Artist on Artist: Cilver’s Uliana Preotu interviews Halestorm’s Lzzy HaleApril 26, 2016
Cilver and Halestorm are two bands at two very different places in their careers: While Cilver are gearing up to release their debut album Not The End Of The World on April 29, Halestorm just celebrated the one year anniversary of their third album, Into The Wild Life. Yet, their lead singers, Cilver’s Uliana Preotu and Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, have more in common than their jobs leading rock bands.
We got Uliana and Lzzy on the phone together, and they talked about their fans, musical inspiration and being a woman in the music industry.
Lzzy Hale: First of all, your accent is amazing. Where are you from?
Uliana Preotu: I was born and raised in Romania, so I came to the United States about 10 years ago to follow my dreams and be a singer. It’s been a long journey since, because when I first came I didn’t really speak English and it was not an easy task to find a band to actually believe in me as a frontperson. You can only imagine from there to today it’s been a lot of work. I put my head down and did what I had to do.
LH: That’s awesome. I admire that so much, because it’s an incredible feat just to start a band, let alone come to a different country, learn a language and figure it out.
UP: You know, sometimes when you really want something you don’t really think about how hard it is, you just go for it, and then you look back and you’re like, “Damn, I was crazy.”
LH: We all think that here, it’s only in looking back. While you’re in it, you’re like, it totally makes sense. We’re going for it, right, there’s no other choice. That happened with me and my band, and I’ve been in the same band since I was 13, so especially when you’re a kid, you’re like, “Oh no, you just had tunnel vision because you’re young and this is all you ever wanted to do,” and I look back on the childish, reckless-abandon approach to being in this business, and I’ll be like, “What was I thinking?” If I had started at this age, I’d probably be super crazy.
UP: Yeah, I think being an artist you have to have some sort of childlike approach to things that could be overwhelming you, so you’re looking into the other perspective. The more mature person would be like, “Nah, I don’t think this is a good idea.” But as an artist, if you don’t have that childlike approach, the demand would end up being really, really high. If I had known when I first arrived and I didn’t speak English how much work and how many uphill battles I would have, I would probably get very disappointed and think of doing something else. My instinct was, I’m just gonna go as far as I can, because honestly, I have nothing to lose.
“In the music business, you have to carry that inner child.”
LH: That’s amazing. And dude, that’s why you’re here, and that’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s been such wise words coming from you because it’s so true, you just have to have tunnel vision, and just keep thinking, “What’s next, what’s coming next,” and not think about it too hard or it will overwhelm you. But that’s life anyway. I think you kind of stop somewhere, especially when you find your passion, whether it’s rock and roll or some other kind of passion, your age kind of stops. Perpetually, you still have that same fire that you carry with you, and it’s the same sometimes to see people that lose that. In the music business, you have to carry that inner child. [Laughs.]
UP: It’s so true, and you’re going to see really big artists who got so far, they keep that freshness inside their souls, and that’s important. I see a lot of artists are getting, I don’t want to use the word jaded, but I think somehow that has a lot to do with how far they can go, and when you’re… allowing yourself to get to that place where you feel dirty inside and when you keep yourself as fresh as you can as an artist, I think you’re in discovery mode, and that’s so important. At least, that’s how I operate for my music and my art.
LH: Something that’s been on my mind lately is the honesty factor, and what I feel like I get from you just from talking to you is that you’re not afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve and give everything that you have. Obviously, like you were saying before, because you have nothing to lose. I don’t know whether you’ve experienced this with the fans, not just people that come to your shows, but people who follow you on social media—are you putting yourself out there to people? Do you feel like you get more out of it by being super open like that, or do you feel like you would be happier being more of a recluse and having more mystery?
“Some people will always think being mysterious is a thing. And I’m not saying it’s the wrong approach, it’s just not my approach.”
UP: Some people will always think being mysterious is a thing. And I’m not saying it’s the wrong approach, it’s just not my approach. I have been through so much to get to where I’m at, and maybe we’ll get a little bit into my background, and why we ended up writing the single “I’m America” and how I feel about things. But I feel like when you share experiences, when people that are listening to your music and connecting to your message want to know the person that’s carrying that message, behind that message, I feel like the bond that’s being created is extremely solid and those people are going to stay with you for a long time. That’s just how I like to think when I meet new people or connect with people after the shows or on social media, that we have a mode of communication and we share experiences. Because at the end of the day, you write those songs and those lyrics, and I pride myself that I write my own lyrics and I always say, “I have something to say.” If people want to know why I wrote certain things, that always makes me happy, and I go back to the story, this is the reason why, because something actually happened. But that’s me. There are other people who want to be more mysterious, and that’s okay too. It’s really, I guess, what type of artist you feel like you want to be. I don’t think there is a wrong way to go about things on this one.
LH: I agree. It’s very refreshing to hear that coming from you, and also another fellow female. I do the same thing, and I feel like I’ve gotten a more positive response, and I get inspired more from being honest and really not caring too much what people think about any of my opinions or lyrics or anything. I feel like it’s a waste of energy to think too much about the consequences. That’s just very inspiring for me to hear, that’s very neat.
