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Catching Up with Lzzy Hale

February 15, 2011 - Jim Price
In February 1999, Halestorm’s sibling core of Elizabeth (“Lzzy”) and Arejay Hale experienced their first taste of the music industry, at the third annual Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg. Elizabeth was 15 years old, sang and played keys; and Arejay was 12 and played a rotating drum kit that could turn upside down. Their father, Roger Hale, played bass; and their mother, Beth, was their manager and publicist.

Halestorm played a short showcase set that year inside a warehouse-like structure on Harrisburg’s City Island, met music industry professionals, soaked in the atmosphere of the music conference and learned important tips on how to improve various aspects of their evolving band.

They attended subsequent editions of the Millennium Music Conference, continued networking and learning, and along the way assembled the components of their “team” that enabled them to land a recording deal with Atlantic Records in 2005. In the nearly two years since their 2009 self-titled Atlantic studio CD was released, Halestorm has gained radio airplay nationwide, crisscrossed the country, toured Europe and played in Japan with some of the biggest names in current rock, such as Shinedown, Avenged Sevenfold, Sevendust, Buckcherry, Disturbed, Trapt, Stone Sour, Theory Of A Deadman and more. The group will return to the road in late March as part of the Avalanche Tour, joining Theory Of A Deadman, Stone Sour, Skillet and Art Of Dying.

On Friday and Saturday, February 18-19, Halestorm will return to the conference where their music industry journey began, the 15th annual Millennium Music Conference at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill. The group will provide the musical keynote address and field audience questions on Friday the 18th, and headline an all-ages showcase on the conference’s Radisson main stage on Saturday the 19th.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lzzy Hale via phone, and find out her thoughts about life in a touring band, coming back home to headline at Millennium, and the latest Halestorm developments. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

JP: “What is Halestorm currently up to? Update us.”

LZZY: “We’re in the writing process for the second record. We have a live CD and DVD out right now, and we’re getting ready to release a cover EP as well…so just lots of stuff! I think we’re throwing in a few tours with that too.”

JP: “Who have you been touring with recently, and who will you be touring with next?”

LZZY: The last 2 or 3 tours that we’ve done have actually been headlined by Disturbed, Stone Sour, Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry and Papa Roach. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such heavy hitters. And all their fans have been amazing. It’s really been nonstop to the point now that we’re stationary…and there’s a shower at my disposal…Any time of day I can get a shower, and that’s just a weird concept any more to me. I’m so used to being out on the road and at least three days without a shower. Being on that road schedule; actually, living on a semi-normal schedule right now is kind of weird.”

JP: “You did just release a new live CD/DVD set called Live In Philly 2010, recorded last April at the Theater Of Living Arts in Philadelphia. Talk about that night and the venue, and why that was selected for the recording.”

LZZY: “The venue was at a great central location…It’s our home state; just a place where everybody we have known could come and see the show and be a part of this DVD. It was such a milestone for us; this whole year has been. At that point in time when we recorded the live DVD, we were on our first headlining tour with some of our favorite new bands opening for us. And it was just one of those things that we just really wanted to do something to commemorate it and have everybody involved. There were so many great bands, so many great rock bands in the area that gave a couple of kids a chance…They let us open for them, they got our foot in the door with some clubs in the area and in central PA. And so many amazing rock fans in PA that if it wasn’t for them, we would not have gotten that leg up, and we wouldn’t be here doing what we love every single day. They’re such a huge part of our collective heart as a band that belongs to PA…So the Live In Philly thing is just for them and to say ‘We all made it to this point, and we all did it together…Our triumph is your triumph as well.’”

JP: “Does the pace of life for your band feel as hectic on the inside as it looks to somebody on the outside looking in?”

