By Sarah Rodman
February 08, 2019 at 02:43 PM EST
Jimmy Fontaine

Hard rockers Halestorm already have one Grammy to their credit, having snagged the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance trophy in 2013 for “Love Bites (So Do I).”  But that doesn’t mean the Pennsylvania-bred quartet weren’t excited to receive a second nomination this year for Best Rock Performance for the deliciously fierce  “Uncomfortable.” The by turns assaultive and soaring ode to owning your own power and disrupting preconceived notions comes from the band’s fourth album, 2018’s searing and sensitive Vicious.

“Being nominated for a second time, it’s just so different now, because we’ve been working for years. The first time felt like, ‘Wow, somebody threw us a bone,'” says Lzzy Hale, who leads the group with her ferocious vocal rasp and unsparingly honest songwriting. (She’s joined in her rock and roll mission by brother Arejay Hale, Joe Hottinger, and Josh Smith.) “But this time it’s like, ‘These are our peers and we’re being recognized among them and we’re like a real band, guys!’ So we’re excited. It turns out, it doesn’t get old.”

EW caught up with Hale to talk Grammys — she was the first woman to earn one in the Hard Rock/Metal category — being true to herself as a songwriter, and why Pat Benatar is a legend. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Previously Halestorm was nominated in the metal category and now you’re in rock. When it comes to labels of genres, do you feel comfortable with being slotted into different categories?
HALE: It’s so difficult I think for everyone to figure out where you belong. We listen to a lot of different things, but our roots are based in rock. We’re a rock band. We’re friends with all the metal guys and a lot of those bands have taken us under their wing. But [with] the first [nomination], you’re surrounded by these metal [groups] that do influence you but you’re not a metal band. So this time it’s nice to have a more even playing field.

A great thing that came out of being in the hard rock/metal category is that there were a lot of young girls that kind of freaked out in a good way. As in, “Wow, that’s possible that a girl can win a Grammy under that category.” So just in our world, there were waves that we saw just from fans [saying], “When I saw you win, that meant that I wasn’t crazy for loving this heavy music and I wasn’t crazy for trying to pursue this. It’s possible.”

Your competition includes the Fever333, the much-discussed Greta Van Fleet, Arctic Monkeys, and the late, great Chris Cornell. If, for some reason, you all don’t win, is there someone you’d be happy to see take it?
Oh my goodness. It’s rock performers and, to be completely honest, we’re extremely honored to be on this list because we’re friends with a lot of these guys. For instance, the Fever 333, if you haven’t seen live footage of them yet, [it] is performance art. It’s amazing. They’re kind of picking up where Rage [Against the Machine] left off. Obviously, the kids in Greta Van Fleet are great. They actually play. They actually sing. Chris is a legend and unfortunately he left us too soon. It’s just a really great list. I’m rooting for all of these guys. But in the bigger picture, I think that it’s great that there’s actually talent here. These are kids that are passionate about what they do and they’ve worked hard to be recognized. So, we have all these internal running jokes going around, like, “Okay, so whoever wins, should we all just do something? Like, we’ve all gotta hang out at the after parties.”

On Vicious you are very up front about sexuality and relationship dynamics and it’s presented in a way that is very different from the way those topics are sometimes approached in pop music. On songs like “Uncomfortable” and particularly “Do Not Disturb,” about a menage a trois, you’re getting very personal and explicit. It’s not as if this isn’t a topic you’ve raised before but I’m curious what the response has been from fans?
There’s always an element of truth to what I write, because that’s why I write. It’s not a career choice. But on our earlier records I would take that truth and I would refine it to the point where it became pop music. On this record the biggest difference that I made lyrically was keeping that kind of diamond in the rough in its raw stage. So even with songs like, “Do Not Disturb,” which are fun and it’s meant to be that way — that’s a true story and I’m just kind of depicting exactly what went down — it was a moment of, excuse my French, “F–k it. I’m just doing this anyway.” Regardless of how people are going to feel, I’m writing this record for me.

So, to go back to your question, the simplest way I can put this is that the reaction of the fans is amazing because even the parents of these little girls that are buying this record for their kids are telling me to my face, “I’m so glad that you are owning your sexuality. That you are owning your attitude. That you are being that kind of light at the end of the tunnel for being unapologetically yourself. Because that is what I want my girl to be listening to. Not this stuff that’s just kind of like, ‘We’re pretending to be something awesome and shiny, but we’re really not.””

What I really realized is that by being myself, regardless of what that means, you become a better role model. I’m not really trying to do that, but to be able to be that person for some people and get these parents and these girls and even the guys too, you know, talk to me about what that means to them, is really neat. And it’s something that I always — even now, just writing new songs — keep in the back of my head: Instead of me trying to predict how people are going to feel about the song, how do I feel about it? Let me start there.

You were telling me earlier about some advice Pat Benatar gave you about the different stages of a career and I love that she has been a mentor to you. I feel like it’s high time she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 
Hale: I agree! What a cool lady. And what a great head on her shoulders. She’s always kept her eyes forward. And she did something for the rock genre [for women], in that she was able to appeal to people that were more inclined to listen to pop music, but she still was dripping with that rock and roll attitude. She was able to be like, “Even if you don’t like the hard rock attitude you can still love me, because I’m amazing and I can do all of the things.” She was a huge reason why I never wanted to be a one-trick pony. When we were growing up in PA and I was cutting my teeth in the scene, there were two types of girls: the ones that wanted to be dudes, and they wanted to be like Disturbed, or they wanted to be Jewel. And to me, it’s like, I can do both and I want to do both.

Halestorm head Down Under and to Asia in March and return to the U.S. to tour in April.

The 61st Grammys air Sunday night at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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