Feral frontvixen Lzzy Hale makes some truly menacing music with her mighty metal powerhouse Halestorm, from early singles like “Familiar Taste of Poison” to the wicked-humored – and Grammy-nominated “Love Bites…(So Do I),” and pretty much every rumbling track on the band’s new Into the Wild Life long-player for Atlantic, including the self-explanatory titles “Scream,” “Apocalyptic,” “Sick Individual,” and “Bad Girl’s World.” But if you think that’s scary, wait ‘til you see the jewelry she creates for her cutting-edge fashion line Scissor Happy. Some pieces are almost too dangerous to wear.
“I was obsessed with forks and utensils a couple of years ago, and I was making things out of that,” confesses the raspy-throated rocker. “One day I went to a flea market, and this guy sold me this old box of silverware, and he thought I was nuts, because I was like, ‘Sure! I’ll buy your box of crap!’ But I used it. And I made this spider necklace, but didn’t necessarily file everything down.” After presenting it as a gift to her guitarist, Joseph Hottinger, she came to a horrific realization: “If you go onstage and you headbang with that necklace on, you’re gonna whack yourself in the head! And it will definitely leave a mark! So I probably won’t do that again.”
Otherwise, Hale’s basic attitude is anything goes. She frequently employs sharp objects in her art, like razor-toothed saw blades and pointy scissors. She also has an extensive range of scruffy T-shirts, featuring slogans such as ‘Slave no more,’ whose selection she equates with naming snarky Halestorm anthems. And her artistic premise for every item seems to be ‘What would Daryl Dixon wear on The Walking Dead‘? “And you know,” she chuckles, “you could probably put him in any life-altering decision as an example, and ask What would Daryl Dixon do? What would he wear? And am I as cool as he is, stepping out the door this morning?”
This burgeoning sideline all started innocently enough, long before Hale and her percussionist brother Arejay first started writing songs together as teenagers back in ’97. As a kid growing up in Red Lion, PA., she used to haunt her father’s cluttered garage, stealing whatever spare engine parts she could to convert to something spooky. “Later, I’d be wearing something and my dad would be like, ‘Uhh…was that mine at some point?’ And I was like, ‘I found it on the floor, dad! You must have not even wanted it anymore!’ At first, I just liked finding things, and a lot of the jewelry I was making was from other things that broke.”
Later, Hale started tinkering with metal and leather on the road, conceiving pieces in the tour bus and gifting them to fellow bandmates and other musicians she happened to meet. She never had any plans to go professional. But one night, Halestorm’s merchandise girl sheepishly approached her after a show, and handed her $200. “And I said ‘What’s this for?’ and she said, ‘I sold the jacket you made me’,” she recalls, of the night her new career began in earnest. “And I said, ‘What? Off your back?’ And she told me how this girl would not shut up at the merch booth, until she offered $200 cash for that jacket. Then I started getting a lot of requests through social media, like ‘I want one of those, too!’ So I decided to put up a website and try to get this thing started, and just spread the love around. So now I’m working on revamping that website and putting up even more pieces – it’s been an ongoing process.”
The vocalist has toyed with diving deeper into the fashion world, possibly hobnobbing with other designers at various runway shows. But every time she gets an invite, she sighs, she’s on tour with her juggernaut. “So maybe one of these days, because I definitely wouldn’t say no. But I’m just not at that level yet,” she honestly assesses of Scissor Happy. But her dogmatic self-belief is catching. In fact, if you carefully scratch beneath the powerchord surface of Into the Wild Life, you’ll easily pick up on her winning, self-empowerment philosophy, perfectly exemplified in the plush power ballad “Dear Daughter.” Its message reads like an uplifting pep talk first offered by Hale’s mother, but now passed on as advice to the legion of young female fans who’ve come to see her as a role model: “Dear daughter/ Don’t worry about those stupid girls/ If they try to bring you down/ It’s cuz they’re scared and insecure/ Dear daughter/ Don’t change for any man/ Even if he promises the stars/ And takes you by the hand.”
Hale might snap and snarl through other riff-roiling material. But her intent shines through in heartwarming spades, in “I Am the Fire” (“I am the fire/ I am burning brighter/ Roaring like a storm/ And I am the one I’ve been waiting for”); “Scream” (“Step out of the haze/ Sleepwalkers awake/ The pills that they give/ You don’t have to take/ Scream until they hear you”); and her essential – and decidedly tongue-in-cheek – mission statement, “Sick Individual” (“I’m unusual/ Ain’t taking no shit…And I’m doing this thing called/ Whatever the fuck I want”). The album was produced by Jay Joyce in, of all places, Nashville, and it’s no predictable Sunday-morning sermon. Halestorm happily flips the script with the AC/DC-meets-Bob-Seger closer “I Like it Heavy,” which showcases both the band and Hale’s classic R&B chops as it discusses in detail, well, exactly how the quartet likes it. Which is heavy. Really heavy.
Hale makes no secret about her girl-power lyrical intent. “There’s a lot of that on this record,” she admits. “And my mother will tell you this anyway, but ever since I was a kid, writing songs has always been my outlet for my rebellion, and for figuring myself out. At least 95% of the time, I’ve always been able to be a relatively calm and pleasant person, but only because I have that outlet. So on this record, maybe it’s from growing up, or maybe it’s because it’s our third record and not our first rodeo. But I’m so much more comfortable now putting a lot of that stuff out there in the songs. Whereas I wasn’t necessarily brave enough to put a song like a lot of these new ones on our first record (2009’s Halestorm). So I think it’s really great to hear the response, and how a lot of people have gotten so much encouragement through these songs. But you know, a lot of that was just me telling myself, ‘Hey! Get your shit together!'”
The gal gives such good advice, in fact, that she’s been hired to do it at a couple of locations, in print and on the air – her ‘Ask Lzzy’ column runs in Revolver Magazine and through Hard Drive Radio. “I’ve been doing a bunch of ‘em on the road, because we’re out on tour now,” she says. “I basically get sent these letters from kids, and I have a little recording rig and I answer them for radio in the back of the bus. And sometimes there’s chaos going on in the background, but that’s cool. It’s really neat, and, again, it’s something I like to do anyway. So just to have that outlet, and to be able to answer them as I get them, in a live voice, not through Twitter? It’s fun, and I really like it.”
– Tom Lanham
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