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Spiritual Sisters: LZZY Hale And Patti Quatro Talk Shop

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Summer 2020

By Carla DeSantis Black

At first glance, you may not think LZZY Hale, front person, guitarist, and cofounder of the hard rock group Halestorm has much in common with Patti Quatro, who, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, was one of only a handful of female guitarists, in The Pleasure Seekers, Cradle, and Fanny. But you would be dead wrong. Similarities abound.

Each is a virtuoso guitarist in her own right. LZZY and Patti have both played in bands with their siblings—LZZY with her younger brother Arejay and Patti with brother Mickey and sisters Suzi (the iconic bassist), Nancy, and Arlene.

LZZY grew up in rural Pennsylvania and makes her home in Nashville, while Patti hails from Detroit and now lives in Austin, TX.

We thought it would be fun, interesting, and educational to get these two together to compare, contrast, and talk shop. What follows is an in-depth look at their perspectives on playing and how the music industry has changed—or not—in the past sixty-odd years.

Photo provided by Patti Quatro

What is your earliest memory of music, the first thing you remember being influenced by?

LZZY: My dad was a bass player, so my earliest memories are of watching his gigs. I was probably about nine at the time. I got very much into his type of music through that.

Patti: I grew up in a very, very musical family. My dad was a big band leader, and he infused us with music. We used to make fun of his music, but we still had fun with it. My brother Mickey was a national TV star on the Lawrence Welk show when he was thirteen. Rock was coming in so heavily that it was like an explosion with the English Invasion, acid rock, Southern rock, and Motown all at once. There was a lot of family involvement, and our parents were so supportive of us.

LZZY, were you in a small town or were you near Philly or any of the other big cities?

LZZY: I spent most of my young adult life in Bethel, Pennsylvania, smack dab in between Lancaster, Lebanon, and Harrisburg. At that point, there were more cows than people. We grew up on a twenty-acre farm and sold sheep to buy our first s**tty PA system. Our first trailer to carry equipment was a donkey trailer.

How did you both end up in a band with your siblings?

LZZY: My parents bought a drum kit for me. I don’t know how old I was, but I didn’t touch it. My brother and I had an adjoining closet growing up, so his room and my room were separate, but we shared the same closet. He snuck into my room and destroyed my kit when I was gone.

So finally I said, ‘Take it. Just stay out of my room.’ I had been taking piano lessons since I was five, so I was starting to piece things together. It clicked that I could take chord progressions and write my own melodies to them. I started showing my little brother these things. He has always been incredibly talented at the drums, always been able to keep a beat. When I was thirteen and Arejay was ten, we entered a talent show at the Schuylkill County Fair in Pennsylvania. It was this weird, outdoor auditorium. We’re on the way to the gig and little bro, as annoying little brothers are, turns to me and says, ‘We can’t just go up there as LZZY and Arejay Hale.’ I said, ‘Fine. What do you want to call it?’ We went back and forth, and eventually, he said, ‘What about Halestorm?’ I said, ‘That will work for today.’ From that day forward, we played anywhere: bowling alleys for pizza, Friendly’s Restaurant for free ice cream, and youth “lock-in” church functions—wherever they’d let us play.

Patti: My dad gave us lessons in everything. We had vocal lessons; we had piano. I was schooled in piano like LZZY was. And then I turned to guitar. Our little epiphany was when Suzi was playing bongos with my dad’s band when she was six years old or something, and I was on guitar. I went to a Beatles concert later and saw everybody around me screaming and crying. And it just hit me completely differently. I thought, ‘I want to do that!’

We decided to bring in the younger sisters. That’s how we got our people filled out in the band. We asked Suzi and Mary Lou [Ball, guitarist]. Suzi wanted to play drums, and I told her, no, no. My dad had a bass in the basement, and I said, ‘You’re gonna play bass.’ Another sister was already taking drum lessons.

Like LZZY, we played everywhere we could. Our first gig was at a teen club, where we dared the club owner to put us on stage. We’d only been together for two weeks! I said, ‘We can play better than your guys’, who were already playing there—Glenn Frey and Bob Seger. So we learned three songs, and he put us up there. All the girls were at the front, all the boys in front of them. The girls were laughing and said, ‘Oh, this should be really good.’ By the end of it, they just shut up. They were surprised, and he kept booking us after that. A record guy came in two weeks later and wanted to sign us.

LZZY: That’s amazing.

Patti: It just started taking off. But it was a joke. In those days, you were buttoned up and pigeonholed as a woman. You didn’t rock a guitar. You just didn’t do it.

LZZY, do you feel like that has changed?

LZZY: It has immensely because of people like Patti, Suzi, and their peers beating down the brush in this dense jungle of a business. It’s still a very sexist world.

Patti: It is.

LZZY: I don’t feel like I need to go through the things that you guys had to go through. But that’s because you went through it. And I don’t know if I can thank all of you enough.

Patti: They wanted every girl band in that era to be tits and ass. They figured we were going to fall in love and get pregnant, so they did not want to sign a bunch of girls.

