Following 2012’s chart-topping The Strange Case Of… American hard rock band HALESTORM are back with their highly anticipated third album Into the Wild Life, set to be released on April 13 (UK) via Atlantic Records. Bassist Josh Smith sat down with our Music Editor to reflect on their Grammy Award-winning song ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ at the 55th Annual Grammy’s for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in addition to what to expect from the new release.
So, have you had time to explore Southampton or have you just literally just come in?
Yeah, I haven’t. I plan on going for a jog down at the water later so I’ll do, you know, some sight-seeing along the way. I’ll ask you later for some places to go if you can suggest any?
And how pumped are you for tonight’s show?
I can’t wait! You know, ticket sales wise, it’s like…very healthy so we’ve been looking forward to that and then to wake up here parked in the square and see this place [O2 Guildhall], it’s beautiful! So that’s always exciting to play to an amazing crowd but also just an amazing, you know, sort of scenery from the stage and it’s just such a beautiful building so yeah, we’re looking forward to it.
As a musician, who have your inspirations been over the years as you got into playing bass guitar?
You know, it’s not just bass players. There’s so many – where do I start? I guess, well to start at bass players, I just loved Paul McCartney from his bass playing which is just awesome but his song writing ability and his voice which is a true instrument itself and that guy’s just a complete package, you know? He’s someone who I really always looked up to.
Other than that, I grew up as a jazz bass player; I studied jazz so I really always looked up to some of those players – you know, John Coltrane and those sort melodies.
Jazz melodies are so off the wall with the kind of soloing – you’re just improvising all of the time and there’s never a dull moment. It always keep your interest peaked so that’s still something so fun to listen to for me. Again, you always find something new there, something you didn’t hear before.
I suppose nobody ever asks you this as they always ask Lzzy [Hale] and Arejay [Hale] but how did you actually get into the band? Can you tell us about the beginnings of Halestorm for you?
Yeah! Well before I was in Halestorm, I was in a band with a guy named James Harvery. We were working with a producer in Philadelphia that Halestorm was also working with and so we crossed paths frequently. I’d gone out to some of their shows, they’d come to mine and it was funny. At first, it sort of weirded me out; I’d be playing and you know, Halestorm – Jo [Hottinger], Lzzy, Arejay would be like, directly beneath me staring at me and I’d be like ‘hey guys’ (laughs).
I thought that it was interesting ask them, it was their plan the whole time to get me in the band and it just so happened that in 2003, my project was sort of fizzling. At the same time, they were in need of a new bass player and the producer asked me ‘Hey, could you fill in some shows for them?’ and I said ‘Yeah sure!’ So I went out with them, rehearsed with them, played a show or two just as a temporary bass player and it became permanent pretty quick. I think the first show I played with them was… Oh, it’s one of those names… Something finger – not like Five Finger Death Punch. Oh my gosh! I can’t remember. I was a Canadian band. Urgh! I’m totally drawing a blank but anyway, it was down in Dewey Beach, Delaware and it was a big show like, the biggest that I’d ever played to like a rock crowd and it blew me away.
I said ‘Yeah, I could get used to this. This is really cool and right where I wanna be’. It became permanent very quickly and hell, that was 11 years ago now so it’s been a while.
Since coming from your previous album The Strange Case Of… to the one that you’re releasing in April, how do you think that the music has progressed and even the self-titled album?
It’s really progressed on every front. I think each record really represents a growth in us as a band, as people and as musicians. I feel, on this album in particular, you’re gonna really hear the most mature version of us yet. Lyrically, Lzzy sings a lot more honest in that sort of context. It’s no so tongue and cheek, sarcastic sort of stuff. You’re able to hear each and every instrument on this album which is just really neat. I feel like on the previous two albums, you heard the song but you didn’t necessarily hear everything in it. It was more just like a wall of sound hitting you and it’s all there in your face. It wasn’t a great representation of our live show which is what we’ve always wanted to do and I think that’s a stand-out piece on this record. I think it’s really the best representation of our live performance on a studio album.
What is your favourite song from the upcoming release; are you playing it tonight?
(Sighs) What is my favourite song? Um…shoot! You know, every time I listen back to it, I get excited about something different. There is a song on there called ‘New Modern Love’ that I really like – that’s just what popped into my head most recently. What else was really fun to play? There’s another song called ‘Gonna Get Mine’ is really great too but all in all, the new songs we are playing tonight are just so much fun. I’m looking at the set-list and as we go through the show and you know, it’s like ‘Oh cool! ‘Amen’ is next’ and just to play something new is so exciting.
How did it feel to win a Grammy Award for ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’?
I’m still speechless about it (laughs), really. I mean, when we were nominated for it, we were just over the moon – so excited about it and we were just happy with that. We looked at our category and who we were up against, you know, and we were like ‘OK. Hey, we get to go to the Grammy’s and party, have a good time and say we did it. That’s really cool’. We just sort of accepted that we were probably not going to walk home with one and funnily enough, the week before that, we were out in L.A. We recorded our second ReAniMate album that week building up to the Grammy’s and did a few other things as well. We played I think, Jimmy Fallon – The Late Show or whatever but never was the focus the Grammy’s really. I guess it was always there on the back-burned but we just weren’t thinking about it. It really didn’t hit us until we were, me at least as I can’t speak for everyone, on the red carpet we were like ‘Oh s**t! We’re here. This is pretty crazy’ and then I got a little nervous. It was like ‘Why am I getting nervous?’ It was a really amazing experience and I truly hope that’s something we get to do again, even if it’s just to go and…hell, I’d be absolutely happy to take one home but it’s such a fun time to be amongst all of our peers. It’s the Academy and to be a part of that is…it’s cool and it’s a very rewarding feeling as a musician to be involved in that.
You mentioned that you’ve done cover songs. We’ve heard some of them like the Daft Punk [‘Get Lucky’] and Lady Gaga [‘Bad Romance’] but what made you decide to start recording covers?
For us, not for everyone but for us, our touring schedule really dictates a lot of what we do and we’re on tour a lot so our album releases happen every two and a half years or something and it’s a long time. It’s awesome, for us, that we have die-hard fans that continue to come out and everything but we were looking for something, some way to get some music to the fans in the interim before the next album came out. We had done a live EP, which we were hoping to do for our last record actually but it just didn’t pan out but between that idea and the cover songs, it was a really great, quick way to get some music out for the fans to listen to and for us to maybe throw in to the set-list from night to night.That’s how the idea came about and they’re really fun to do, our fans really like them and I think it’s something that we’ll continue to do.