An Interview With Josh Smith Of Halestorm


One of the rising stars of the American rock scene over the last two years, Pennsylvania quartet Halestorm are just as big, if not bigger on this side of the Atlantic than in America. Currently on their biggest UK headline tour to date, our very own Lisa Fox caught up with Halestorm’s bassist Josh Smith backstage in Glasgow prior to the band’s show at at the O2 ABC.

This is Lisa Fox from Rock Sins, and I am here with Josh Smith from Halestorm. 

Hi, how are you?

Yeah, I’m very good.  Happy to be here.

So how is the tour going so far?

It’s wonderful.  We’ve really just started.  We arrived Monday and our first show is Tuesday in Newcastle, so I believe this is our third or fourth show and they’ve been absolutely amazing.  Newcastle is a place we haven’t visited much and the next show is in Sheffield – both of them were amazing shows – and then from here on out, they’re all sold out, so we’re having a great time.

How many times have you been to the UK before?

I’d say this is our sixth, maybe – somewhere in there – six, seven – five, six, seven times, somewhere in there.

Five, six, seven, eight times?

Yeah, something like that.

Is it getting better each time?

It really is.  I mean, it’s just noticeably better, and the last time we were here, we played at The Hydro with Alter Bridge and Shinedown, and that was unreal.  It was just an amazing venue, I think we stole a few of Alter Bridge’s fans.  I mean, where we come back a few months later to sellout clubs, which is just so cool, it is just wonderful.  We’re having such a great time.

Why do you think Halestorm is so popular across such a wide range of fans?  Because you’ve got young kids, their parents, maybe their grandparents watching you!

Yeah, we do. We’re like a family-friendly band, yeah.  I guess it’s just that.  I mean, we’re not – we don’t curse too much, I guess – we don’t say too many bad words.

Except the lyric “see you next Thursday” no wait…”next Tuesday”!

Yeah, ‘”See you next Tuesday”. Thursday works too, I guess, right?  But yeah, I guess that’s just it.  I mean, we’ll say a few curse words, and even the subject matter isn’t always the most appropriate, but it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek in a way that — It’s like when you’re a kid, and you remember watching movies that you love, but then you watch them when you’re older and then you pick up on all of this adult humour that just went right over the top of your head, sort of thing.  So I guess that has something to do with it, but it is really cool to see such a diverse age demographic – just people our age enjoy it, just everyone seems to, and it’s always so cool seeing little kids rock out, and the fact that their parents enjoy it too.  It’s like – I don’t know, it’s — Every band has their own crowd that caters to them and what they do, and ours is – yeah, it’s like it’s fun, it’s a good time, there’ll be some mosh pits, but it’s family-friendly and…

Family-friendly mosh pits.

There’s a little bit for everyone, you know – yeah, right.  So yeah, I don’t know exactly what it is, but i guess it has to do with whatever the heck we’re talking about and it’s fun, it’s fun for everyone.

I think your musical style is almost two sides running parallel, because there’s the heavier, rockier side, but then there’s also some amazing piano-based ballads.

Absolutely, yeah.

How does that come about?  Is it just styles of music you love?

Yeah, it really is.  I mean, as much as we love playing heavy or fast rock or sort of hard rock  or whatever – we’ve really enjoyed ballads, we don’t – I don’t know, yeah, we don’t stick to just one style.  And it’s so funny – we’ve been writing for the next album, and you write – when you’re looking for your direction of what the album’s going to be, you’re just writing to get excited – you write what gets you excited, and some of the songs have been very country-esque or Tom Petty-esque, just good old rock, and they’re great songs.  I don’t think they’ll – will they go on the record?  Maybe, maybe not, but probably not.  But yeah, I think all of us have a really, really diverse taste in music and we certainly wear our influences on our sleeves.

So who inspires you?

