Lzzy Hale was wondering if she had lost the magic. She was several months into songwriting for what eventually became the album “Vicious” by her band Halestorm and a moment of truth had arrived.
“To make a long story shorter, I started consciously writing this record six months before we went into the studio,” the singer/guitarist said in recent phone interview. “Then we’re listening to all of these songs, planning on we’re going to narrow it down, and we just weren’t excited about any of them.
“You could almost hear us just kind of trying to make everybody happy,” Hale said. “Like you could hear, OK, that’s an obvious radio grab. That’s definitely for the label because they’re going to want to cross over. That one’s definitely a rock show type tune for the fans. So what we realized was we were just kind of repeating ourselves and trying way too hard to please everybody but ourselves.”
Hale and her bandmates (guitarist Joe Hottinger, bassist John Smith and drummer — and Hale’s younger brother — Arejay Hale) made the difficult decision to scrap that batch of songs and head into the studio with very little music in hand.
That situation was enough for Hale to entertain some doubts about herself as a songwriter. Early on, she confided in producer Nick Raskulinecz.
“I told him, I said like ‘Look, it’s hard for me right now to figure out where my excitement in this music is,’” Hale revealed. “I told him I’ve gone through a scene of this weird state of mind where you start thinking can I even get excited about anything I write anymore?”
Raskulinecz advised Hale to music for herself first and chances are if she got excited about the music, her fans would, too. He also had an idea for how create an environment in which Halestorm could come up with music that would foster that enthusiasm.
“Every day and he would set us up in his studio, a very small room, with all of our instruments plugged in, and every day he would go, ‘All right, who’s got a riff? Who’s got an idea?'” Hale recalled. “'We’ll start there.'"
“ ... And collectively as a band, we found our mojo again and this renewed respect for what everybody brings to the table, and really what makes our band what it is, which is the four of us. In a lot of ways, it felt like going back to the beginning and writing in may parent’s basement when we all first met. So it was an exciting thing and we came out on the other side swinging and feel like we almost had to write this record, just for ourselves as almost a therapy session.”
The difficult moments that were part of this project were worth it. “Vicious," which topped “Billboard” magazine’s top rock albums and top hard rock albums chart, is a high-impact, highly listenable hard rock album. Songs like “Buzz,” “Skulls” and “Black Vulture” rock aggressively, but the melodic sense that Hale and her bandmates bring to their music has never been stronger, as these and other songs deliver memorable melodies (especially in the choruses) and plenty of ear candy moments at other points in the songs.
Halestorm is getting to showcase some of the new songs on a current run of shows opening for Godsmack, including Saturday's show at Rabobank Arena. Hale said her band is also playing songs from across its four full-length albums — “Halestorm” (2009), “The Strange Case Of …” (2012), “Into the Wild Life” (2015) and “Vicious” — as well as several EPs. Those releases have given Halestorm chart-topping mainstream rock hits in “Freak Like Me,” “Apocalyptic,” “Amen” and “Uncomfortable” (the latter of which is from the “Vicious” album), as well as another half-dozen-plus top 10 singles.
Hale has enjoyed reaching a point where Halestorm has enough music out that the band has to be selective in choosing what songs to play on a given night, especially when the band is in an opening slot. Still, Halestorm is trying to leave some wiggle room in the set.
“It’s been fun to make up this set list and really just, you start to have this kind of freedom, too, where you can almost just pay attention to an audience every night and be like, ‘Ah, I’m going to call an audible. Let’s play this one,’” she said.