In conversation with Lzzy Hale on Tour Stop[ped] and a musician’s life during a pandemic

Lzzy Hale chats on Tour Stop[ped], balancing health and wellness, adjusting to life off the road, and staying creative during a pandemic

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The Recording Academy and MusiCares Facebook event called Tour Stop[ped] is an interesting conversation from musicians across different genres about the shutdown of touring due to the pandemic and how they are dealing with it. Moderated by musician Stephen Gibb, panelists include guitarist and front person for Halestorm Lzzy Hale, British rapper YUNGBLUD, musician Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), and singer-songwriter KennyHoopla, with special guest appearances by musicians Grandson and Donita Sparks.

flyer with photo of lzzy hale and other musicians

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The discussions included balancing health and wellness, adjusting to life on the road during quarantine, modifying recording and performance schedules, and staying creative during this difficult time.

This global pandemic has affected many worldwide. The live entertainment industry has been hit hard with the closure of many iconic music venues. The number of layoffs from artists and entertainers to the crew, concession workers, ticket sellers, and more is staggering.

It’s bad enough that people deal with mental health issues in a “normal” environment, but throw a quarantine in the mix, and it’s a disaster. The charity MusiCares, assists those in need in the music community, offering confidential preventive, recovery, and emergency programs to address financial, medical, and personal health issues.

We had a chance to chat with Lzzy Hale to discuss being part of the event and how she is dealing with life during this difficult time.

It’s not just a career choice for me;
it’s an extension of me.

As musicians are adjusting to life off the road, what have you been doing to adjust?

Like most of the people in the world right now during this pandemic, we’ve all had to kind of look at ourselves differently in the mirror. Touring for me since I was thirteen or so, has been, you know, 90% of my life. In fact, it’s probably been over twenty years since the last time that I went this long without a live gig. So it’s quite an adjustment, not just career-wise or lifestyle-wise, but internally as well. It’s not just a career choice for me; it’s an extension of me.

So it’s kind of been bittersweet because as negative as that sounds, I’ve discovered a lot about myself creatively through this whole process. Obviously, within the band, we’ve been writing a record and just having this time without any like real open-ended plan. We’ve been able to take risks, not that we weren’t taking risks before, but I think that’s just the state of the world. Now, you kind of think about it like, “Well, yeah, I have nothing to lose. I might as well, you know, go full force.”

And also, there’s been a lot of things and adventures that I’ve been saying “yes” to that maybe I wouldn’t have said yes to if we had been on the road 250 days a year. I’ve been honing my skills in a bunch of different areas. I’ve done about ten or so collaborations this year.

I’ve been hosting a couple of shows (Raise Your Horns and AXS TV’s Year in Music), and I am going to be a judge along with Alice Cooper, Bishop Briggs, Gavin Rossdale, and Tosin Abasi on a new show called No Cover. I am discovering a lot about who I am without just being the front of Halestorm. That’s been a beautiful thing. I’m also trying to look at all of this like it’s a gift. I’m mourning the way it used to be, but I’m also looking toward the future and trying to be excited about whatever that new normal may be on the other side.

It’s kind of been this weird domino effect because if you decide to take the risk and step outside of your comfort zone, people kind of notice. I got the AXS TV gig because of doing Raise Your Horns. And then I got the No Cover deal because people were watching the AXS TV gig.

So I have this fantastic gear collection.

How has the creative process changed?

The creative process has been kind of this relay sport because our bass player’s wife is about to have a second baby, so we’re trying to keep everybody safe. But the idea will start with me; I’ll pass the baton to my guitar player. We pass it to our rhythm section. Then we all like talk about it later, so it’s definitely different than the way we would normally do it. My bandmates are amazing—I’ve literally been living two feet from all of them for over seventeen years now. They probably know me better than my own family does. These are my guys—it’s like keeping up a marriage, but with three other people.

I have a studio in my basement with just about every piece of equipment you could ever want because I’ve never thrown anything out, and I’ve been in this band for twenty-three years! So I have this fantastic gear collection. Then I have two writing stations upstairs—one is piano-based and the other one is guitar-based. I like keeping those things separate because it helps creatively—it’s like you ping pong between the two stations.

So I feel like I’m very lucky because I’ve been able to not only record our own songs and make these amazing sounding demos but also working on a bunch of different projects. I’ve been on a couple of different recordings with other people. They send me their parts and I’m able to do it at my house because I have an amazing vocal chain and some amazing equipment. I feel really lucky in that aspect because I honestly haven’t felt the effect of not being in a real studio at all, in my perspective. I think I would absolutely go crazy if that wasn’t the case.

So the beautiful thing about what’s happened now is that I want to take it all the way and learn more about my own recording process. I’ve gotten really good at comping my own vocals. I talked with our producer the other day and running into this next record, I’ll do vocals with him, and then I’ll come home and spend a week doing vocals at home just to get that different perspective and that different sound.

. . . I’ve rediscovered music in a different way.

From our conversations with many musicians throughout the years, mental health is a huge topic, and we chatted with you last year on this very topic. What have you been doing during this time to care for yourself?

