Lzzy Hale on Halestorm, Hetfield and channelling Lemmy
“I became a guitar player because I wanted to become a bad ass,” says Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale. “There was no other reason.”
If being a bad ass guitarist, songwriter and frontwoman was the goal, then it’s pretty much mission accomplished. Lzzy, who founded Halestorm with little brother Arejay back when she was 13 and he was just ten, is about to head into the studio to record album three on the back of some serious success.
To date, Lzzy has fronted the band through thousands of shows, penned the Grammy-winning Love Bites…(So Do I) and has her own signature guitar built by Gibson. Not bad, right?
We sat down with Lzzy to get her take on the journey from piano-playing teen to rock goddess...
"We lost the guitar player from our band. He had been in the band for like six months and his parents said, ‘No, no more band!’
"I was so distraught as a 16 year old that I thought we’d never find anyone else so I might as well start learning to play. I had to make that choice of whether I was going to carry on doing the epic piano or did I want to go the guitar route, and I went guitar.
"I denied [playing piano] for the longest time in my late teenage years wanting to be a bad ass thinking piano was sissy. I finally got back around to it and it’s been really nice to get back on the piano on our last record."
"I loved a lot of ‘80s guitarists, like Tom Keifer from Cinderella, Brian May and James Hetfield, hence my obsession with the Explorer.
"Later on my mom introduced me to the girl guitar players like Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Nancy Wilson and I thought, ‘Sweet, they’re doing it too!’ Brian May had a unique way of playing, I was always attracted to players that used melody first instead of shredding. Same thing with Tom Keifer, there’s a lot of melody to their solos and they’re songwriters first.
"That has always been my approach. Hetfield is just a bad ass. I always felt that if I was a dude I would want to be James Hetfield because he is all that is man and he’s also one of the most amazing rhythm guitar players. Everybody talks about lead, but the rhythm is the meat and potatoes and without that base nobody can do anything on top. And he’s got a forearm of steel, I’m still trying to get that down."
"Gibson recently made me a custom Lzzy Hale Explorer. I wanted to take the Hetfield influence and take the classy white and gold colour scheme of mine.
"I tried to get all of my influences on one guitar, it was tough. On tour I also have a Les Paul Supreme and a Les Paul Baritone that I use for our Drop B stuff. The last guitar I received was a birthday present from our guitar player and it was an SG, my first SG.
"It was the one rock ‘n’ roll standard that I didn’t have. I’m a Marshall girl. I’ve tried so many amps and I like to experiment in the studio. I’ll maybe combine a JMC800 Plexi with a Diezel and be like, ‘Yes, this is the wall of sound.’ Live, I keep going back to Marshall.
"The influences I had when I was a kid stuck with me when it comes to my guitar tone, especially Mr Keifer.
"I’ve had the opportunity to talk with him and meet him, he texts me, it’s awesome and very surreal. I like that when he plays, the tone varies from guitar to guitar.
"I was never a huge fan of a lot of fuzz and a lot of hiss. With me, there’s a significant difference every time I change guitar so I pick and choose based on the song."
"There are many ways to skin that cat. If there is a piano in the room I will probably go to that, because I don’t have room for a keyboard with me backstage on tour.
"Lately I’ve been starting with lyrics first, oddly. I like to look back on the people who influenced my influences and a lot of that is old school blues and those players were incredible with barely any gear at all. Doing that gives you a different perspective.
"If it wasn’t for Metallica I wouldn’t have been introduced to Motörhead. The other day I was thinking, ‘Ok, if Lemmy was a girl and played guitar, what we he do?’ I wrote a couple of riffs with that in mind."
"We’re in the middle of writing for our third record. It’s exciting but it’s such a mindfuck. We’ve just started to crack the code of what songs we want on the record.
"We’re finishing that up after this tour, then we’ll finish the record, release it and do it all over again. It’s a little stressful because we’re under pressure to do something halfway decent and better than the last one. I’m just excited to get it out there and show people some new songs.
"You write like 60 songs and most of that will be thrown away because you’re chasing after the new thing that gets you excited. In the first batch of songs we had this epic metal song, one song sounded like Tom Petty and then we had five piano ballads, out of all of that there were maybe three songs that we thought were cool and were the next direction we should go in so we threw the rest away.
"You want some songs that will work on the radio, you want songs that are fun, you want some that maybe won’t work on radio but are fun to play live and are the glue that holds the record together."
Bagging a Grammy
"We try not to think about [winning a Grammy in 2013] too much. We just chase after what gets us excited and I think that has been a good compass so far.
"The Grammys, it’s kind of like receiving an engagement ring as a band. You don’t need it to know that you’re going to be a band forever and make great music. We didn’t need it but having that gesture and that people have recognised what we’ve done for the past 17 years was pretty amazing. We’re not thinking, ‘Oh, we have to win another Grammy,’ We probably won’t because that was a long shot. We’re not thinking that on this album we need to win a Grammy, a Tony, an Oscar and an Emmy, we just want to be able to go on tour for the rest of our lives.
"We were freaking out at being nominated for the Grammy. We didn’t know what it meant, we didn’t even know if it meant that we got to go to the ceremony. I said to the guys, ‘We get to go but don’t get your hopes up because we’re not going to win.’
"We won and it was surreal. I remember them saying, ‘The Grammy goes to…Love Bites,’ and we were thinking, ‘Love Bites? Oh my God, that’s us!’ We had nothing prepared because we didn’t think we’d win. If we ever get nominated again we’ll write a list of people to thank. I have the award next to a trophy that my brother and I got for finishing third in a fair talent show.