Well, when I was a kid, I was a piano player, and I was classically trained – I started when I was seven – and so I always thought I was such a dork for going, and every week having piano lessons with my piano teacher and going over her house and whatever, and then there’s this dude, Ben Folds from Ben Folds Five. And when I heard them, I was probably in middle school and I felt that – I don’t know, that was like – ‘This is cool!  I think this is cool!  That dude’s like rocking out on a piano’.  That got me really – that really just kind of sparked me to pursue music and continue to pursue music.  And when I picked up the bass, it was like a no-brainer – it seemed like everyone needed a bass player.  So it’s nice to play both now.  But yeah, for as – and he’s not like super rock – he’s a very pop-oriented, but singer-songwriter sort of dude, but his earlier albums were just – it was very raw and just neat.  Yeah, he inspired me a lot as a young piano player anyway.

What’s the plans for the rest of the year?

Get an album out – that’s the plan – and we’ve had the last three months off to write, and we’re going to go home and we’re going to write a little bit more, and we’re kind of just doing this weekend warrior thing most of the year.  There hasn’t been like a tour booked, it’s been – “Okay, this weekend, you’re going to fly there and there, and then that weekend you’re going go there and there”.  And it’s like maybe four or five, four shows a month maybe.  So yeah, we’re doing the weekend warrior thing and just kind of focusing on the album.  But this has been great.  I mean, we were so excited to get over here.  I mean, to be a headliner over here is like just unbelievable, but it’s just a time to step away from the writing process that we’ve been so just kind of in, and I think we’re going to step away from it and sort of look at it a little more objectively, come back and use what we’ve done out here on the road, and make some rock songs.

Metallica used to do tours called ‘Escape From the Studio’, although then again, Metallica take about six years to write an album.

Yeah, they take forever to write, fortunately we’re not going to take that long, but I mean, they’re right – that’s the way to do it.  I mean, there’s nothing to energise you more than going out and playing some rock shows and having a good time.

 So what can we expect from the live show?

We’re going to have a good time.  We’re playing a lot of our two full-length albums.  We also threw in a couple of cover songs, and they’re always fun to do, and those songs are kind of like a lesson for us.  It’s like – we pick those songs because something about them works and strikes a chord with the crowd.  So it’s really fun.  They’re very effective songs.  And we’re also working through some new ones, so we’ve put one new one in the set.  We’ve worked on three new songs to possibly put in the set, but right now we’re still just kind of figuring out this one song.  So you guys are like our test subjects every night, and we’re just trying it out and seeing what happens.  But it’s a great time.  It’s just a good old rock ‘n’ roll set and we let our drummer go wild for about five minutes.

Drummers love that.

Yeah, they do.  They need that, they really do!  And he certainly needs it, and it’s just awesome.  He’s a wild man and he goes crazy.  It’s fun to watch.  It doesn’t get old, it really doesn’t.

So are you going to play your Lady Gaga cover?

No, we haven’t pulled that thing out in a while!  We’ve been playing Get Lucky, which has been fun, and I think we’re a little unsure of that song.  We’re like – “Is this weird that we’re playing this song?”  But everyone really seems to like it, so we’re going to keep doing it.

Well, there’s such a culture now of punk and rock artists covering songs which aren’t from their genre.

Covering, yeah there really is. Absolutely.

 I think it can be fun.

Yeah, it really is, and yeah, we’ve been enjoying it.  So there’s a little bit of everything and yeah, we’re just happy to be out and playing live again.

Right, I need to ask you about something.  I love this TV programme, and I spotted you guys in it – ‘Bar Rescue’.

Yeah, yeah.

You have to tell me about that and how that came about.

It was so cool.  We were writing The Strange Case Of…, and they asked us to do it because the daughter of the owners was a huge Halestorm fan.  So they called us up, asked if we wanted to do it, and we’re like – “Yeah, that would be awesome!”  So we flew into – the bar was in Cincinnati, I think, and yeah, we flew in, we got there, and it’s like TV or like video, like doing a video shoot.  You’re on set, and when you’re on set, you’re there all day, you just kind of sit around and hang out.  So word got out – we didn’t tell – they told us not to tell anyone – this is a surprise for the family, but especially the daughter and everything.  But word got out somehow that we were playing it, and so we pulled up and there’s hundreds of people lined up outside the bar, because they think that we’re playing a show there, and the radio station showed up, and yo, it’s awesome!  And they were telling us – “Don’t go outside”.  We basically had to remain hidden from the family.

So did the family find out before the big reveal?

