Epiphone is proud to welcome 2019 GRAMMYTMnominee Lzzy Hale to the family of Signature Epiphone artists with her Ltd. Ed. Lzzy Hale Signature Explorer Outfit. Hale is the House of Stathopoulo’s first female signature artist of the modern era and joins an esteemed list that includes heroes like Tony Iommi and Peter Frampton. For over two decades, Hale has tirelessly led Halestorm, the band she formed as a teenager, while also earning a reputation as a formidable guest guitarist and vocalist with a diverse range of artists that includes country superstar Eric Church, Dream Theater, and Machine Gun Kelly.
In conversation, Hale is warm, articulate, and composed—sure of herself, her music, and her place in history. And though she is grateful for the accolades, it’s clear that she can’t wait for the conversation to conclude so she can go finish the song she was writing while talking to you. In an era when role models of any kind are hard to come by, Hale’s has the presence of the best kind of musical hero. Her confidence in the power of music to both confront and heal along with her fierce dedication to connect to her audience, is refreshing in an era where many artists prefer to be paper tigers—loud online but unable to back it up on stage. The music business might not know where it’s going, but wherever it winds up, you can bet Lzzy Hale will already be there with a new album with killer riffs she made while waiting for the rest of the industry to get their act together. Epiphone spoke with Lzzy Hale in-between rehearsals in Nashville.
Lzzy, thank you for taking the time to speak to Epiphone.com and congrats on your debut Epiphone Signature Explorer. I know you’re busy rehearsing.
It’s my pleasure. Epiphone rocks. And I thrive in the chaos. It’s the downtime purgatory in between that’s hard (laughs).
That seems like a good place to begin. What is your musical life like right now? It seems like you’re always in a whirlwind of activity. But what it is that like for you on the inside?
It’s interesting…when you get into music it’s an unexplainable thing. You can’t put your finger on why it’s happening. I’ve been talking a lot about how music chooses you because you can pinpoint when you had the epiphany that: ‘Wow, I really want to do this.’ But there’s no real rhyme or reason about choosing to be in this industry. It’s one of those things where there is no real guarantee, there is no real rulebook to follow. You have to thrive in the chaos and be good at that in order to keep it moving. When you start out, it’s this magical thing where you’re trying to figure out how to do this. How do I get up on stage in front of 60,000 people? Will that ever happen? So you take everything in these baby steps. I guess I’ve tried to narrow it down to three different levels of where I’ve been at in my life.
There’s the beginning where kind of everything is new and there’s this naiveté to what you’re doing but at the same time that’s a good thing because you don’t know any of the rules yet. You don’t know any of the trials and tribulations that you’re going to have to go through. You just know you have do this
—you have to be in this business and figure out a way to do this every single day. I remember that specifically happening in my life when I was 13. My little brother was 11 and we decided to start a band called Halestorm. And instead of my parents saying ‘No!
’ they said: ‘Well you’re gonna do it anyway, we might as well support ya!
’ That’s why we were able to actually make it a career. And then you go through this middle where you’re starting to figure out—‘I could make this a career.’ But there’s a lot of craziness, a lot of compromise, and a lot of sacrifice that goes with it.
It’s easy –years down the road-- to say you made compromises along the way to be in the business. But at the age you were making those compromises, how aware were you that you were making tough choices?
Well, I think it was a matter of prioritizing. For instance, the naiveté turns into (laughs) kind of an act of defiance because you say to yourself, everything else kind of comes second because there’s something about this I have to have in my life. You know for me, this band and the music that I write and this touring thing that I do and playing in front of people, singing and making a lot of noise on guitar, all that was more important than a lot of other things. For example, something that I started talking about only recently that hasn’t really ever come up, is I didn’t go to a normal high school. I went to classes at a local enrichment college. So from 9-12th
grade, I decided it was better for me if I were to kind of drop out (laughs) and go and take enrichment classes every Monday with some professors. They would give me five days worth of homework. I would do it all in two days and I would spend the rest of the week doing music. Because, that was my priority--that was what I wanted to do with my life. So, when it comes to sacrifices, I didn’t think about it. As far as a normal life, there’s never been anything “normal” about my life and what I do. Even now—I’m 35—I’ve been in a relationship for 15 years with a guy and we have two full incomes and no kids and it’s hilarious. We’re children, perpetually, because of this rock and roll thing. But it’s still so fulfilling. I feel like now, on the other side of it, those sacrifices really didn’t matter. When people approach me and say: “You’ve been in this band for 21 years, are you going to start having a normal life now?”,
I say like, ‘No! (laughs) What are you talking about? This is my normal life!’ So, in that broad stroke, I’m trying to summarize here, but it gets harder and harder as the years go by. It’s like you’ve lived a couple hundred lifetimes.
When you imagine yourself as a beginner, do you think that you turned out to be the kind of musician you wanted to be? Many who have been in the business as long as you don’t feel that way.