LZZY: “Not entirely…It’s definitely very, very busy. But for us, the hard part about this business came more toward the beginning with the ‘hurry up and wait’…If we don’t have something to do, we get a little antsy. So, we don’t mind being busy; you kind of catch your stride after a little while. The road becomes part of your life, and touring becomes part of your life. A typical day is you wake up, a few phone interviews in the morning along with your cup of coffee, and you go into the venue…Usually there’s a car to pick you up and take you to a radio station where you do an acoustic show; you come back and do meet-and-greets…Then you do the show, you do a meet-and-greet after the show, and try to find sleep somewhere within that…It’s not bad; I really, really like it, and it’s more when we have the down time, and I told the guys the other day, right now we’re writing for a new record; and it’s almost like – we’re writing a new record in order to get back out on the road, because we love it so much…as crazy and backwards as that sounds.”

JP: “Are there any favorites of the tours and bands you’ve been on the road with?”

LZZY: “We’ve had the utmost privilege to have two tours with the Disturbed boys, and I’m probably going to completely ruin their badass reputation now, but they’re the nicest guys, really…they’re amazing with amazing families. They have so much respect for the bands around them. And they really remember what it’s like to be an opening band, and treated us like complete gold. And they’ve been around since their first record came out, a little over ten years; they’ve earned the right to be primadonnas if they really wanted to, but they’re really not, they’re extremely humble and always there for advice. There’s also Stone Sour; Corey Taylor, one of my absolutely favorite male vocalists; there’s so much that that guy can do, and he never stops…He’s like the Tasmanian Devil of sorts. It’s really crazy because you can be fans of all these bands, and then you go on tour with them, and you eat lunch with them every day, you’re talking with them, and they’re telling you about their kids. And then they walk away, and I got to turn to my brother every now and then, and be like ‘Hey, that was David Draiman, we were just talking to David Draiman, we were just talking to Corey Taylor’…It’s so mind-boggling to think about, and we’re extremely lucky.”

JP: “You recently played in Europe. Talk about that experience; how are European crowds compared to over here?”

LZZY: “Europe was amazing. We’ve had the privilege to go over there three times this year. The first time was last April with Theory Of A Deadman. And then we went overseas again to Europe to do the Download Festival (England) and Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (Germany), which was a huge dream for us, because I have some DVD’s and VHS at home of some great bands playing…And it’s always a mish mosh of characters…When we were playing at the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, there was Jay-Z and Kiss and Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, all this huge array of different bands you get exposed to; to see all these different genres all in one audience. Then the last time we went over there was just last month (December) with Disturbed. I have to tell you, one thing to keep in mind, is that the beer is much stronger over there…You can’t tip ‘em back like you do Bud Lights or Yeungling; you got to treat it like it’s wine or liquor…Our sound guy learned that the hard way. European crowds are amazing; they latch onto you…One of the things that happened with us is that we’ve only been there a few times, and we’ve been an American rock band forever, and we’ve toured the U.S. many many times over the past couple of years. And we go over there a few times, and there’s these people who you feel like they’ve known you forever and they know more about your life than you even think you know. It’s amazing, they’ll come up to me and tell me like, ‘Hey, this is your middle name…’ It’s so weird. We experienced something that I can only compare to Beatlemania, when we were in Manchester, England. We had a meet-and-greet at the venue, and they needed seven security guards to keep the barricade back, because it was squishing people up front. It was amazing, we were signing autographs, there were people being squished up to the front, and they needed more security guards…it was freaking crazy! You come away from that experience thinking, ‘they shouldn’t even know who we are, we’re just this new rock band.’ But they grab onto rock music so tightly, and if they love you, they’ll love you forever. It was really great to see; it’s not too dissimilar from the Midwest here in the U.S. Rock’n’roll is such a part of their lives that everybody shows up to the rock show.”

JP: “On February 19, you will be headlining on the main stage of the Millennium Music Conference, an event that first introduced you and Arejay to the music industry years ago. How does it feel to be returning to headline at Millennium?”