They still didn’t find out.  They thought everyone was there because of just the show– which they were.  I mean, everyone was there because Bar Rescue, and we were just the bonus,.  They were filming the show all day, and then our part was at the end, when we come out on stage and play, and that happened some time in the evening.  And the bar can only fit 100, 110 people, and it was packed, it was quite small, so the producers just told everyone outside over a loud speaker – “You’re probably not going to get in the show!  Sorry!  Thanks for your support!  Go home!’  We hopped on stage and they opened the curtain and it was really cool to see the family’s reaction to us being there, and it was awesome.  We played through the song once, they filmed it, and then as TV goes, it’s like – “Okay, we’ve got to get different angles, so play it again”, and then play it again.  So that was pretty strange– it’s just funny playing the same song over and over for a live crowd.  So afterwards, we’re like – “Can we just keep playing?”  And we played a couple more songs for the people before everything.  It was really cool.  It was a lot of fun.  I hope more opportunities come up for us like that.  And at the end of the night, the owner of the bar proposed to his girlfriend and everything, on the bar.  It was sweet, it was a fun night, it was very cool.

Have you tried Nando’s yet?

*Laughs* Yeah!

That’s a lot of laughter about Nando’s!

Did you hear Joe looked over, perked up like a dog – he was just like – ‘Nando’s?’

Nando’s is amazing.

Is it here?

It’s just outside.

Joe Hottinger: It’s showing up any second, our Nando’s order.

Yeah, we’ve had Nando’s the last four nights in a row, Nando’s.

It’s amazing how many bands come over from America and they’re like – ‘Nando’s!’  But people here don’t know it’s there, so it’s really funny.

Yeah, and I heard about it – I remember seeing it a bunch over a year ago, but then last year I started getting hooked to it.  It’s good.

Joe Hottinger:I’d never had it before this trip.

Yeah, it was funny.  Lzzy did an interview not too long ago, and they asked her about Nando’s.

Lzzy Hale: Yeah, I did it for – have you heard of the Kerrang! magazine.

I do indeed know Kerrang! magazine.

Lzzy Hale: So they had this quiz and they asked me what Nando’s was, basically, and I didn’t know, and so I got it wrong, and the guy interviewing says – “To be fair, she’s the only musician that we know that is not obsessed with Nando’s” – and I’m like – “What’s this Nando’s?”  So when we came over, we’re like – “We should try Nando’s”…and now I’m obsessed.

Nando’s and Wagamama are the two that bands seem to love.

Yeah, yeah that’s good.

Joe Hottinger: Fuck Wagamama though. Whatever.

It’s all right.  I wanted to try that Thai place over there – Thairiffic – but we’re running out of time.

So have you got any final thoughts for the fans and readers at Rock Sins?

Yeah, we’re so grateful for your support and it just blows our mind that we come back and we’re playing sold-out shows.

Lzzy Hale: Yeah.

It’s just unbelievable.  This was the first place we played in Glasgow, as an opening band, and when was that?  2010?  Springtime 2010?  So it’s just crazy – what, three years later, three and a half, to be headlining.  It just blows our mind.

Lzzy Hale: It’s been a lot quicker than in the States over here.

Yeah, you guys know what you like and you come back from more, and we’re so thankful for it, and we’ll get some new music out for you really soon.

Yeah, the US tends to get a little bit oversaturated, because there’s a lot of bands that go touring and touring and touring, whereas over here, it’s like every band’s a novelty that comes over, so any time a band played, we’re like – “Yeah!  Got to watch them!”

That’s so cool.

You get a lot of loyalty that way.

Absolutely.  The US is tricky too because for us, as you go out west, it just gets so spread out that usually tours start in the north, the east coast and the Midwest, and then you’re doing laps around there, and then once you’ve basically built up enough momentum, you’ll shoot out west for a run, for a long run , before you come back, so it takes time to build momentum to move west.

Yeah, there’s a great Johnny Cash song about that.

Is there?

“I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” – it’s got all the cities and every place he’s been to.

Yeah, absolutely.

Cool.  I’ll wrap it up.  I don’t want to take you away from Nando’s. Enjoy and thanks for your time!

Halestorm are just wrapping up the end of their biggest UK headline tour to date at the time of this being written. Their Reanimate 2.0 Covers E.P is out now.

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