Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger of Halestorm talk ‘Into The Wild Life’

Few bands can reach a level of headline status after just two albums but Halestorm have done just that and more. They’ve reached a near-superstar status and it’s hard to believe, but their third record just released in Into The Wild Life. The band took a bit of a different approach to recording this album and took some time to talk to various members of the press lately via phone. The Front Row Report was lucky enough to take part in a call with the band to discuss the new record.

Media: With this new album, Into the Wild Life, soundwise, to me, it was a little bit unexpected. There was a bit of a musical change with this one in a lot of ways. I also know this was the first record not working with Howard Benson. Was that something that influenced the musical change? Where did it get its original inspiration from?

Joe: Everything influences everything. We went into the process of the record knowing we weren’t going to go back with Howard. Not because we don’t like Howard or anything like that, thank God he was there for our first two records, but it’s our third record and we want to change it up. We had an idea, and we didn’t know who to go with producer-wise, and luckily our A&R guy at Atlantic suggested Jay Joyce and we were like “who?!” and apparently Jay was like “Hale-who?!” which is awesome. We went and met with Jay, we were in Nashville here and he’s awesome, he’s a rock n roll dude. I think we may be his first hard rock record, he’s done rock records and stuff, he’s been around for a long time. He’s so cool and he became like a member of our band and what we ended up doing, well first of all the big idea was we wanted to bridge the gap between our live show, like we were talking about earlier, the energy we have the personality of RJ on drums and Lzzy’s voice sounds live. Trying to bridge the gap and the recording- what people hear.

Lzzy: Without being a live record, so it’s definitely a balance. What we ended up doing was we recorded all the basic tracks live, just the four of us, in this beautiful reformed church in Nashville. And we recorded it as a performance from beginning to end. What you’re hearing, if somebody royally makes a mistake in the middle of this recording, we all have to do it all over again. So we all were having a lot of fun busting each other’s balls with that throughout the process. But Jay definitely was brave enough to help us see that through in the absolute best way. And hold us to it.

Joe: It was exciting. Like I said, he was the fifth member of the band. The four of us would be sitting there playing working on some songs and all of a sudden in our headphones we’d hear some organs popping in and out, keyboards and stuff and we’d look over and see Jay and he’s rocking out with us. It was awesome. The other thing he did, which I’m so happy about, he knows exactly where to fuck up a song! We had a lot of these songs written before we went in there. We’d even rehearsed a couple of them we had this idea of like “okay, this is what the song is going to be like” and Jay would say in the middle of “Mayhem” or almost every single song “Alright guys, that’s great. Now right after this part here could you write a riff or do something? Do something. Fuck it up!” And we were like “okay” and we’d hang out and write a riff together and then we’d play it and what you hear on the record is one of the first times we’ve ever played some of this stuff, and I think that’s so cool. It’s real and it’s what we wanted. I think we got what we wanted out of it. Be careful what you ask for!

Media: Recording this way, not having (inaudible) imperfections and just leaving them that way, was it difficult not second guessing yourself?

Lzzy: We enjoy the imperfections- it was kind of part of our mission statement for this record, was to err on the side of ourselves and focus more on making moments and hearing the personalities and hearing us having a good time versus focusing on the imperfections. We did that on the last two records where we made sure everything was in time and in tune and layered properly, make sure all the diction is there, breathe where it’s more appropriate to breathe and this one we just kind of threw all of that away and had to trust ourselves, which is scary.

Joe: I’m glad we recorded this way. Some of my favorite records back in the day, the old Stones records, the old Beatles records, you hear that stuff in there and it’s human and it’s not this insane computer based thing. And we did use Pro Tools and whatever but you can choose to take the easy road and make it perfect or you can choose to spend the time and get the performance of it right, and that’s what we decided to do

Lzzy: One of the reasons why we ended up doing “Slave to the Grind” on the cover EP back in the day was because I just love that track. If you just listen to that entire record, but specifically that song on Slave to the Grind by Skid Row, it sounds like they were all hungover and decided to just go in somewhere and just run through the song. And I love that! Even if that wasn’t the case. I love that feeling that it brought. It’s fun and it’s fast, it’s sloppy. It’s all over the place, but it rocks. I think we wanted to make a record that made us feel like that and makes us feel like we feel when we’re listening to some of our favorite records.

Media: You guys documented much of the sessions from the album and posted on social media. Why was it so important to let the fans experience the making of?

Joe: That was strange. I questioned that myself at first, myself like “aren’t we giving away too much of the songs?” I’m really glad we did it, it was really cool.

