Josh Smith; he’s one of Halestorm’s unsung heroes and all round top bloke. Usually paddling about in the deep end of the musical register, we managed to grab him, and put him through the grilling of a TINAS interview prior to Halestorm laying waste to Nottingham Rock City… Country and Western music anyone?
So, Josh, you guys seem to be constantly on the road…
It seems that way, yeah (laughing)
Are you worried about people forgetting about you?
You know, I’m not worried. I think our ultimate goal is to, sort of, keep momentum going. You know in one avenue or another. Be it touring or whatever, just keep in contact with our fans. We do tour a lot. Last year actually, the only tour we did was over here. The Spring tour we did, well not quite Spring, we got home towards the start of May, and then we were off writing a record. But for us we still had some weekend shows, State fairs and stuff round the States. That was cool to have those shows though, ’cause we do get a little antsy when we don’t have a tour lined up. So we have been waiting a while to get back out on the road fully.
You’re more comfortable on the road then than at home? Don’t you feel a little like a hobo?
(laughing) Nomads… We’re like a Mongolian nomadic tribe… No, sorry, it’s give and take. I think by the last week of tour we’re all ready for a short break. You know, it’s hard. I enjoy home life, but I enjoy the road, a lot. I definitely enjoy both, and I’m happy to have both, but yeah, we get really really excited for tours. Then the last week of tour, we’re gearing down, shows are still awesome, we’re in that perfect groove and shit’s clicking, then all of a sudden, it’s time to go home. Then I’ve got this honeydew list and projects to do with the house…
So to me, it seems like you’ve got to keep busy? What do you do with your time off, do you get restless, do you find it a bit of a come down when you get off the road?
Yeah, you know what, it’s really funny. It is a complete shift in schedule. We were on tour, well, it was a really weird lineup, with Dwight Yoakham, and the guitar player and I were chatting, and we were talking about “the shift”. You know going from touring, back to home life. He was saying he and a friend have a day for “re-entry”, and it is literally that. It is a 180 in lifestyle. Sort of like jet lag, you hit a wall when you get home, and you are just out of it for a day or two, but then you can get back into life. I dont really get restless, I like having a day or two before we get into a tour, where I am in that logistic preparation mode. But I keep busy, I play music, and I got plenty of projects to keep me busy.
Musical projects, or away from the music scene?
Lately, it’s been away from the music scene, but I think that is in part because we just finished our album, so it’s just like a brief departure from constantly writing. So it’s house projects, you know, like “paint the laundry room”, normal things (laughing).
So, basically you have the best job in the world, right?
Oh yeah. Definitely
Surely there has to be some downsides?
Oh, absolutely. Everything has downsides, but to be able to say, “I’m doing what I love”, and doing what I only dreamed I would ever be able to do, totally trumps any downsides there are.
Bearing in mind you are spending so much time on the road, is there anything you cant do without?
Ahh, a hat! I always try and find a new lucky hat, and if it’s winter, you gotta have decent pair of boots. What else? Oh it goes without saying, it’s like having an extra limb now, but you gotta have your phone or some sort of device, so that doesn’t really count. I guess, I exercise a lot so I carry around a load of that stuff, and mobility gear. You know, so I can stay limber.
You said about the phone and devices being an extension of yourself. With the likes of social media and what have you, do you feel a little “exposed. I mean constantly being in the limelight, and with the likes of meet and greet packages now, do you ever feel you would like a bit of distance between yourself and the public? Is there any “mystique” about bands anymore?
I think that some bands, there is still that mystique, but for us, it’s never truly been about that. I don’t think we put “everything” out there, I think there are definitely some things that aren’t there. I don’t know. We think it’s a great tool, and it’s something that we use. I mean I can’t really speak on the rest of the band’s behalf, but I’m sort of the worst user of social media, within our camp. I mean, I have no problem, going home and just not looking at Twitter for a few days, but, I think it’s a great thing, and we just like talking to our fans, and being personable. We just love it. We just haven’t put that much effort or thought about being any kind of mysterious band.
Does it ever worry you though, you know with the meet and greets and being close to fans, as to “what you’re gonna get”. You know, worry about whether you are going to get an absolute fruit loop or something?
(laughing) No, it doesn’t. I mean, yeah you run across some weirdo’s often enough, but it’s all good. I mean we haven’t had any “holy shit, that was scary” moments you know, and I hope we don’t. Most of our fans have been really, really cool. It just blows our minds when they just come up and are all over the place, you know like (squeals) “Oh my God” and just, like can’t talk. You know, you just can’t help but smile. I think we are very fortunate, that our fans are just super cool, and we don’t have “Holy Shit” moments (laughing)
Have you had many weird requests?
For like signing something? We like really haven’t had that much. I mean, sometimes they’ll ask for a signature in like an “R” rated area (laughing). but that will usually be asking Lzzy. But we just leave her, she’s got it covered…
Anyway, we’ve chatted about the tour, but of course you’ve got the album coming up. One of the things we’ll have to do, is review it… so, if you were reviewing it, and had to say sum it up in five words as a headline… what would that be?
Five words (laughing)… Erm… that’s not a word by the way! It’s a grown up version of us, a mature version. That’s more than five words but that’s what it sounds like. That’s what it is. God it sounds like it’s pornographic, but it’s raw and mature. It’s certainly a more raw album compared to our first two. Definitely all of us have grown, in our playing you know. There’s space on this album, if you have heard the singles you will hear that there is this space that we are utilising, which we’ve never done before. We’re really excited about that. You know we just hit a note, and just give that note its space and time. You know, it’s something we are pretty proud of.