I agree. I’ve met a lot of those musicians and there are a couple different sides to that. On one hand, yes, I consider myself living the dream right now. And my definition of living the dream is I do what I love every single day with the people that I love and with my family. It’s pretty incredible to be making the music that I want to make. At the same time, you’ve worked hard for that, too. Where as, when you have a relationship with music and it’s that deeply a part of your life, it’s so much more than a career choice for me. It’s an extension of who I am. You have to give it that respect and keep that fire sexy. In a lot of ways, as far as myself and my bandmates, we do respect and pay attention to our relationship with music. We evolve in different ways but we keep learning. And in the second part of your question, I feel extremely satisfied to be where I am. I never thought in a million years I’d be able to call this a living and doing what I love with all the people I enjoy doing it with. I work hard to make sure that I’m getting better as a musician, that I keep asking questions and that I keep learning and expanding on that. Because the chase of that has our North Star, so-to-speak. We’re always—even as friends—asking those questions. What’s next? What’s the new thing? What are we excited about right now? As we go into the studio and create music, that’s what we try to pay attention to. We’re still moving and we’re very happy to be where we’re at.
Audiences today except their favorite artists to be on-call 24/7. There’s a great demand not just to have an album out on a regular basis, but something new on a monthly or even weekly basis. How does this new reality of the music business sit with as an artist? Do you feel the pressure to always be active—even if you need a break?
I feel a little of that now but only in the past few years have I really been feeling that tug. We’ve been asking those kind of questions with ourselves. Do we put a 12-song record or put out 7 songs? EP now and EP later? How do we do this? For us, what we’re doing right now is chasing what gets us excited. At the moment, we’ve had a little bit of time off which is a bit nerve wracking. I don’t know how to do nothing. My routine lately has been, I wake up with my cup of coffee, I have a songwriting station with my guitar…and right now it’s my Lzzy Hale Explorer because that’s my new toy! And I have my piano. I start on something in the morning and when I get stuck, I do laundry (laughs) or some menial task and I keep that idea running in my head. I’ve been writing a lot of songs in the past month. I write because I like to do it and I write because it’s enjoyable. I’ve always been much better at putting my feelings out on paper through songs. It’s one of those things where your passion is also your affliction (laughs) and you kind of need to do it everyday. For right now, we’re writing because we love it. We’ll see it what happens. But it’s also my way of being prepared just in case someone says: ‘Hey, you know what would be a really good idea?’
and I can say ‘I have just the thing for that!’
Are there artists that are heroes to you for the way they have handled their lives as touring musicians?
Absolutely. I always have gone back to go forward. I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of my idols. Somebody that I talk to quite a bit is Tom Keifer from Cinderella who lives here in Nashville. He and I became friends a couple of years ago. And it’s so crazy to have a friendship with someone that you grew up listening to. I was born in 1983 and technically I was a teenager in the 90s but my A,B,C,Ds
where and still are; Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Cinderella and Dio. That’s the basis for everything that I do. You can pepper in other things around that but it all comes back to those. One thing in common that I find with Tom and artists like Tony Iommi or Slash—all the legends and everyone I’ve admired and talked to--is they literally spend their every waking moment not wasting time and practicing every day. But they don’t call it practice. They say, ‘you just make noise until you like the noise you make. Don’t call it practice. If you call it practice then it’s work.
’ So whenever I start getting stuck for ideas, I love talking to those guys or at least looking back on what they’ve said to me. As far as career-wise, I also got to talk to Pat Benatar, just for a female perspective. She was one of those people who said look, there’s going to be a time when you have to reach outside of yourself. It’s not always going to be exciting and you’re going to have to reach for that passion. And that’s ok. Everybody goes through that. It’s not over (laughs)! You’re just trying to figure out how to piece the puzzle together. It’s comforting to hear those things from your idols. I know with Tom, he sends me stuff all the time---Albert King runs or he’ll just send me videos. Which is always hilarious because he wears so much jewelry that there’s a lot of jingling going on. I want to say, ‘Uh...hey, could you just take a few rings and bracelets off? I can’t hear what you’re doing (laughs).’ But he’s really sweet to do that.
One thing I’ve been doing with the band is I try to learn one new thing every day –not matter how small. And then that night incorporate it into the show. We have these sections in our live set where we kind of go off the rails a little bit and we don’t really know how we’re going to end. It’s kind of jazz (laughs). You have to listen to each other. Even when I was 13 when we started the band, I was always impatient. I wanted to get out there, I wanted to play live. I’ve been trying to harness that again. That pressure kind of helps. Those little rewards of learning something and applying it and seeing how it improves your work.
When you came by Epiphone to make an introductory video for your Signature Explorer, the guitar never left your hands! Now that it’s had some stage-time, how is it holding up?
Dude, it’s amazing. This was actually something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. In passing, they’d say, ‘We should do an Epiphone…’
and I’d say ‘yeah…yeah… that would be great.’ And now here it is! Having an Epiphone signature model is extremely important to me because it gives me a broader reach. I’ve had signature models before but they’ve also been pretty much a mortgage payment. Even from a financial aspect, with my Epiphone, I get to give the gift of music and put a great guitar in the hands of people who want it. It could be someone’s first guitar but it’s not something you’ll ever have to upgrade. This a real guitar and it feels like home to me. What I love about an Explorer is when you see someone playing one, you know they’re going to rock. It has those edges to it. I always feel like a rock star with my Epiphone. I hope anyone who picks it up feels like a rock star, too. I would encourage them to make a lot of noise with it because that’s currently what I’m doing (laughs)!