Lzzy: I think you just have to jump and make that decision. You’ve gotta go one way or the other. You’ve got to keep everything super tight and under wraps or give everything away. And I think we just erred on the side of let’s just put it all out there and see what happens. Especially right now, in this day and age, people are going to figure out how to find shit and put it up anyways. It turned into this way of letting everybody in on the excitement that we were experiencing in making this record. It was neat haring the feedback and have all of our super fans be like “Oh did you see this one part in the behind the scenes?!”

Joe: Yea. We wanted to have somebody in there with us the whole time documenting it, because you’re making a record. Even if it’s just for us, at the end of the day we can look back at it in a decade or two and be like “Oh look. God that was fun, I’m glad we have this” Caleb who made it, who worked in the studio also did such a great job. We saw like the first thing he did and we were like “oh that’s really cool actually!” and he kept going with it weirder and weirder, and it was great, we loved it.

Media: One song that really stands out on the new record is “Dear Daughter,” it’s a very honest song was that song and I really feel like that’s something that the younger generation needs to hear, is the lyrical content in that song. Was that song inspired by any interactions with any certain fans or Lzzy, was that written to your younger self? Where did that originate from?

Lzzy: It’s actually a lot of all of those things, which honestly is most of the songs that I write start specifically in one direction and then kind of become their own little monster.

This song originated and was sparked by a conversation that I had with my mother about a year ago. As parents do sometimes after all this time, even after their kids are successful doing what they love, they question what their parenting methods were, so my mom had this conversation with me. She called me up and she asks me, she says “Liz, did I do a good job? Was I a good mom? Did I encourage you in the right ways? What’s your perspective on this?” Because we didn’t really have that conversation, because for me it was clear, like, Mom thank you so much for letting me run away and join the circus- this is awesome! So we had that conversation and of course I’m so incredible thankful that my parents were supportive of me and my brother starting a rock band, because this is what I needed in my life. This is the only thing I can really do well. If they had said “no no no no no, you have to go to college, you have to get a real job, and then maybe think about being a rock star” if they had said that I might’ve listened to them and I wouldn’t have started so early and we probably wouldn’t be where we are now. So I’m very thankful to them.

So after that conversation I started thinking, if and when I do have a kid, and specifically a daughter, because it is different being a girl and being encouraged to be a rock n roller as a girl, that took a lot of guts for my mom to say to herself and literally live with her decision for the last 18 years of, I just let my kid go into a very unpredictable dangerous landmine-laden career path. And so I started thinking, if and when I have a kid will I pass that on to my daughter and will I be brave enough to let her do whatever she wants to do in life regardless of what it is.

Then of course that evolved into me annoying everybody on Twitter with a conversation of “what did your parents say to you that you are really appreciative of?” and also got into a conversation of “What do you wish was said to you as a kid that wasn’t said that you will absolutely tell your own child and encourage them to do?” So it was kind of all of those things that made this song up.

I think it was important, personally for me to put this song on the record, because I think regardless if you’re a boy or a girl this is life and it’s hard to prepare a kid for life and tell them it’s gonna be okay because you’ve been through it and it’s hard to let them go through all of those things and it’s hard to see your kids go through the ups and downs and have heartache and have love and hope and fear and experience all these things that you did while still trying to be a good parent. So it’s an ode to my parents, but it’s also a passing of the torch as well.

Media: It really does flow well together at what point in the process did you realize you were making an album that flows together or was that the goal the whole time?

Joe: We knew that some songs were going to go together like “Scream” and “I Am the Fire” and “Dear Daughter” and “New Modern Love” we kind of had those ideas and were talking about it while we were recording and in the studio developed those transitions. The record wasn’t written like a story, but the sequencing of the record is almost a story if you think about what each song is about and how it flows, it’s really cool.

Lzzy: It’s something we weren’t really planning on but through the process it fell together perfectly. This is another testament to our producer and his chain-smoking rock star genius. Because he’s the kind of guy that you look at him and you don’t think he’s really paying attention to lyrics and the things that go into albums and then all of a sudden we’re listening to sequencing and we’re like “Oh my God! This is perfect. Holy crap!” It was awesome. I’m so glad it turned out that way and we’re so proud to, in a state of the music industry right now where everyone is freaking out over the state of rock and roll and “what are we going to do and is rock dead and maybe we should even put out albums anymore, maybe we should just do mp3’s and singles” so in that state of where we are right now we are so proud to have truly done an album and a snapshot of where we are in our lives right now. So I’m really glad that it naturally got in to that.