It’s easy to assume conversations about mental health would be off limits in the hard rock and metal community. Lzzy Hale, who fronts Grammy-winning band Halestormsays think again.
“I’ve seen both sides of it. This community on one hand is literally a sacred place for the down-trodden. Metal and hard rock music has always been a champion of the people that are different, the people that don’t fit in, the people that have mental issues. This is the genre where we can talk about those things,” she says.
“At the same time, it’s like a tough guy business and there are certain members of the community who are like, ‘I would never meet with a therapist because that means I’m actually crazy’ and that kind of thing. But that’s also starting to go away at a very rapid pace. I love the fact that nowadays we are talking more about breaking that kind of stigma.”
Hale is one of the reasons the stigma is beginning to crumble. After the death by suicide of metal group Huntress’ Jill Janus in 2018, Hale penned a letter she shared on Instagram urging the community to talk more openly about mental health, acknowledging her own “dark labyrinth” and reassuring struggling fans that they are not alone . “Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re broken,” she wrote.
“It was more or less a way for me to create an example that none of us are alone, and see how many people, just by a show of hands—or as I put it, ‘Raise your horns, take a picture’— would respond,” she says.
“And the number was obscene, just how many people were like, ‘Thank you.’ It was almost like I was giving them permission to talk about it. There comes a point in everyone’s life, regardless of their position, when they’ve just had enough of the veil, and by sharing my own journey and the way I deal with depression or anxiety or panic attacks, I’ve gotten so much love because I think most people need to hear someone else is going through it—especially somebody in my position where it can seem like everything’s just fine and dandy all the time.”
While the moment was a salient one for Hale, it wasn’t her first time addressing mental health. Those conversations date back to middle school, around the time she formed what would eventually become Halestorm with her younger brother Arejay.
“Before we started the band I’d get panic attacks at school. I had intense anxiety and depression when I didn’t even know that’s what it was. I was going through these waves of feelings I didn’t necessarily know how to get out of and I cite music as giving me that corner of the world I could call mine, with helping me own who I am and own my weird and what makes me different,” Hale says. “And I started talking to my peers about it, telling them you need to find something that’s yours.”
The years of fandom and critical acclaim that followed have given Hale a platform to talk about mental health, and she’s embraced the opportunity. “You don’t necessarily decide to begin on these things, you’re just moved to stand up for certain things. I’m very proud to be in a position where I can,” she says.
But when the pandemic hit, she found herself back in a very vulnerable place—the place from which Halestorm’s latest album, Back From the Deadwas born.
“All of a sudden I was faced with, ‘Oh, I am no longer Lzzy Hale the rock star. I am Elizabeth Hale in my pajamas on the couch with an unforeseeable future,” she says. “So I had to write through it. I feel like I connected with a different type of truth. It was important for me to get a lot of these things out, to write a lot of these songs as almost a pep talk to myself and try to project a future because there was no real plan. Are we going to get into the studio? Are we going to put out a record? Are we ever going to turn again? It was this moment of, What can I do? I can write, and it was the first time in many, many years I wasn’t doing it for anybody else except for me.”
“I cried multiple times because it just felt like I needed to get it out,” Hale adds. “There’s a lot of darkness to this album, but it’s very important to me to always find that ray of light, that hope and to hang on to that because if I was just allowing myself to spiral out and get deeper down that dark path, I don’t know if I would’ve made it out the other side. It got very confusing for me. I had somewhat of an identity crisis, searching for purpose and almost had to remind myself of who I actually am. You don’t realize how much you use not only your persona onstage but the camaraderie you have with your bandmates, the forward movement of touring and album releases, not to mention the live show is just the drug of choice. Without any of those things, it slowly chisels away, and you have to find new ways.”
Now that the album has been in the wild since May and Halestorm is back on tour, she’s relishing even deeper connections with the community.
“What I realized writing from that core truth is how much I was never alone in any of these feelings. I’m watching these moments happen in real time with the people who are listening to these songs and now it’s no longer my song, it’s theirs. There are lines that are tattooed on these people’s arms and I get letters from people about how much this line or this song is changing their lives,” she says.
“It’s been such a beautiful moment, when you have these songs that were very personal to you that you had to create to get through something and then all of a sudden you’re passing that message forward to people who maybe don’t have the tools or the abilities to say these things to themselves. They can own it now—and that’s what it’s all about.”