UP: I think in the rock world and in the female front, there’s always this competition thing, like, “I must be better,” or “I must be prettier,” and I guess that’s how it is for some people. I have never been like that—I am who I am, it’s not going to change in the matter of hours. I am who I am, I carry myself the same way everywhere. When I met you, I felt that same thing, that confidence that you are who you are, and I really, really love that. It’s not very often that I see that. It was extremely refreshing when I met you and you were so sweet and so down to earth, and that’s just one of the things I wanted to tell you, because it meant a lot to me to see that there are females like that out there. Pretty awesome.
“At least if you’re on a multiple band bill, and you’re the only female-fronted band, you stick out like a sore thumb.”
LH: That’s so nice of you to say. I felt the same from you, and you and I share that same view; your story is your own, you have your own story and background and your own self that you’ve built over the years, or that you inherited from your parents, this mish-mosh of things that make up each individual life, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy or a girl or whether you rock in a band or don’t, you are your own person. It’s a waste of time trying to be somebody else. I feel like, maybe it’s my age talking, but I feel like with each passing year, you just give less and less fucks about things. I have only a few fucks to give left in my back pocket, and they’re going to be for a good reason eventually, but until then, I’m just going to try to be the best me I can be. It’s interesting, with being a female in the music business—people like us that are working, and literally going out for hundreds of days every year—it’s not the competition that everybody thinks it is. It really isn’t. It takes me a second, because I really don’t think of myself as a female anymore. I hang out with so many guys that I just don’t notice it until I say a horrible joke that I heard from one of the guys and it sounds way different coming out of my mouth…but really, I feel worse almost for the boys at any point in time, because at least if you’re on a multiple band bill, and you’re the only female-fronted band, you stick out like a sore thumb. You have this unspoken advantage because you’re a chick, and you can wear a skirt if you want…I mean, I’m for guys wearing skirts too, but… [Laughs.]
UP: But I feel like it can also be a disadvantage, and I agree with everything you said—when you’re on the road, and things get rough and hard and all that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a dude or a female, you’ve got to do what you’ve got do—but, let’s say you’re the only female on the bill that night. It can also go against you because at the end of the day it’s about your craft; can you play, can you sing, are your songs good? I don’t think it matters anymore if you’re female or male. I’m sure you’ve gotten this question before, many, many times, “How do you feel as a female in a male-dominated world,” and my answer is always “It doesn’t really matter” because if you can do what you’re supposed to do and the reason why you’re there is because you can sing, you can carry a song, and you have a message, then that’s it: People connect or not with that. The rest is go home or go big, and that is always my answer when it comes to how I feel in a male-dominated world. I don’t care. Like you said, I don’t give a fuck.
“There are girl bands that suck and there are guy bands that suck, and there are girl bands that are great, and there are guy bands that are great.”
LH: I agree. I have a similar answer where you have to be good at your craft. If you’re going to win over a crowd, any crowd, the gender thing doesn’t matter. There are girl bands that suck and there are guy bands that suck, and there are girl bands that are great, and there are guy bands that are great. But the bottom line is, are you great or not? That’s it, it’s super simple, and everybody tries to make it much more complicated than it actually is. It is funny, because you can take it from both sides. Obviously, if you walk out on stage and you’re a girl, and nobody knows who you are in the audience, there is this unspoken judgment that goes on, like, “Oh man, okay, what’s this going to sound like? It’s a girl.” But at the same time, there are so many dudes that, a lot of them, especially in rock music, sound the same or are trying to imitate somebody greater than them. To me, being a girl, I’m guilty of being judgmental to both. It’s like, “Bring it, man.”
UP: If there is anyone that should be judgmental, that should be you. This is my opinion that you are, if not one of, but probably the best female vocalist out there. So you can be very judgmental. You’ve earned that right.
LH: To me, it’s not a gender thing. You have to put the work in, and obviously you’re doing that. You’ve overcome more obstacles than I, because I’ve never had to learn another language. Thank God, because I’m terrible at that. I’ve learned a few phrases for every country I go to, so I can make it by, but that’s about it. You’ve definitely come so far, and I think you’re very admirable, and like I said, as a musician and to do anything you love and make it into a living, it’s freaking hard. It’s hard work and you have to put the time in, and that’s usually what goes through my mind when I see a new band. I’m like, “okay, so how long have they been a band, and is there anybody who’s in it for the right reasons?”… I don’t know, a lot of things go through my head when I see a new band.
UP: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned that I had to learn a language and a culture. Eventually, [I got] to express myself because that would mean for me to connect with people, and it didn't come easily. I wanted to say certain things, but people didn’t really understand what I wanted to say. Eventually I came into my own, and one of my things was, like I said, I always put my head down and go back to the drawing board. I’ll be like, “Okay, I made a mistake—how was I supposed to do this maybe different?” I think being okay with making mistakes is part of growing. When we wrote the song “I’m America,” a lot of that has been carried with me over the years and I felt like for us, and for me, it’s time to tell people how I feel about things, how I feel about living here, being an American now. It’s an anthem for unification. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, as long as you’re here, just make sure you make the best out of it and make this country a more beautiful country. Don’t bash on it; make sure you’re here and you pay your dues. The lyrics are a little bit autobiographical in that sense. Obviously there is more today than I put in there, related to my personal story. I felt like I’m finally there, I can write a song like that, that meant to me so much. And actually I wanted to mention that it’s a co-write with our guitar player, my writing partner Leon, and then Kenny Carkeet from AWOLNATION. -alt