"I wrote about a threesome I had in Holland." Lzzy Hale picks the 15 greatest Halestorm songs, and explains the stories behind them

Lzzy Hale
(Image credit: Kramer Voyager)

Whether we’re talking radio-friendly hits, headbangers or ballads, Halestorm aren’t short on material. A dive into their 15-year, five-LP recording career reveals enough songs to create a multitude of nuclear-grade setlists. But which ones stand out for their frontwoman? 

Back from a whirlwind UK tour and resettled in her Nashville pad, surrounded by guitars – including her new, glittery, sharp-edged signature model (“I’ve gotten Joe [Hottinger] in the back of the knees, like, 15 times with this thing!”) – Lzzy Hale nails down her top choices. Expect big-hitters, cult favourites and a lot of memories…

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15. I Am The Fire (Into The Wild Life, 2015)

“It kind of came out of nowhere. I remember thinking, ‘This is so cheesy – 'I am the fire', really?!’ But every single day, somebody tells me some story about how this song affected them. 

Yesterday I was doing a meet-and-greet here in Nashville, and that song got brought up twice – there was a young woman who cried on my shoulder, telling me about how it gave her the strength to get out of an abusive relationship. And there was a dad who was like, ‘I have two daughters and they listened to it on their way to school to pump themselves up.’”

14. Rock Show (The Strange Case Of..., 2012)

“It was inspired by a letter I got from a 15-year-old girl, Ali. A young guitar player, she’s gotten through a lot in her life – parental anguish, loss of family members and death and all this. And this beautiful letter that she wrote depicts how she found her peace in who she was at the rock show. 

So I took this into our jam sessions and said, ‘We have to write a song for this girl.’ There’s something about the simplicity of it; the idea that it was written in a young girl’s language, talking about the magic of being surrounded by people that love the same music as you.”

13. Killing Ourselves To Live (Vicious, 2018)

“It started as a ballad! Joe and I ended up staying in Byron Bay, Australia, just for a couple of days after a tour, because we hadn’t had a vacation in a while. So we’re sitting on the beach, and I don’t know who came up with it first – ‘Here we are killing ourselves to live!’, we were singing into our phones. 

Everybody around us probably thought we were a little insane… But we ended up putting it together for Vicious. And riff-wise, it’s some of Joe’s signature moves that nobody really sees – not stereotypical ways to play the guitar.”

12. Love Bites (So Do I) (The Strange Case Of..., 2012)

Love Bites was just for us. It was fun to play in the studio. I love the punk-ness of it. We were on the tail-end of recording our first Reanimate [covers] EP, we did a Skid Row cover, Slave To The Grind, and I remember going, ‘We don’t have a tempo like this!’ So I wrote this song. 

I still have no idea what I was writing about; I think it was just me against love. It came together fairly quickly and we were just like, ‘I can’t wait to play this song live.’ But all of a sudden, it went gangbusters…”

11. It's Not You (Halestorm, 2009)

“That was one of the first riffs I wrote on guitar, when I was 17. I only started guitar when I was 16, and I was coming from being a piano player. So my perspective on the fretboard is different to how a lot of people approach guitar, if that’s their first instrument. 

Now, it’s an incredible fan favourite. So if I think I’m not good enough at my instrument, I circle back to that moment of creating this song, not having any idea what I’m doing… but it’s stood the test of time.”

10. Break In (The Strange Case Of..., 2012)

“Again, kind of a cult fan favourite. People have had it for their weddings, graduations, love found, love lost… But two or three years after we released the record, we were on tour with Evanescence

Amy Lee loves the ballad, and she comes into my dressing room one night and says, ‘So no one’s doing the harmonies with you! Can I come out and do it?’ And it became this beautiful duet all on its own. It was wonderful, because for the longest period of time, I was never really touring with girls. So we kind of got to swap war stories from the industry.”

