When Halestorm won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013 for “Love Bites (So Do I),” they figured it’d be one and done. The Recording Academy did away with the category the following year, splitting it into two, and Lzzy Hale, the singer-guitarist of the Nashville-based band, feared they’d now be too heavy for Rock and not metal enough for Metal.
“When that category went away, we thought, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen again. We ruined it,'” Hale tells Rolling Stone. She was wrong. When nominations were announced for the 61st Grammy Awards last month, Halestorm scored one for Best Rock Performance for their rapid-fire “Uncomfortable,” the lead single off the group’s latest album, Vicious.
The nomination is particularly notable for the 35-year-old Hale, an empowering female figure in rock & roll — and the only woman in a category rounded out by all-male acts like Greta Van Fleet and Arctic Monkeys. We talked to Hale about the Grammys, her take on polarizing Led Zeppelin sound-alikes Greta Van Fleet and what she learned from Eddie Van Halen.
There are only four categories under the Rock umbrella at the Grammys. Is that enough?
I think about that and I know a lot of people that get really up in arms. We’re in an interesting time because there are so many different genres and subgenres, but a lot of that doesn’t even matter any more. It’d be great to have more categories in the rock and metal category — but I don’t want that job, picking where everybody is supposed to go.
Your fellow nominees — Arctic Monkeys, the Fever333, Greta Van Fleet and the late Chris Cornell — are all dudes. Do you feel a responsibility to be a champion for women, both in and out of music?
Partially, yes. There is something in my brain that said if I get Halestorm to a point where people are actually listening to what I have to say, I might as well put out positivity and be that empowering figure that I would have wanted in a rock star. It’s a huge part of who I am. I was just talking to my parents about that over the holidays. They instilled that in me, in a lot of different ways. They were the first people to celebrate the fact that I wasn’t like the other girls.
What’s your take on the other rock nominees?
We’re all very supportive of each other. It’s so fun to be a part of that and be surrounded by bands you respect. The Fever333 are the new Rage [Against the Machine]. As far as performance rock goes, it’s something you have to see live. … It’s neat to see Greta Van Fleet buck the system. That is what rock & roll is all about: “What is everyone else doing? Let’s not do that.”
Are you a fan of Greta?
I am, because I was that age once. I started this band when I was a kid too. I know people dog on them about how they sound similar to Zeppelin, but at the same time, when we first started putting our stuff into the world, didn’t we wear our influences on our sleeves? I’ll take it, because Led Zeppelin is awesome and I think a lot of kids should be reintroduced to this. Just by being up there and playing instruments — they plug in, play and actually sing — it’s a great thing for kids to see.
Have you heard the Van Halen reunion rumors? Would you buy a ticket if it happened?
I was hanging out with some of our friends in Nashville recently and they’re like, “Did you hear?” I was like, “Come on, guys, this is wishful thinking.” But I would totally go see it. The last tour like that that I saw that came through Nashville was Cheap Trick, Heart and Joan Jett, and they’re all in their upper sixties and it was just amazing. These are life goals. I need to see this stuff before everybody starts hanging up their hats.
You split guitar duties with Joe Hottinger in Halestorm. Was Eddie Van Halen an influence on you as a player?
Absolutely. But in the beginning, I was attracted to the fact that he played keyboards and guitar. In my world before I knew about Eddie Van Halen, I was playing piano, and at that point in my teenage life I thought he was just a guitar player. I wanted to be a multi-instrumentalist. But I learned Eddie played keys, too, from some live footage on a VHS tape from my mom and dad, and that lightbulb goes off that that’s possible. I could look at this guy and see him play piano and be a badass. I knew I didn’t have to be embarrassed about taking piano lessons.
You sing about having a threesome on “Do Not Disturb.” Did you get any blowback for that?
Maybe it’s the timing, maybe it’s the political climate, the year we’ve had, but everybody took it in the spirit it was intended. And it’s been that way this entire record. If [I’m] talking about sexual empowerment, instead of getting letters like, “My daughter admires you and I can’t believe you’re talking about sex,” they are the complete opposite. It proves my point that it’s easier to be yourself.