from dust to dawn. Not dusk-- someone literally thought it was dust. And like a year later they changed it. Somebody must have told him. Dusk is the right way to say that. But it's just so-- you get so much from this town?

JLK: Well, I'll reckon I'll just do my Twitter this afternoon.

LH: Pretty much. I was Twittering-- it was so funny. Oh! You know what's great about my town, too? I'm from Central PA but specifically it's called Red Lion. It's the only town-- you can look this up on Wikipedia-- it's the only town that was literally named after the bar. They didn't have a town yet, but there was a bar. Well, what do we name the bar? Well, what do we name the town? And they're like Red Lion Tavern sounds good. Let's just do Red Lion. Literally! It was Red Lion Tavern first and then came Red Lion. So it's pretty sweet actually. So you know that they're really into rock n roll out there. Getting wasted and there's motorcycles everywhere because we're really close to a Harley plant. We actually know a midget motorcyclist. He scares the hell out of everybody. He's a sweet guy, but he'll do this thing where like he'll stand next to the door and he literally looks like an advertisement for Harley Davidson. He's got like everything. He's got the leather do-rag and the-- freakin' full leather clad midget, right? With a nice red beard. And so literally he looks like a Harley Davidson gnome kind of. So, I mean we know this guy pretty well. He's come to a lot of our shows. And one of our fans was sitting at the bar getting a drink and he did this thing which I still-- oh God, it's so funny-- he stayed perfectly still by the door, right? And then as she walked by because I guess she thought it was like...

JLK: Like a garden gnome?

LH: Something like that. It was hilarious. He'd stay still and then he jumped out at her as she was leaving the bar. I like spit my beer everywhere. It was just hilarious; watching this happen. So at least she's a good sport about it but yeah my town's pretty sweet.

JLK: It sounds like you're not going to lack for any inspiration for the next like 20 years.

LH: Oh not at all. I got it all stored.

JLK: In your own development, career wise, your image (stage persona) has changed a bit. The guys in the band have kind of stayed very similar to the initial press photos but they've really changed your image; they're really sexing you up now. Like the most recent one it looks like you're sort of like this leather goddess in a dungeon. It's like 'I will discipline you with my rock n roll!'

LH: Well, what's funny is I've kind of been taking on a new perspective in myself onstage since doing this record. Because I explored a lot on this record and I've been walking the line recently. So to speak and it's fun . If you get to kind of live out your fantasy onstage so to speak. I don't know. I guess I get to be rock star and have recently been given a bunch of new clothes which is kind of cool.

JLK: I've noticed! The teenager you were back in 1998, when the band first started, has now developed into a full fledged rock goddess.

LH: I swear we grow up so much in the industry. I've seen pictures of myself when I was 6 which wasn't that long ago and I don't know I mean a lot of the stuff that we do we kind of just develop on our own and we have-- or at least me personally and I help the guys along as well. So we have this kind of earthy recycling thing with all of our clothes where it's like-- let's say I have a pair of pants that I've had for a long time. You get bored with that. You cut it up and turn it into a skirt. You get bored with that. You maybe give it to one of the guys and maybe they throw it on a jacket. You just keep cutting stuff up until it dissipates and-- or it gets distributed around. Actually there was a green dress that I had one time that I literally I think was worn in some way by all of the guys and myself. And not literally them wearing the dress-- having bitten off of it and placing it on their pants or something like that. So we've been doing a lot of that as well which kind of creates for semi-goofy style or like you know.

JLK: So your little brother is getting hand me downs again?

LH: Pretty much. It's what he still complains about. Oh, come on, man!

JLK: How is it being in a band with your little brother who can rock out just as well as you?

LH: I'll tell you what it's a very friendly competition every night because I mean he and I have always been very close and we founded the band when I was 13 and he was 10 and what ended up happening was... oh, did I lose you?-- okay, there you are. So what happened is that he-- I mean, he's always been in a lot of ways he inspires me a lot because he has always been a ham. He's always been kind of a front man but in the back. He's never had a desire to be a front person but he's actually been dubbed the David Lee Roth of drumming. If he could scissor kick over that drum kit-- I think he's working on that at the moment, he definitely would.

JLK: So he's kind of like the Don Henley to your Glenn Frey or something like that.

LH: Pretty much. He's-- I mean, he's great at what he does and literally he's one of the very few drummers that I know of besides-- I mean, he grew up with Carmine Appice and just all of this-- I mean freaking Vanilla Fudge and Keith Moon and all of that. So he grew up with a lot of that crazy drummer influence and when he was younger he was soaking in what drummers did. So he developed the rest on his own and he's just-- he's fearless. He's not afraid, so in a lot of ways there's this nightly little sibling rivalry sort of thing. It's gotten quite fun.

JLK: That's cool.

LH: He's a really good singer too so we've been doing a lot of harmonies on this record as well currently live because it matches on the record. And so the problem now though is that you give a drummer a mic and it almost always ends in tears. So we just have to rein him in a little bit every now and then but he's a sweetheart, man and like I said we've always been really close. We hardly ever fight. The only time he ever gets really mad at me is I still-- even though I know he's a grown man-- I still have this protective older sister thing going on.

JLK: Like nobody can pick on my little brother, except for me. I have an older sister like that.

LH: Exactly. In fact he was the reason-- the only reason-- for my only fight that I got into in middle school. It was with another girl actually. A girl football player. Her name was Stacy. She lived close to us and she did not like [Arejay] at all. She thought he was annoying which in a lot of ways when he was younger I guess he was but...

