In the eye of the Halestorm

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In the eye of the Halestorm

Words by David James Young

If you give Lzzy Hale an inch, she'll take a mile – or, for those that use the metric system, she'll take 1.60934kms if you give her 2.54cms.

If you ask the fearless frontwoman of Halestorm one question, she’ll respond for minutes at a time – she calls it “rambling”, but the constant thought and care going into what she’s saying contradicts such a dismissive term. 

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Spending time speaking with Hale leaves you with one lasting impression: She cares. A lot. She and the rest of Halestorm have been given ample reason to, as well – across five studio albums in the last 15 years, the Pennsylvanian hard-rockers have accumulated a deep-seated connection with their fanbase. When that was taken away over the pandemic, with the band having to create 2022’s Back From the Dead from a distance, Hale found herself staring into a void. “It was like everything had been stolen from me while we were making that record,” she says.

Knotfest Australia

“Seemingly, my life was pretty great – I’m in a band with my best friends, we have a Grammy under our belt, we’ve toured the world playing music that we love to people that love it. I was under this misconception that I wasn’t allowed to not be OK because of these things. Like, who am I to be ungrateful? So many people have it worse than me – who am I to be alone in my feelings? That was all swirling around while we were making this album – and when it came out, every message I got about my lyrics was from people telling me they felt the exact same way. I needed to hear that, but when we went out on tour I really saw it.”

When the band toured in support of Back From the Dead, playing their first shows in years, they were met with fan signs and tattoos dedicated to the new songs at every stop. This is an experience that has stuck with Hale, who felt as though a missing piece of the puzzle had fallen into place in this instance. “There was such a sense of relief,” she says. “On that stage felt like where we were supposed to be – that sense of being trapped in purgatory had been lifted. We made these songs solely by imagining how audiences would react to different parts live – because, at the time, all we could do was imagine. The uncanny thing is that everything we’d envisioned actually worked when we played them live. We were in shock.”

Lzzy Hale

In another one of her self-described rambles, Hale tells a story about a recent tour through Europe where she and her bandmates were seeing the same group of super-fans more or less every single day. They would tail the band to each city, buy Meet & Greet packages for each show and be in the very front row each night – and, because of that, could see the nights when the exhaustion and emotion of touring’s wear-and-tear was getting to Hale. “I was not feeling great about myself,” says Hale in a thankfully-common moment of vulnerability when speaking to Mixdown.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to turn it on, so to speak. I just had to put my guitar over my shoulder and try my best to give the people what they paid to see. These fans all knew something was up, and nobody else did. Each of them came up to me the next day and checked in with me in their own way, and I didn’t want to carry myself differently around them – I laid it out that I was really depressed, and feeling lost.

“The very next day, each one of those fans came to the meet-and-greet with handwritten notes for me telling me their own stories and telling me that they were here for me. I learned a valuable lesson on that tour: You get more from the people in your life if you are willing to be yourself instead of putting on a mask and a big facade. Your friends, your family, everyone. If you show your imperfections, they will show you theirs.”

These experiences that have stemmed from touring Back From the Dead have greatly influenced the way Hale has approached writing songs for the band’s sixth studio album – which, she confirms, the band have already begun work on. She describes the creative process for this as-yet-untitled record as one of her “going further down the rabbit hole” to further explore her raw emotions and to be OK with not being OK all of the time. “I want to tell it like it is,” she says.

“I feel like I’ve been given permission to truly be myself now. I want to tell people that listen to this band all of my secrets. I want them to see my dark side. I think it’s beautiful. Even if someone has no idea about this band and what we do, I want them to hear these songs and really see me in that moment. I have this inspiration, and I’m going into this record being much more open about the possibilities that may come from it.”

With such honesty and vulnerability in the air, the next line of questioning is pursued. Hale leads her band as singer and guitarist, an accomplished player recognised in a handful of hugely successful signature model guitars from Epiphone and Gibson. While the tides are slowly turning, does Lzzy Hale still feel the pressure as a woman in such a male-dominated industry?

Hale is careful but confident in her response: She knows her role, and she intends to play it to perfection.

“It’s not my first rodeo,” she begins. “We’ve won a lot of battles in the war against women, but it’s still ongoing. There are a lot of things going on in the world right now that are making us as a society take ten huge steps back. It’s a weird, delicate time. I will say that things have come a long way since I was first starting to play music, and when I entered a venue they assumed I was either someone’s girlfriend or doing merch. I didn’t see myself reflected in the hard rock and metal that I loved at the time, so I had to make that space for myself.

“There’s a lot that I haven’t had to go through as a musician because of the pioneering women in music before me. I am shouldering them in my responsibility when I go out on that stage, for all the female hard-hitters. I plan on representing the power of a woman when I’m up there. I am going to show every man who thinks I don’t belong up there how it’s done.”

Halestorm will be hitting the stage at Knotfest on March 21 in Melbourne, March 23 in Sydney and March 24 in Brisbane. For tickets, lineup, info and more, head to Knotfest here.