Gear Factor | Halestorm: The Riffs That Inspired the Band


Inspiration, Move Me Brightly

What was the riff that absolutely stopped you in your tracks and made you need to pick up an instrument and start playing? Gear Factor host Squiggy asked the members of Halestorm at the recent Welcome to Rockville music festival. Their answers gave insight into exactly why they are one of hard rock’s best bands… they were inspired by some rock legends.

When asked what drove her to become a guitar player, frontwoman Lzzy Hale says, “The one for me was ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Black Sabbath,” she was referring to the title track of their 1980 album. Which was their first after Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne. (Halestorm would later repay the debt to RJD, opening for the Dio-era Black Sabbath — who were called Heaven and Hell — and by covering Dio’s “Straight Through the Heart” for the Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life tribute album).

“It made everything seem possible,” she says of the “Heaven and Hell” riff. “‘It sounds like something I could do!’ That was the first for me. I was in Bethel, Pennsylvania on a twenty-acre farm, listening to it with my dad.” She adds that that was also the first song that she learned to play, next up was Joan Jett’s  “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” Jett was another pivotal artist in Lzzy‘s life. Coincidentally, today both women have Gibson custom signature guitars.

Zeppelin, Nirvana and Deep Purple

The remaining members of Halestorm also shared their first riffs with Squiggy. Drummer Arejay Hale recalled, “I’ve been playing drums since I was two or three, but when I was five or six or seven, I was in the car with my dad, and ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin came on the radio, and I heard that [drum] intro and then at the end, that drum solo, and I was like, ‘Oh man! This is so cool!’ And that was when I threw everything that I previously learned away and became a massive John Bonham fan, and wanted to take playing drums seriously.”

He adds that “Rock and Roll” was probably the first song that he learned to play, and his sister points out that “We ‘learned’ them, but they were attempts to play them!”

As for bassist Josh Smith: “‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple. I remember being upstairs in my bedroom in Philadelphia, [sings riff] ‘Dah! Dah! Dah!’ ‘I can play this! I can do this!’ Yeah, ‘Smoke on the Water’ was it for me.”

Guitarist Joe Hottinger says, “I remember being on the way home in like 5th or 6th grade going by Millpond in Hartford, Wisconsin, we were listening to the radio… [it was] probably a Nirvana song. It was the mid-’90s. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or ‘Come As You Are.’ ‘I get it! I need it! Now!'”


Halestorm’s upcoming album, Vicious, will be available on July 27 and they’ll be on tour through the summer. Check out their tour dates here.

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