JLK: Hey, speaking for all little brothers we're offended by that.

LH: Oh, I'm sorry but not in a bad way. It's just what happens. But it's a similar situation whereas I got into a fight with her because she was calling him names and pretty much said that he was a retard or something stupid like that that I got very offended. And literally the entire fight was based on the fact that the only person that can call him retarded is me.

JLK: That's exactly it!

LH: I pushed her and like she hit the ground and that was like literally it-- I'm very subdued just normally-- but that was the only time that I ever really got into a fight was because of him and over him. So I think he still knows that and appreciates that.

JLK: Considering some of the subject matter that you're singing about-- I mean it's like he's hearing about his sister's sexuality-- has that kind of added any of that kind of 'that's a little bit creepy, sis'?

LH: (laughs), I have alternative meanings that I tell him all the time.

JLK: You lie to him?

LH: That wasn't really about that. You're just-- No, I'm kidding. No, he's open to it and he kind of supports me in a lot of ways with that because a lot of what I'm doing and what I tried to do on this record was obviously like I said walk the line between what is sexually not good and what is sexually empowering. And something I felt I don't know needed to say on this record as far as defend my own gender and my own brand of woman rock. It is a different brand to be a woman in rock n roll as versus a girl who's trying to be a guy onstage. You know what I'm saying? So it was kind of this thing that developed into this monster and my brother had said this to me before how he supports that and he is glad that I felt I guess free enough to do that even though he's in the band. You know he didn't hinder anything by my thinking 'aww man, can I say that?' My brother's going to hear that, so it's-- there were only a few times where all the guys were like, 'you sure you want to say that, Lzzy, that kind of makes me feel uncomfortable, but then they look at each other and they're like well, if this makes us feel a little uncomfortable maybe that's a good thing for radio.

JLK: So do you see yourself ever wearing like a flowery pretty dress onstage?

LH: I haven't really done that since I was 14. I'm definitely not putting it out of the picture. I mean, it can-- things evolve over time. You never know, maybe the pictures that you see of me in 2010 I'll be wearing this like daisy clad summer dress or something onstage. You never know. It's like anything else -- this lifestyle that I'm in is very fast-paced so it's kind of you either get bored and then have to change. I'm in love with the change and the fact that this business can change on a dime is one of the most frustrating and rewarding aspects of the business.

JLK: Yeah, because I've spoken with a couple of female artists and how some of them feel more comfortable as a musician wearing pants onstage. Do you think it's because they believe that they get more respect as a musician if they wear pants rather than a dress?

LH: Yeah, that's a very, very good question actually. I think that early on-- the reason I decided to more or less primarily wear skirts and/or dresses was because in the scene I was in there were two types of women. Which there were the acoustic rockers or the folk rockers and then there were the girls that could scream and wore kind of like baggy pants. Basically were guys in girls clothing. So in order to stand out I decided at least until I decide not to anymore-- to accentuate the fact that yeah, I was a girl and there's an aspect of femininity to what I do. and even though I can get up there and can rock out hard-- It doesn't specifically-- take away from me as a girl either. It's neat actually seeing this thing develop and seeing a powerful woman in rock n roll instead of going up there to look cute or I'm going up there because I can rock harder than any band ever and I'm going to prove it. You know? I just want to be myself.

JLK: It's ironic that you've toured with Flyleaf because she's been dressing very, very girly and yet she still can like scream like banshee. It's just fascinating.

LH: I know. They scared the hell out of all of us when we first played with them. I think I was around for that transition because I remember playing with her and she would kind of be jeans and a t-shirt type thing and then she all of sudden one day came out onstage in this white like summer dress the kind that an 8-year old or something like that would wear.

JLK: Like a little girl lost type of thing.

LH: Exactly. I think I really respect that because it's this contradiction I think that really got me because she comes out in this very quiet voice and then all of a sudden she'd bite your head off. Hilarious! So yeah I mean it's one of those things where you don't want to stop being who you are in order to accommodate an image but you want to kind of extenuate that.

JLK: So do you see yourself as the sex symbol or one of the boys?

LH: There's a fine line between sex symbol as in that's what you are and then dressing sexy because it's rock n roll and I mean, to me, that's rock n roll. Rock n roll is sex in a lot of ways; it was practically born from that. But I guess I don't know I think that it's somewhere in between because to the guys like when I'm standing here with you right now and my bass player is now changing the oil in our rig and when I'm sitting around with them I am one of the boys, but they also treat me like a queen. So it's kind of this interesting line as in there's a nice tradeoff. I don't mind their fart jokes and I will tolerate all of that because I can, but yeah they're very respectful to me. So it's-- I don't know-- it's kind of like being the spearhead of an operation but you're a woman and you're kind of-- it's a womanly. I'm not going to try and out drink them, you know? Or fart louder than they do.

JLK: That's their own demise, not yours.

LH: Exactly that's something they could pull off and maybe I wouldn't pull it off so gracefully as they do.

JLK: You never know you're a rock star. You can do whatever you want. It's rock n roll rules. I win you lose.

LH: Well, see that's the point. Now the difference between that is that I don't have to do that to say well, I win you lose.(laughs)

After Rock on the Range, Halestorm goes on tour with Staind and Shinedown and are continuing on with their own tour dates as well with performing dates with Chevelle and After Midnight Project. One of them is xFest in Dayton Ohio on September 13. Check them out and see them perform the drum circle live, and maybe someone will shred his boxer shorts for Lzzy's amusement.