HALESTORM – “We Are All The Same And We Are All Not Alone”

May 5, 2022, a week ago

By Aaron Small

feature heavy metal halestorm

HALESTORM – “We Are All The Same And We Are All Not Alone”

“As we get closer, it feels further away; I’m so impatient about it. But I’m so excited! What a lovely thing that we’re able to release music again, and we have tours coming up. I’m in my happy spot,” gushes Halestorm vocalist and guitarist Lzzy Hale as she looks forward to the May 6th release of her band’s stunning new album, Back From The Dead.
 
Lzzy, along with her brother / drummer Arejay Hale, guitarist Joe Hottinger, and bassist Josh Smith began work on Back From The Dead, their fifth studio album, quite some time ago in January 2021, utilizing a “socially distant” studio process. “Very much so,” recalls Lzzy. “I keep describing it as more or less a relay sport. I’d come up with an idea and pass the baton to the guitar player or my rhythm section, they would be lobbing me ideas instrumentally, and we’d all be working on it separately together – that’s so funny, what an oxymoron. Then when we finally got into the studio, it had been the longest we’d ever been without seeing each other. It just felt so good! It was like we were reuniting after a hiatus. We ended up jamming together and we have probably an entire album’s worth of B-sides that were just us being silly and writing strange jams; we were being a little irresponsible. Just because it felt so good to have that camaraderie again. It just feels good to be on the other side of it (the pandemic). This album was an absolute personal one for me as far as subject matter. Definitely a true depiction of the mental roller coaster that I know we all were going through. But, me in particular, really my journey of getting through it and what I describe as writing through it. The writing process was definitely the weapon in my arsenal, to try to figure things out in my head, but also to combat the weight of the world that we were all feeling at the time.”
 
The song “Brightside” summarizes the feelings of pretty much everyone on this planet, after living through two years of a pandemic, specifically with the lyric, “I’m over it, all the bullshit, and this f*cked up world I’m living in.” Everybody has thought that and said that. “Absolutely. I know it’s kind of ironic that one of the darkest songs on the record happens to be entitled ‘Brightside’. I always love that kind of sarcastic twist. We were all feeling so incredibly helpless! Like, what can we do about it? We can’t control anything that’s going on. And we’re all watching all of these things happen in real time – for heaven’s sake it’s still going on. How do you battle that? How do you maintain that faith in humanity when everything is so crazy, and it feels like we’re taking all of these backwards steps, and there’s so much hate for hate’s sake? People are still worried about all this petty bullsh*t that doesn’t really matter. Like, come on guys, it’s 2022. Let’s get it together. So, like I said, just using music because that’s all you can actually do.”
 


 
Delving deeper into Lzzy’s lyrics, “Strange Girl” is particularly interesting. Take the line, “A perfect picture of your f*cking worst nightmare… I’m bullet proof to what you think.” Lzzy reveals her unexpected muse. “That song, specifically, was actually written for and inspired by a young girl I was having a conversation with during lockdown over Twitter; she’s one of our fans. Right before lockdown happened, she ended up coming out as gay to her family, and her family did not take it well. She’s only 15 and stuck with that situation. So, her only real outlet, and people she could talk to about it were basically the Halestorm community and the Halestorm fanbase that all are just such beautiful people. Everyone lifts each other up, and everyone supports each other. It’s definitely a melting pot of all of these different walks of life, all under the umbrella of this music. So, I basically wanted to write her an anthem. Not a ballad, I wanted to write her an anthem that kind of reminded her that she isn’t alone. And me specifically, I have her back. I’m just like her. And her plight and her journey, is not just hers and hers alone to bear. It was really the only way that I could help her in some way, cause I would hate to be in that position. I’m very lucky that I have some amazing parents that were a little crazy, but also accept me for everything I am – both my dark and light. I couldn’t even imagine being a 15-year-old girl and trying to be your truest self and having your parents be so incredibly disapproving. It wasn’t just that, it was name-calling; they said some very, very harsh things to her, just for being herself. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine being in that position, but I kind of had to put myself in those shoes in order to write that song. Since then, she actually does know that there is a song on the album written for her. For the lonest time, I’m like, do I give her some hints? So, I’ve given her a little bit of a hint as to which song it is, but hopefully she gets to use the song and wake up every day, and really just be proud to be herself.”
 