Well from what we’ve seen and heard, the video for Amen, seems to sum it up. It looks like you have had a lot of fun? But am I right in thinking for the first two albums you had Howard Benson, but you haven’t had him for this one?
Yeah, that’s correct. For this album, we used Jay Joyce. You know, we wanted a change, and honestly you dont know what you are going to get until you start working with a new produce. So that new territory is a bit, not frightening, but you’re not sure what you are gonna get, but, he wanted to record live, and that really excited us. We had never done that before, you know with Howard Benson its like, make sure you have all the songs, and like first three days we are recording drums, then bring in the amps and we’ll record rhythm guitar, and then we’ll record bass… You know, it was a very mechanical process, and very efficient and effective, and of course the end product is “wonderful”, but I don’t think it’s a great overall representation of us. You know we have heard from many many fans that “I listen to your album, but you guys are way better live”. That’s what we want, we want to harness that. I mean, I don’t know if we did, but it is that raw live feel that we have on this album, that we have never had before. I mean we played each song until we nailed the take. You know on a good day maybe it’s four takes and that song’s done, but on a bad day it’s like, “well ok, we’ll try again tomorrow” (laughing). That was really exciting, but yeah, we wanted to switch it up, and we wanted to sort of, step out of our comfort zone. You know, working with Howard, we had reached a very comfortable level, with that system. It was time for a change.
Was it difficult following up on such a successful album?
No, I think it’s different. Previously with each album, we’ve already seen what the next level is, you know, what we can do, and what we can do better, and yes, it was a super successful album. You know, I think having won the Grammy for ‘Love Bites’, it was an eye opener for the subsequent tours after that. In that, we won for best performance, because we were like “Guys, we really have to make sure we are on top of our performance here”. There was that, but that was just raising the bar, but you know we like a challenge.
OK, you’re saying that you are proud of it…. do the reviews matter? Does it matter if it’s critically acclaimed, or if t the fans just love it… does it matter if you get a Grammy for it?
No, I think what matters at the end of the day, yes is that the fans like it, but what truly matters is that we’ve created something that we’re proud of, and that we love to play and want to play it. That’s been our guage for all of these albums. If we get excited about it, then it seems to be ok. It seems like the fans will like it.
Fair enough, that’s ok, so why should our readers buy this one, why should they buy “Into The Wild Life”?
Why should they buy it… I think they should buy it, because the album’s a journey. It’s a journey into the wild life, and we’d love to have them along for the ride!
Sums it up fine for me! I wanted to ask you about the whole Eric Church thing. I mean, I’ve read snippets, but I don’t really understand, so I wanted to know, what is it about this whole Halestorm going Country & Western debate?
I truly believe this is all the power of suggestion. You know, you tell someone that you recorded your album in Nashville, and Eric Church wants you to go out on tour, so now you’re opening for a Country, well be it more Country Rock person, but none the less Country, and I think that people then see that and say “It’s Country”. You know what, if that’s what Country is, truly, then I fucking love Country, but you know. We still listen to the album and are like “what?”. How do you hear Country, but, maybe there is… Do you hear Country at all?
I haven’t done yet, and that’s why I wanted you to explain, in case we’re missing something!
Nah, we don’t have any pedal steel on the album, although, I might be digging a hole here… There’s one part, and I dare you to try and find it, but I’m sure there’s somewhere where there is some banjo!
There you go then, it’s officially Country!
(laughing) Yeah, right! That’s kind of backwards right there. But it’s only like this one little part, and it’s all distorted…
(laughing) so it’s all Rock and Western then…
(laughing) Yeah yeah, that’s right..
What about collaborations. You’ve done them in the past, anything else moving forward?
You know, we’re always scheming, but we really don’t have a definitive plan for a collaboration right now, although we tried a few things with all kinds of people on the album, but it was like “whatever”, so it didn’t really pan out. Maybe we’ll be crossing paths with these people on tour and we can always say “hey, why don’t you come up”.
Is there anyone you would dearly love to collaborate with?
You know, Slash did a feature on Here’s To Us on our last album. It was really cool and we have yet to do anything further with him, but that would always be great. You know, it’s fucking Slash, so that would be awesome.
What about your idols? Who made you pick up your instrument and decide “this is what I want to do”?
Erm, I have like the lamest back story. When I picked up bass, I was in 6th grade, and I had been playing piano for a few years, and I saw this local high school band playing. I saw the bass player playing, I don’t know who it was, but I just said that looks really cool, I wanna do that. After that, I was always a Beatles fan for ever, but now becoming a bass player Paul McCartney I was like listening to it more, so he was like a massive influence. Then of course you know, Flea … all the staples, Sting, a big fan of him.
Do you find it easy putting your mark on the albums? You have the two siblings that often take the focus of the band… is it easy putting your own mark down?
I do find it easy. I mean, I don’t expect to be in the limelight, you know at the front, being praised for this amazing ground breaking bass playing. But, I think on this album, all of us individually, you can hear each of our personalities come through a lot better than our previous albums. You know, even on social media and Twitter I’ve had fans like “Dude, the bass playing is awesome”, and I think it’s just more defined on this album.
Well it’s not long now, and we cant wait. So just to wrap it up then… what’s next from here?
Well its a short break after this tour… paint the laundry room (laughing), then it’s a really long Stateside tour, and then we’re back here in the Summer, do some festivals which is pretty exciting … we’re going to be touring!
Well thank you so much for spending so much time with us. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Good luck, and we’ll catch up with you soon.
Cheers man, likewise.