Lzzy Hale on how a pandemic couldn’t stop Halestorm from creating their fifth album
Halestorm’s fifth album, Back From The Dead, bursts from its COVID-19-inflicted crypt this week (May 6), a deeply personal effort depicting the band’s personal struggles through the last few years of uncertainty through the power of their anthemic hard rock.
In celebration of the rock legends’ glittering next era, Halestorm mastermind Lzzy Hale delves into the inspirations behind the songs, rediscovering their love for music and the importance of finding a producer who brings out the best in your band after 25 years together.
It’s been four years since Vicious, your longest break between albums. What’s changed for Halestorm in that time?
What’s really changed is our motivation. It’s less of a "have to" and more of a "want to" now. We recorded this album not necessarily because we’re a rock band that needs songs on the radio or we have a label on our tail. It was more reconnecting with why we started jamming in our parents’ garage and basement in the first place. It’s not like we ever lost that, but as it’s been 15 years since our debut on Atlantic Records, and suddenly your dream becomes your career, and there’re all these other factors that go along with that dream. We’ve shed a lot of those things, and the beauty of that rediscovery is that the music got better, our hearts got better and our shows got better because it wasn’t about everybody else; it’s purely about us now.
You started writing Back From The Dead socially distanced during lockdown. How much did COVID-19 affect this process of bringing about your next era?
It was a mess for a while because we usually jam in my basement, so this time everyone was sending each other ideas until we finally got into the studio. That was a mess too because we ended up writing all these strange B-sides that never made it onto the album, but we have a full album’s worth of ridiculous things we made because we reunited. After we got that out of our system, we’d start recording, and then there’d be another COVID surge, so we’d have to lock down again. We’d come back like, "Where were we?" It took us a really long time to get our heads together, but either “Back From The Dead” or “The Steeple” made me think, "This is the thing we need to chase after." After that, everything on this album needed to sound that huge, and the floodgates opened.
What inspired the title Back From The Dead?
There’re a lot of bands and people in the industry that didn’t make it through COVID. We’re lucky to be an established band because we knew people would be there for us on the other side whenever we got there, but it’s disheartening seeing young bands that never got to make their debut in 2020. A lot of my peers quit bands not because they gave up on it but because they realized they really loved being home! Back From The Dead isn’t just about the industry; it’s about everything, whether you’re battling mental health issues or getting over a relationship or out of something that wasn’t great for you — we’re all here now, ready to put our horns in the sky and say we survived it.
There’s a personal note to this album regardless of its relatability — where does the strength behind an evocative song like “Wicked Ways” come from?
You have to dig to find that strength because it’s so much easier to let the darkness overtake you, let the self-doubt and impostor syndrome creep in, even if it’s hard on your psyche. I feel like I reconnected with how I learn to balance myself with “Wicked Ways.” I’m not a perfect person, and I’m not inherently evil. I can definitely get there if I want to, but I also consider myself a positive person. It’s not like either of those defines me. Both sides of me have formed a truce to coexist, and that song is about that balance.
You’re back with producer Nick Raskulinecz. What does it mean to you to find a producer you can trust to stay with?
Nick is a shining light because he’s such a fan of rock music — I don’t think he’ll work with a band if he can’t see himself front and center at a concert because that’s exactly how he acts in the studio. He bounces all over the place, grabs a drumstick and conducts in the air. Every time we record guitars, he’s 2 feet away from us instead of isolated in a booth. He’s the first producer we’ve worked with that’s really able to capture all our personalities in a big way.
There’re four pillars to Halestorm: the chaos of Arejay [Hale], Josh [Smith], who’s the only real musician who can read music, Joe [Hottinger], who I’ve never seen rip a guitar the way he does when he’s in front of Nick, and it’s the same with me. I’m a better guitar player, singer and writer because I’m with him. He won’t let me settle or play it safe with anything I do.
How would you like listeners to feel when they first hear this new Halestorm era?
I want them to see themselves in these songs, to not only be more connected with me than they ever have because this is one of my most personal records, but above all to feel empowered. Be confident, own your weird, stop worrying about a lot of things that don’t matter and live your absolute truth. That’s what speaks to me in this music, and I’m looking at this album now as if somebody else wrote it for me because I know I see myself in it. It’s a reminder for me that I’ve got this, that things can be hard and the world is nuts, but there’s always hope in ourselves, in humanity, and we have to keep that fire lit.