Admitting that she’s “a little nerdy” about her lyrics, it’s readily apparent that Lzzy puts significant thought into the words she sings. “Wicked Ways” is another song we can all identify with. The line, “We’ve all been the sinner, the saint, and the in-between,” is oh so true. “Oh yeah. I’ve written about these things before, but I’m a little obsessed with my own dark and light, and actually being acceptive of things that you don’t like about yourself, and the mistakes you’ve made. True, almost forgiveness of yourself, and approval of all of these different sides of you that make up who you are. We’re not all inherently evil. We can get into some trouble, obviously. Nobody’s perfect. But that part of you doesn’t necessarily define you. It’s an interesting thing to be able to write about these things. We’re all a grand balance of everything that makes us who we are and all the pieces of the puzzle. I’m also a serial drafter and re-drafter. So, a lot of these songs were a couple different versions of themselves before the puzzle actually revealed itself. Is that the right line? Is that the right line? Come back to it in a couple days – that needs to be improved upon. Some of it was in real time while I was doing the vocal tracks – oh, that sounds better! It’s never really done until it’s done.”
 


 
Unlike the songs that we’ve already spoken about, but in true Halestorm tradition, “I Come First” is a sexually charged double-entendre. Do you think fans expect a song like that, in the vein of “I Get Off” and “Do Not Disturb”? “I think so. Honestly, that was a small exercise for myself. That one, ‘I Come First’, was literally written in about two hours. That was one of the easiest ones to come out. But I will say that it was much more sexually charged before I got to drafting and re-drafting. I was a little bit more aggressive in the sexual wordage. When I was putting down the vocal tracks, there was something about… I had some lines about whips and chains, and strange things like that. I don’t know, that sounds kind of dated, and also a little cringey. So, I ended up taking all the sex out of it, and in turn, actually made it into more of a sexually empowerment situation by taking some of that wordage out. Then of course, I kind of figured with the last album, with ‘Do Not Disturb’, which was maybe a little bit too much information, everybody needed a break from hearing about my sex life. But it’s interesting because there are some people that have talked to me about that song, that don’t even really notice those undertones, so I’m very excited for people to hear these songs and what their own natural take on all of it is, because I’m sure everyone’s going to be listening differently.”
 
Lzzy’s never been afraid to sing about bedroom behavior, which unbelievably for a lot of people is still taboo in 2022. “Oh, absolutely. It’s interesting, cause I thought for a second, when I started really being just honest and more outward with the things that I talk about, and really letting people in. I did think for a second, am I going to be getting hate mail form parents? Am I doing the right thing? And it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’ve had single dads that are raising their daughters, give me these huge hugs and thank me for being brave enough to say these things, because most of them, this is basically what they say: ‘I hope that my daughter is that confident and empowered to speak about these things when she’s your age.’ That’s amazing! Even the parents are like, ‘Thank you!’ Alright, cool. I’ll write more about that. But I think it’s important to talk about. Growing up, I knew a lot of people that were very much sheltered in that area of life, and got into a lot of trouble because of not knowing, or being afraid to talk about it. So, I’m glad it brings up some subjects with people that move them in the right direction in some way.”
 