It’s been a challenge, actually. I’m doing good, but it’s a roller coaster. Mental health and self-care are not just something that is bestowed upon you. It’s something that you have to work for. It’s hard. I definitely had my, especially at the beginning of all of this, had my bouts with depression—just the unknown future and panicking about all of that. Some of the things that I’ve been doing beyond music, being such a beautiful thing, is I’ve rediscovered music in a different way. I’m not necessarily writing for anybody but myself. I know that that should be a given always, but I think there are other factors that go into it—like you’re writing for your career or you’re writing because you have a schedule coming up. Now, I’m writing from a place where I can find my joy, and I can give myself those rewards and create something out of nothing. That has helped a lot.

Music, in general, has absolutely been my saving grace through all of this, but I also started going to therapy, and that’s been one of the greatest acts of self-love that I’ve done for myself. I had put it off for years. My little brother, who is also my drummer, has gone off and on throughout his young adult life. I remember being on the bus at like 4:00 AM and just talking about certain things in my head—he’s always been a kind of a good sounding board for that—and he’s like, “you gotta go to therapy.” I grew up in a generation where it’s like if you have to go to therapy, that means you’re crazy. Right?

So I thought, “I don’t need therapy.” I can just do my thing and whatever. But I started going, and it’s just been so amazing to have somebody that is not part of your family and that knows the inner workings of the psyche. So I have this amazing tool chest right now that when I know and recognize certain things happening within me, I can take out one of those tools and be like, all right, this is just the thing. So that’s been helpful as well.

And in my daily life, I put myself on a schedule regardless of what’s happening in the world. I map out my week. I give myself tasks. I exercise every day. I do a lot cooking. Also, something that’s been really helpful for me that I’ve actually suggested to a lot of my friends, regardless of whether you’re a writer or a musician or whatever, rewriting has been awesome. I have a notebook that’s literally pen to paper. I date every day, and I just word vomit for about three pages on whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be even anything serious, just like, “Hey, I really want cereal, and we don’t have any cereal in the house.”

Just by getting your thoughts out on paper, it’s kind of like purging your closet, you know, and it’s just good, and you feel better about it. It’s almost like you just vented to somebody, and you did, but just on paper. It’s actually helped me creatively too because then I’ll go back into that notebook and there’ll be certain lines that I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, there’s my truth. I should write about that.”

Mental health and maintaining mental health is a hard thing to keep up because sometimes you just don’t want to do it, or you feel like, “Oh, I should just be happy,” or “I should just be this.” But it’s not that way. It’s not that way for a lot of people. And a lot of people right now who may be used to having those outlets, those, “Hey, you know, I’m feeling down, I’m going to go out with my friends” or “Hey, I’m feeling this way, I’m going to go out and see a movie.” And you can’t do any of that right now. So a lot of people that maybe didn’t know they had certain dark clouds hovering over them are experiencing that right now. So it’s more important than ever for everyone to just kind of take care of themselves and look internally and find that whatever it is that helps you. You have to find that for yourself.

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What has partnering with MusiCares on this project meant to you?

MusiCares has done so much for so many people. Not only on mental health but also with addiction or other issues like our roadie family who has nowhere to go right now. So it’s just always great to partner up with them. And, of course, the people at the Recording Academy. I was so honored to be on this panel because all four of us, myself and Yungblud and Laura Grace and Henny Hoopla, come from four different corners of the music world and the rock world.

It was so beautiful to get involved in having conversations with them. I learned so much about how each person is handling all of this, and it really helped me gain this feeling of gratitude for just being alive and understanding that we need each other. It was somewhat comforting for me to know that there were three other musicians that were in some way going through the same thing that I’m going through now. Inherently, I know that, but it was so beautiful to actually get into a conversation about it and have it be out there.

What I’m hoping that this does for other people when they’re watching it is that they look at us and think, “Oh, I see they’re going through the same thing. I’m not alone.” This is something that’s happening to everyone. Look, all four of us have been successful musicians, and we are not immune. We are not immune to any of these feelings; therefore, we’re all in this together. I feel like by doing things like this panel and by just reinforcing the fact that the four of us can be so incredibly different, but that we all have that common ground. It’s going to take all of us to get through it together. Nobody has to go that alone. So it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. I hope that everybody watching gets the same feeling that I got out of it.

. . . venues are like sacred churches
as far as musicians go.

How can people get involved?

There are so many different outlets. Obviously, the Save Our Stages is near and dear to my heart because these venues are like sacred churches as far as musicians go. These are the places that we cut our teeth on. The fact that there’s so many of them that are disappearing right now is so incredibly sad. And when we get to this other side, where are the musicians going to go? One thing that I’m actually concerned about is that middle ground. Where do the bands go when you’re too big for the coffee houses, but you’re not playing the arenas? Where are the young bands going to go to hone their craft and build their fan base? And that’s what we’re seeing right now. So that’s definitely something to get involved in. Post on social media, make people aware, get the word out. The MusiCares website has a list of ways to get involved.


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