When Revolver catches up with Lzzy Hale, the Halestorm singer and guitarist is, in her own words, in "purgatory." Which is not as bad a place to be as it sounds. Rather, Hale is referring to that span of time between completing a new album — in this case, Halestorm's upcoming fourth full-length, Vicious — and when the record actually comes out and the fans get to hear it. Compounding her anticipation is the fact that the release date for Vicious — July 27 — is also the date of the kickoff of Halestorm's U.S. summer tour. "So I'm super excited, but also a little nervous," she says.
To pass the time in between then and now, Hale has been home in Nashville, rehearsing with her band — which also includes guitarist Joe Hottinger, bassist Josh Smith and drummer Arejay Hale — but otherwise trying not to think too much about music. Which hasn't worked out that well. "I've been telling myself, 'Go watch a movie,' or something like that," Hale says. "But then every day I wind up either sitting down at the piano or picking up a guitar anyway. I don't think I can turn it off. I was working on a new song yesterday and I'm like, 'This album isn't even out yet! Why am I focusing on songwriting?' It's strange when you realize that your passion has also become your affliction."
Thankfully, Revolver is here to help take Hale's attention off of her own music — and focus it squarely on that of other artists. When it comes to picking the albums that made her, Hale not only considers how her favorite records have influenced her own work with Halestorm, but also how they have helped to make her the person that she is. And once she gets going, the albums, as well as the life experiences associated with them, flow out of her quickly and easily. The only challenge, it seems, is getting her to stop at 10.
"You're going to get me going down the rabbit hole talking about all this stuff," she says with a laugh. Which admittedly, isn't such a bad way to spend an afternoon in purgatory. Hale laughs again. "There are worse!"
I grew up on a lot of my parents' music, so there's a lot of classic rock in my background from the Seventies and Eighties. And one of the earliest records that I remember listening to with my dad is Love It to Death. And it was so funny because I remember being an 11-year-old and really loving this record, and trying to play it at a slumber party with my friends who were into TLC and the Backstreet Boys. And you realize when you pop it in, "Oh, I'm a different type of girl!" So thanks to that record I was introduced to my own oddball-ness. That was the moment I realized I was different. And the great thing about Alice Cooper is that you get into his catalog and you realize he's the weirdest one of them all. And I just ended up owning it. I remember being discouraged at first and then gathering a lot of strength from that.
This was another one I was listening to when I was about 11 or 12. I was introduced to it before I knew of Dio's relationship to Black Sabbath and all of that. I just remember his voice being so incredibly transcendent. And he wasn't afraid of strange subject matter — he never really aimed for the middle. It was always an extreme on one end of the other. I remember getting a lot of inspiration from that when I was first learning to write songs. And so I ended up writing a lot of odd songs when I was younger, about, you know, mystical timekeepers and time travelers and all this stuff. It's because I dug so deep into Dio. And this record is awesome because I can still go back now as an adult and learn new things from it every time I pop it on.
This was actually the first Heart record I ever listened to. Up until then I was listening to a lot of guy-fronted bands, and I think it was my mom who was like, "OK, you've gotta listen to some female rockers, too!" I remember having it click vocally with me, like, "Oh, wow, it's possible for a female to sound like that!" Especially because it's a live record, so you can really hear everything — not just with Ann [Wilson]'s vocals but also with Nancy [Wilson]'s guitar playing. The whole band is just so solid and it's an amazing, amazing performance. And I remember it was my mission to figure out how they did that, how they actually sounded like that. But yeah, this was the first female-fronted CD I fell in love with.
I got this record and I devoured it. And then I ended up becoming obsessed with this compilation VHS tape they put out of all the videos of the songs on that record. That was when it clicked for me on guitar — it was the way that Tom [Keifer] wielded that white Les Paul Custom in those videos. Really, that was probably the biggest reason why I ended up picking up a guitar, let alone a white Les Paul Custom. Cinderella obviously got caught up in the hair metal scene but they were such a blues band. And such a good live band. And it's so funny because now I've gotten to know Tom and he's a very good friend of mine. And the last time we saw him live my bass player [Josh Smith] pointed out, "Oh, dude, I get it! You have the same vibrato!" I never noticed that before. But I think early on that stuff just kind of soaks in. So Tom's a big reason why I play the way I do, and probably why I sing the way I do.
Once I started to make the transition to guitar — because I was playing keyboards when we started the band — I was trying to figure out riffs I could play without really having a lot of knowledge. And my dad ended up showing me Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, because he knew I loved Dio. So he asked me, "Have you ever dug into this?" And I was like, "No, this is awesome!" And one of the first riffs I learned was the title track, "Heaven and Hell." That riff, it gave me hope. Like, "Awesome! I can play!"
After I met Joe Hottinger we ended up trading a bunch of CDs, because he's a child of the '90s and I was still kind of living about a decade behind in my interest in music [laughs]. So I gave him a bunch of the albums that I was just mentioning, like Night Songs and Heaven and Hell and Love It to Death, and he ended up giving me Jeff Buckley's Grace. I had never really heard of Jeff Buckley before I met Joe, and he was like, "What? That is ridiculous!" This album changed the course of what I thought was possible both vocally and with musical arrangements. It's such a mature record and definitely one of those records that I go back to and listen to and learn something new. It never ceases to amaze me. There's something otherworldly about it. It's just monumental. It's one of those albums that makes you realize there's this whole other layer that's possible.
One of the first songs we ever really covered as a band was "Heartbreaker." And the album it was on was In the Heat of the Night. I think it was Pat Benatar's debut. What I love about this record is that it's tough and it has a lot of teeth to it, but she was still able to be feminine. It showed me this whole different position of power with female-fronted rock. And I remember hearing the song "Heartbreaker" and going, "OK, we definitely have to do that!" So if you can imagine a young Lzzy in a smoky bar trying her hand at "Heartbreaker"… [laughs] that was because of this record.
One of my favorite songs on this is "That's the Way." It's such an amazing performance. And the record is so good. What I love about Zeppelin is that you can listen to their entire catalog and kind of see where they were at in the moment. They were so comfortable with themselves, and especially on this record they kind of settled in and were just talking about what they were feeling at the time. It feels really natural and comfortable and they aren't trying to be anything that they're not. So I just love the record.
You can't have this list without Wildflowers! It's such a classic record. And man, I dare anybody to display a more amazing body of work than Tom Petty. This is such a mature record, and it's right on that cusp where he still has this energetic kind of young attitude, but he's super confident in what he's doing. So it's like, "Hey, yeah, you thought I was great before? Check this out." I actually got into this when I was a little older. Obviously I had heard the songs growing up, but I never really listened to the record in its entirety until I was probably 20. But that's the point where you can really start appreciating the songwriting more, instead of just, "All right, I wanna rock!" You start appreciating what makes a song a good song. And a lot of these songs are just four chords and the truth. But the melodies are just amazing. I love a record where I can be in the car listening to it and I can sing all the harmonies and melodies. It's so well put together.
Not everybody likes this record, because it was kind of "after." This is not Aerosmith's super-classic period. Everybody always goes for Rocks or Draw the Line or even something like Get a Grip. But Nine Lives is awesome. I love the songwriting and the arrangements. And man, just Steven Tyler's voice, even though this was a little bit later, it's so great. This was something that Joe and I agreed on when we first met: "Nine Lives is a fantastic record!"