 
The Back From The Dead album cover is rather striking, close-up photograph of Lzzy, with the red and black color concept serving as a nod to her previously mentioned dark and light sides. “Absolutely. Really, it’s just kind of doubling down. Those two colors are so synonymous with the genre that we have, and what I love about the red, cause it’s such a bright red, is that it does exude this outward confidence, while also being very dark. It can have all of these different meanings just within the color. Also, with the color black, again, synonymous with our genre, but also this sign of being a little bit of an outsider, and also being proud of that. The funniest thing about that photo shoot is the broken glass is actually real glass. We didn’t do that digitally afterwards. Basically, my face was behind this broken windowpane. We got a bunch of different panes and we smashed each one of them to try to come up with different patterns that would compliment artistically. Then I would have to stand there with my face, and the photographer at one point was like, ‘Oh, we should lose this little jagged edge here.’ I had to remember to close my eyes because there would be shards of glass fraying everywhere. It was quite a dangerous photo shoot. I’m glad nobody got slivers in the eye or anything. But I really love the idea of, instead of… back in the day, even with the title track and the video that we did, we focused more on dirt and death and graveyards. We really wanted to not do that for the album cover, and have it be more of a depiction of survival and really breaking out of something. So, I love the danger that goes along with the broken glass as well.”
 
There’s two ballads on Back From The Dead. The first one, “Terrible Things”, is a break in the action for sure. The five songs prior are so turn it up to 11, high energy rock ‘n roll. The lyrics to “Terrible Things” really make you think. That’s a realistic moment of clarity. “Oh, thank you so much. The funniest thing about that song is that it actually started off as a completely different song; the title was ‘I Am Terrible Things’. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t do that. I’m not going to be disparaging on myself. I’ve already talked about my dark and light, I don’t need to bring that into the equation. And the song developed into ‘I See Terrible Things’. I basically rewrote the entire song to really be a depiction of what I’ve been – what we all have – been seeing in this world. Us as humans, this is who we are. We are violent, and history keeps repeating itself. We are terrible to the environment, we’re terrible to each other. But I have to maintain that hope and that faith in humanity because if I lose that, then what the hell am I doing in this life? So, I have to believe that we can fix these things and that we can be better. Again, the future’s uncertain as far as whether that’s going to happen, but I have to keep pushing in that direction. That was a powerful addition to this collection of songs. And yes, at that point in time in the sequence, everybody really deserved a break. That was my fault and my guitar player Joe’s fault – we both were quite obsessed with sequencing the songs. We went through, I don’t know, about 34ish different arrangements, and settled on this one. But definitely that was needed.”
 
Back From The Dead ends with a beautiful piano ballad in “Raise Your Horns”. Yet, that title leads people to believe, before hearing the song obviously, that it’s going to be the arena anthem. But no, it’s soft and tender. “That one was written early on in the pandemic, or at least started. I honestly, literally just what you said, loved the idea of writing a song and entitling it ‘Raise Your Horns’, but there’s not going to be any guitar, and there’s not going to be any drums. Just kind of throw people off a little bit. But really, with that title I wanted to talk about mental health, and really what that phrase means to me, as far as unity and reminding everyone that they’re not alone in their mental health journey; we’re all touched by it. Whether personally, or you know someone who is. It just became kind of this mission of mine to do this. Now, the phrase Raise Your Horns, I’ve been using for the past couple years. It all started many years ago when my friend Jill Janus of Huntress took her own life (in 2018). I was so upset about that. I really wanted to do something about it, so I ended up using the hashtag #raiseyourhorns and basically just put out a challenge to everybody and said, ‘Look, if you are touched by mental illness, or you know someone who is, take a picture of yourself, raise your horns, and post it. And it just took on a life of its own. I was so, I guess taken aback by how many people, just a true representation. We are all the same and we are all not alone – how powerful that ended up being.”
 
“Then, during the pandemic I got a call from Linda Perry, and she gave me a slot. Basically, her and a producer were putting together, more or less an Internet channel, a YouTube channel, that they were going to try to revive what MTV was back in the day. Just a series of different shows all based around music. She said, ‘Hey, I want to give you your own show. It can be an hour, let me know what you want to call it, and what your mission statement is.’ I ended up calling it Raise Your Horns, and I ended up centering it around mental health awareness. I ended up being the interviewer, rather than the interviewee, and having a bunch of my friends on the show and talking about it. So, when writing this song, I was kind of putting all of those pieces of that puzzle into it. And I love the fact that we decided to end the record with it, because it’s just a nice send off.”
 
(Photos by Jimmy Fontaine)

 

 



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