Live Metal has covered Halestorm since our beginning, chronicling its rise from a band out of Pennsylvania—and regular visitors to our Maryland stomping grounds—to stars around the world. The quartet—vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale, drummer Arejay Hale, guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith—began 2013 by winning its first Grammy (Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for “Love Bites”) and will end it with a headlining run in the United States on the heels of its latest release, “Reanimate 2.0: The Covers EP.” A few days prior to the start of the tour, Joe Hottinger called in to talk about the upcoming shows, the new release and more.
LIVE METAL: You’re just about to go out on another U.S. tour, a headlining tour with Redlight King and Stars in Stereo. What can the fans expect to see from you on this run?
JOE HOTTINGER: It’s gonna be a Halestorm rock show. You’ve seen us before. We go out there and we don’t use tracks; we just go out there and interact with the crowd. To me, the crowd is just as important in a rock show as the band. When we feel that energy out there, it gets us excited. We play some songs faster depending on the crowd, and it’s fun. It’s just a good rock show.
The bands you’re taking out—Redlight King and Stars in Stereo. You toured with Stars in Stereo earlier this year, so I guess you got along well with them. And then Redlight King, do you know those guys already?
We met Redlight King once or twice when we did some festivals. They’re a great band. Kaz (vocalist Mark Kasprzyk) is cool. It’s kind of old-school-attitude rock ‘n’ roll with almost hip-hoppy rhythms but still a rock band. And Stars in Stereo, we love them. We had so much fun with them on the Bullet for My Valentine tour we did in the spring. So when their name came up, we were like, “Of course!” They’re a great band. They’re fresh, and they’re from L.A. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
I live in Maryland, and I’ve seen you play many times in the Baltimore area. You’re playing Baltimore on this tour. Can you talk a little bit about playing there? It seems like it’s always been really good to you there.
Baltimore is one of our homes away home. We came up in York, PA—that’s where I first met Halestorm 10 years ago. Baltimore is 25 minutes away. So probably every month, we played Noise in the Basement at Fletcher’s for 98 Rock. We’d haul our gear up that fire escape (laughs). We’ve always come to Baltimore. It’s one of the best rock towns in the country. And you guys have Rams Head (Live), which is such a great venue.
The new release you have out is “Reanimate 2.0: The Covers EP.” How did you go about picking the songs to cover for this one?
We actually hadn’t heard that (Judas) Priest song (“Dissident Aggressor”) before. When we heard that first note—(imitates Rob Halford’s scream)—it was like, “Man, this would be cool to hear Lzzy do that.” So we talked about it, and when we were headlining in Europe last fall, we just played Birmingham, which is where Priest is from, and we were like, “We should’ve covered that Priest song we were talking about that one time.” So we were like, “Screw it, we’ll just do it now.” So we learned it that day, and when it came time to put the covers EP together, we were like, “Well, we’ve already covered it before live. Why don’t we just do it in the studio?” I think it turned out cool.
“Get Lucky” was a suggestion from our A&R guy at Atlantic. When he suggested it, I hadn’t really heard it before. Turns out it’s a really good song, and I think it sounds cool as a rock song, with a good melody and neat lyrics. I’m glad he suggested it, because we had fun doing it.
The other songs, we had on the website, “What would you like to hear us cover?” So Pat Benatar, “Hell is for Children” came up. We love AC/DC, so it was natural to cover AC/DC. And the Fleetwood Mac one (“Gold Dust Woman”) is one we did at our acoustic shows around PA and Baltimore. We threw a couple covers in, and that was one of them, and we thought it would be fun to do that one again.
I know it was said that covering “Slave to the Grind” on the first EP kind of inspired the band to write a faster, heavier song like “Love Bites” on the last album. Do you see any of the covers from this time around having such a direct influence going forward?
Yeah. I love that Fleetwood Mac song. I love that it’s a ballad but still dark, and that’s one thing we’re really working on for the next record. And with “Get Lucky,” that riff that grooves (sings riff)—it’s a lay-back-in-the-groove kind of rock song. We’ll see.
As far as the next album goes, do you feel like there’s gonna be any extra pressure on you this time since the last one has done so well?
I’m not feeling any pressure. We’ve already begun writing and collecting ideas. With the last record, we chased what we were excited about musically. It’s never done, but at some point, you’ve got to stop. I think that’s all we can do. If it doesn’t work out, as long as we can say we did our best, I’m not worried. We’re home for about a week right now, and we just sit around and play and record ideas and jam out. After touring for so long, we really look forward to getting into the studio. And then after a month in the studio, you’re like, “Alright, when are we gonna tour again?” (laughs) But I’m looking forward to getting in there and doing it.
What kind of things inspire you now? Is it the same as when you were younger or do you always seek out new inspiration?
I’m always looking. We just finished up a European tour with Alter Bridge. It’s pretty cool to see Mark Tremonti each day. He’s an amazing guitar player, and he works really hard at it. Every day, he’s in the dressing room hashing stuff out, learning new things and writing things. He was showing me what he’s working out and these online guitar tutorials. There’s a cool website called TrueFire that he goes to all the time. There’s this one guy that put a video out there—I forget his name right now. He’s like, “Check this solo out.” This guy is awesome, just improv guitar solos, minute-long bits, and Mark was learning them note for note. It really inspired me. Musically, I’m always looking for something new.
A lot of people have just become aware of Halestorm in the past two or three years, but the band has been around a long time. You’ve been in the band for 10 years. What has kept the four of you together?
We’re family. It’s what we do. We go out on the road, and that’s kind of our home. We have a good time, and we laugh a lot. We always hang out, even on days off. We’re just friends. We don’t really fight. We have a great crew around us. I don’t know. We never have issues.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I can’t wait to get back to Baltimore. We’ve played there a lot this year. I think this is our third or fourth show in Baltimore. It’s one of the best rock towns in the country. I’m glad people have stuck it out with us. See you in a few weeks.