LZZY: “It’s completely surreal. Why we’re allowed to do this is beyond me…It’s amazing, because the Millennium Music Conference was the first conference that my brother and I ever went to, to try to learn and know what to do and what not to do. It was really a huge, huge stepping stone in our career because at an early age we were exposed to all of these people in the industry, and we got to pass our stuff around to everybody, and learn about how to put your press kit together…If we did get signed, this would happen, that would happen…How to book your band...We got a lot of our early lessons out of that conference, and each time we would go back over the years, things would build a little more, we’d meet more people, and we’d meet up with people we’d had prior relationships with, and had built up over the years. It was just something great that we got to do every single year; just a wonderful, wonderful milestone every single year to start it off, learning something new…It was just such a great thing to have in our backyard, so the fact that we’re going to be there and we’re headlining it, so I’m sure we’re going to be seeing people that we haven’t seen in like six to 10 years, which will be wonderful…And I can’t wait to see everybody again…It was quite an honor to be asked, and a great honor to be able to do it.”

JP: “How supportive has Atlantic Records been? Has it been a good association?”

LZZY: “Actually, I am proud to say it is one of the only if not the only record labels that I would recommend to anyone. The people there are so incredibly passionate about music and about what they do. It’s really amazing to see, because I remember coming up in the business, just hearing horror stories about ‘…record label makes me do this’ and ‘this happened,’ and ‘they made me fire my band,’ and all this stuff. Our record label has never even brought that up; in fact, they don’t even tell me what to wear, which maybe sometimes they should, because I see pictures of myself and ‘what was I doing?’ But they’re amazing people, and every time we walk through the offices everyone is just so incredibly happy to be doing what they’re doing, and being at the forefront of the music business. In a world where the music industry is changing, almost weekly or monthly, they’re really ahead of the game with all of that. We’ve been signed to Atlantic Records for five years, we have one major record out under them, we also have an EP and that live DVD/CD. Now technically – a couple years ago, the way the industry stood – we technically should be dropped by now, because that’s now the way record labels do it. They did back in the early ‘90s and ‘80s, they did artist development…But the thing is, we never got a development deal, we got the full-blown record contract, and so technically, we’re not contracted to be developing; they let us do our thing, which is amazing. We have so much creative freedom, they’re very patient, as far as if I call up the president tonight and say ‘Hey, we’re writing a lot of great songs, but maybe we need to bump this deadline up a little bit so we can write more,’ they would say ‘Sure, whatever you need.’ It’s wonderful to have people around that respect you and understand what you can do well…but also are there for advice if you need it, and if you say ‘Hey, is this the right thing to do, should I do this?’ So really it’s like an extended family for us. They really are amazing.”

JP: “Is there a timetable for when you want to put out that new CD?”

LZZY: “It’s definitely going to be coming out in 2011. Originally, we were just going to tour through 2011 and start in the beginning of 2012, to make another record. But we decided to push it a little bit because we’re writing a lot of great songs, and we actually found out that we work really well under pressure. So if we have a little bit of time here and a little bit of time there, we’ll be able to get a record done. I think that our fans are ready for it, and they’re ready for another record to come out this year. The rock industry has to keep up with the pop industry right now, because pop stars can pop out records, like three in a year. So we have to kind of keep up with that. At the same time, we were just kind of going by the energy we kept feeling off stage, and everybody kept coming up and saying, ‘When is another record, I’m wearing this one out!’ This is our answer to that; sure, let’s make another record! I’m excited about it, it’s time.”

JP: “What are your present goals, and how have they changed in the past five years?”