9. Wicked Ways (Back From The Dead, 2022)

“We play it live and I’m like, ‘OK, make sure you get a deep breath in…’ Ha ha ha! But I like the challenge. It’s one of my more aggressive vocal performances, to the point where some radio stations in the States wouldn’t play it because the intro was “too aggressive”. 

On the one hand, I’m kind of proud of that. On the other hand, I’m like, ‘too aggressive… for a girl??’ This was one of those word-vomit songs where I’m just like, ‘I’m going to list everything I don’t like about myself and try to make it poetic later’. I need to tell myself that it’s OK to be all of these things, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.”

8. Familiar Taste Of Poison (Halestorm, 2009)

Back in 2003, Lzzy was very much an analogue girl, recording ideas on an old four-track Tascam device. “It was in my dad’s basement,” she reasons cheerfully, “and I’m like, ‘Sure, that works!’ It took me a second to get on the digital train…” 

Armed with this retro gear, she came up with some verses and an acoustic section. At that point, she didn’t know what they’d become, if anything. But something told her to hang on to them. Not long after, she met the boy who’d become Halestorm’s guitarist (and ultimately her partner), Joe Hottinger. 

Together they worked on the track, though it still didn’t have a chorus. Nothing further happened until 2005, when Halestorm were signed to Atlantic. Familiar Taste Of Poison – in its unfinished form – reared its head…

“It wasn’t until 2009 that our debut actually came out,” Lzzy recalls, “but during that period we were collecting song ideas. We had, like, 60 songs that we had not narrowed down for this album. It was maniacal, because it’s true, you have your whole life to write for your debut, right?!” 

Lzzy brought everything to these sessions. All her tapes, notebooks and miscellaneous scribblings were pored over. Familiar Taste Of Poison was completed for their debut, and it remains one of Lzzy’s favourites to play. 

“I think about that song a lot,” she says, “because it was worth it; it was worth hanging onto those cassette tapes with those verses, it was worth hanging onto those notebooks with the scratched-out stuff that I thought was dumb… It’s worth putting everything down, because you don’t know when it’s going to be ready for you, or you’re going to be ready for it. 

“Since then I’ve become a serial hoarder. I have bits and pieces of songs everywhere, because you have to keep going back, and you have to keep rediscovering stuff and looking at it in a new way.”

7. Heart Of Novocaine (Vicious, 2018)

“We were about to head over to the studio, and I had this thing in my head, and ended up writing it in, like, five minutes on the piano. I played it for Nick [Raskulinecz, producer]… and he cried during the bridge. He’s like, ‘You really meant that, didn’t you?’ 

At that time, there were a couple of toxic people in my life that I was more or less trying to not deal with anymore, but feeling guilty, because they were people that were very important to me, at one point – but had become not good for me. I remember feeling very sad about that. So I think that that’s where that was coming from.”

6. I Like It Heavy (Into The Wild Life, 2015)

“When I say it’s ‘dumb’, I mean that as the biggest compliment. Because it’s hard to think of a song, like, ‘Will it carry in an arena?’ You know, ‘Is it saying everything it needs to say, with just a few chords and a few words?’ And I think we accomplished that with this song. You can’t play it and not smile. 

Also we were doing a lot of experimenting during this; we recorded it in a church here in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce, everything was miked, everything was always on… The word ‘no’ did not exist.”

5. Do Not Disturb (Vicious, 2018)

“I was writing this song shortly after we moved to Nashville. I was on a synth-dance kick. It was a retro sound, just throwing out the formula I usually have for Halestorm. It was just for me, but stupid Lzzy decides to send it to the guys anyway… And we’re in the middle of making Vicious, and Josh [Smith, bassist] brings up Do Not Disturb and I’m like, ‘NO! It is a song that I wrote about a threesome that I had in Holland! And it’s a synth track!’ 