LZZY: “There are no goals any more (laughs)…Seriously, it’s gotten extremely hard to plan anything. The general plan and the general goal is to keep everything moving, and if something comes up, you fix it then. Anything can change on a dime. So you have to be quick on your feet. I feel it has made all of us better people; we have a much clearer work ethic than even when we were doing it all by ourselves. It’s not necessarily when you get signed; the work doesn’t get easier, there becomes more of it. Not only now do we have to worry about touring and maintaining our instruments like when were just local and doing everything by ourselves…Now, not only is there that, and we are solely responsible for our live show and everything that we bring to the table. But also, you have the politics involved, your management and your label, you have these people that have invested their time in you, and you have invested what they have to give as well. So you just have to make sure that you can put on all of these different hats at any point in time, and still have fun in the process. The biggest thing that has changed is that everybody around us takes us a little more seriously now, which is funny to me because we as people haven’t changed at all; in fact, I think that the guys and myself as well have become more immature in the process! We’re growing down…These are all the same guys that I know and love, my brother’s as crazy as ever, and all of the sudden we’re just playing on bigger stages now, that’s all.”

JP: “How are your mom and dad – Beth and Roger – enjoying this ride?”

LZZY: “It’s amazing, when we got the record deal and were getting ready to go out on tour, my parents were…they’ve always been excited for us, they’ve always been the absolutely number one supporters of the path that my brother and I have chosen with Halestorm…And we’re so incredibly grateful…There are a lot of kids that, if they had started bands when they were 13 and 10 years old, their parents would be like, ‘No no no, you’re going to do this first, and then we’ll see if you can be in a band.’ But my parents would always tell us ‘if you find something you love, you go for that now; there’s always time later if you change your mind and you want to do something else and go work in an office somewhere. If you have a passion for something and work hard at it, you can achieve it.’ As easy as that sounds, I really did grow up in the ‘Partridge Family meets Spinal Tap’ household…And my parents held the flag for us for a long time. And when we got signed, they said, ‘That’s all going to be taken care of now” And my manager, Bill McGathy, called me up and was like, ‘So, what’s your relationship like with your mother?’ And I said, ‘fine, I love my mom.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I really love the way she talks with people and works with people; would you mind if she’s your tour manager?’ So I said, ‘Sure, as long as she’s able to do it, I’d love her to do that.’ So she ended up tour-managing us. And then my dad recently retired, and because he was actually the only one in the family that had to stay home and pay the bills when we were out on the road, the guys and I told my dad, ‘Hey, do you want to go out and drive the bus?’ So, he’s been doing that for a couple of tours with us. The biggest thing for me is that it’s like a payback. My parents had given up a lot, in order for my brother and I to live our dreams. So now that we kind of are achieving it and living our dream, it’s neat to see them side stage and proud of us, and to be able to experience it with us.”

JP: “Lzzy, if you could sum up Halestorm’s last five years in a few sentences, what would they be?”

LZZY: “It’s been a whirlwind, it’s been like living in a circus, and meeting people that make you look normal. It’s been an expansion of family and friends. I’ve felt a closeness to the people around me like I’ve never felt. I feel accomplished as a person…There’s nothing like doing what you love every single day; being able to do what you love, being able to make a decent living doing it, and do it every day with the people that you love surrounding you. There’s no greater feeling than that. And it’s been extremely humbling to be able to experience that every night. And one thing the guys, we always talk about is that we will absolutely never take that for granted, because no matter what…Whether it’s the people around us, or it’s the chemistry that we have together, I think it’s all of those things combined. A rock and roll show is something that we’re all supposed to experience together. The audience, myself, you, everybody that we know…Every milestone that we made as Halestorm is essentially so many other people’s milestone…Central PA is my home, you guys did this too. It’s just the beginning, though, that’s the point…The point is we’ve been a band for 12 going on 13 years, and we’re going to continue. The long journey is now the beginning, and we’ll take the next step. I can’t wait to do it, and I’m still doing it with you, Jim, and doing it with everybody in my home state, and everybody I’ve collected along the way.”

JP: “Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans about Halestorm 2011?”

LZZY: “We’re taking a lot of risks in 2011, I’m going to be speaking a lot of truth…It’s going to be absolute guilt-free debauchery for 2011.”

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Before "Lzzy" - keytar-playing Elizabeth Hale of Halestorm, during the group's Millennium Music Conference showcase on Harrisburg's City Island on February 12, 1999.


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