But one of the biggest joys on that album cycle was these poor journalists that didn’t really want to talk about it, their ears would get red and hot… It was adorable! It made everybody a little uncomfortable, and I love that – that’s kind of what rock’n’roll is about.”

4. I Miss The Misery (The Strange Case Of..., 2012)

“One of our more popular ones. It’s something that we can’t necessarily get away with not doing in the set. I think it was written in 2010 or 2011. I wrote it with a good friend of mine, Scott Stevens, maybe a little after my parents were getting divorced.

And I had a conversation with my mom, and she was like, ‘You know what, it’s weird, but I kind of miss the fights, you know, I miss being annoyed with him, I miss him screwing up the laundry and yelling at him for that… little things like that.’ I just thought that was really interesting.”

3. I Get Off (Halestorm, 2009)

“We were renting a small apartment in California, each of us had maybe 20 bucks to our name, we lived through a mudslide, a fire, an earthquake, a flood, and then our original producer dropped out… we were just living week to week, not sure if we were gonna get dropped from the label. 

So we ended up doing a residency, every Wednesday, at the Viper Room, and our A&R guy brought his buddy Howard Benson [who ended up producing Halestorm] to come and see us play. And these guys, they’ve seen it all, they’re not going to clap or be moved. 

But we’re doing our performance, and they were yelling and freaking out like fans! It gave me such a rush of satisfaction… So originally it was not about sex at all, but ended up inching its way toward the gutter!”

2. Bombshell (Back From The Dead, 2022)

“When we were writing Vicious, one of our techs broke one of Nick Raskulinecz’s guitars – the tuning peg came off the high E string, just kind of hanging there limp. And Joe picks up this broken guitar, plugs it in, it’s making this crazy sound and he’s like, ‘Let me record that.’ 

Fast-forward, we’re writing Back From the Dead, and Joe says, ‘Oh I found this recording’, and I was working on something very female power-esque – there were a lot of people during that time, when I was just trying to put out a little love in the world, telling me to ‘Shut up and sing’… It’s one of my favourites to play live. Also one of our crew favourites; anytime we do soundcheck they’re like, ‘Can you do Bombshell?’”

1. Here's To Us (The Strange Case Of..., 2012)

A much-loved setlist staple, Here’s To Us has its roots in Halestorm’s fraught, uncertain early days in California, trying to get their debut over the line. “We were kind of in Purgatory,” Lzzy remembers. “There would be different news every day, like our old A&R guy got fired, or some of our friends are no longer a band anymore. Are we going to remain on Atlantic Records? Are we going to go home to Pennsylvania and just, you know, play the local bar scene for the rest of our lives?”

During this time, a ritual developed: every time something bad happened, the band went to their local corner store and picked up a $5 bottle of champagne. “It really tasted bad!” she laughs. “But we would buy it, cheers each other and say: ‘No matter what, here’s to us, because we’re the ones that decided to stay together as a band, that were doing 250 dates a year on our own, before Atlantic even came into the picture. If we have to go home, if this doesn’t work out, it’s OK. We’re still going to be a band.’” 

As history shows, it did work out. So when it came to making their second album – back in California, with the same producer, still signed to Atlantic – the band found themselves reflecting on those times, and on their good fortune since. From these conversations Here’s To Us was born. 

Since its release, the song has lived on in fans’ life stories. It’s been played at people’s weddings, graduations, birthdays and more. It even featured in an episode of mega-hit US series Glee. For Lzzy, the song’s meaning tends to change, though there’s one thing it’ll always signify. 

“Every single time we play that song, it reminds me that it is still the four of us against the world, no matter what,” she says. “The fact that we’re able to be adults with each other, and still crack stupid fart jokes and stuff on the bus, all of these little moments that I’m so grateful for, because there’s so many people that don’t have that. So yeah, Here’s To Us is one that will stand the test of time, I think, in the Halestorm setlist.”

Halestorm's latest album, Back From The Dead, is out now via Atlantic. 

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.