LZZY: Even coming up in my scene, there are three very, very small categories. If you were in clubs, you would find yourself in situations where you would think he was just saying something because I’m a girl. Or you’d carry in your equipment, and without fail, some guy would say, ‘My girlfriend never does that for me.’ I’m the girlfriend carrying in HIS equipment, and where is he? Then you get to another level, where you’re talking to labels, and they say, ‘We love what you do, and we think you’re talented, but we don’t know what to do with you because the girl thing just isn’t a thing.’ The next day trying to get your s**t on radio, they’re saying, ‘Well, we already have that token girl in our repertoire, so we don’t need another one.’ Those things still happen, but I never found myself having to sit in somebody’s lap to get my record played on the radio. You girls, Patti, were roughing it. You were the front line in a war that we’re still in.

Patti: I didn’t sit on anybody’s lap.

LZZY: In the most amazing way possible, people take me seriously now only because of everybody who has come before me. Obviously, there’s a lot of effort on my part to be legitimate—I’m not downplaying the fact that I’ve worked very hard to be here—but part of it is really what happened before. Patti, you and I have talked about this before, but how powerful it is when a young girl sees another girl, another woman, who is successful in the same thing that you want to be successful in. Then the reach becomes a little bit less impossible.

Patti Quatro and LZZY Hale – photo provided by artists with permission to use

I think it’s a thing because there are still so few women out there. So it is definitely better, but it could be a lot better, right?

LZZY: Absolutely. The fact that we’re still fighting for that and having that conversation shouldn’t be a thing in 2020 at this trajectory, but it is.

Patti: I’m gonna be blasphemous to the girl groups right now. I’m just honest about it. When we were playing in my two beginning bands, we played really heavy, just like the guys did. And a lot of the bands we’re talking about right now, they were much more pop-oriented. That is why it’s so important to see Nita Strauss and LZZY and Amy Lee really kicking it. I am a soft metal, metal, hard rock gal. Half the reason we broke up was because we all had different opinions. Suzi wanted more pop. I was really into the heavy stuff like Zeppelin. And, LZZY, when I see you doing that stuff and going for it, that’s what turns me on about women today. It’s come a long way.

LZZY: I agree. There’s this common misconception that heavy music is directly related to men, and it’s really not. If anything, if there’s anyone in this species that has reason to rage, it’s women.

Patti: No, kidding!

LZZY: We invented this s**t, okay? I did a couple of tours with In This Moment and New Year’s Day. They are both even heavier than what we are. I’m hard rock, but soft metal. I interpret metal as Black Sabbath. I appreciate and absorb a lot of metal, but I’m not gonna just sing about death all the time.

Patti: You know exactly what I’m talking about, LZZY. I couldn’t have played the stuff that my sister got famous from. I would have died. I’m really proud of her success and her huge career, but it’s not my thing. We’re all allowed to have our own taste.

LZZY, do you feel right now that you have mentors that you can talk music with and have conversations with on a day to day basis?

LZZY: Absolutely. I’ve met a lot of my idols and a lot of people that have come before me, and honestly, right now, if I can be completely honest, what Patti just said is very validating. The past ten years that we’ve been signed, I’ve had to fight every step of the way to not be the hard version of Kelly Clarkson, to not be the next Pink. Not that I have anything against those artists, it’s just they were never me. Just because you can dress, mimic, or sing as powerfully as somebody doesn’t mean that’s what’s in your soul. If that were my career, if I had put out a pop princess American Idol record, maybe it would have been successful, but I would have hated myself and everything in me for doing that because it’s not a choice, man. This hard rock thing chose Patti and me, and we had no choice but to just go for it until we keel over. I’m in it for the long haul.

Patti: I played classic rock with my brother’s band for two years, and it was amazing. I appreciate every genre, but it’s the thing that gets your soul, you know? I can listen to music that’s great and poppy, but it’s not where I live.

It’s interesting that Patti has ended up in bands that were not necessarily her tastes. Fanny was not a heavy band by any means.

Patti: I had to bring the heavy to them and change my attitude.

Tell me about your favorite guitars and your favorite amps. And LZZY, are you asked about that more often than I suspect Patti was back in the day? Do people ask you guitar and amp questions, or not so much?

LZZY: They do. They are respectful enough to do so. Mostly they ask, ‘Why do you write about sex in your lyrics?’ and ‘Does your brother care about that?’ I chased after Gibson. I was holding out and waiting for that date for the prom. I had been approached by a couple of companies before I ever got sponsored, but I’ve always been a Gibson girl at heart. Then I went after Marshall. Technically, the first guitar that I ever bought was a BC Rich Mockingbird. But then I saved up for almost two years to get this very used, broken, ‘91 Les Paul Custom Tobacco Burst. I broke the neck on it twice over the years, and somehow it sounds better than before.

Patti: Of course!

LZZY: So I’ve been really into that, and I still use a Marshall JCM 800 onstage. I’ve obviously ventured out. I use so many different things in the studio, but that’s the go-to for me.

Do they use you in ads?

LZZY: They do, and that’s always a surprise. You still always feel a little bit of this imposter syndrome when that s**t happens, when you see yourself in an ad. You think, ‘Do I deserve to be here, or do they just do that ‘cuz I’m a girl? Am I still a novelty?’

Patti: It’s all in there, but that shouldn’t affect you. You are who you are, and you worked your ass off to get there, so you need to kick that to the floor. I use Marshalls too, but I have a 1953 Les Paul Gold Top.

LZZY: What?

Patti: I have had Pete Townshend and Leslie West try to buy it—everybody’s tried to buy it from me and I ain’t sellin’ it! 1953! And Leslie gave me a custom guitar. I also have my SG Gibson. That thin neck—it’s just a fast neck. I was always pretty showy. I’m like you, LZZY. I was all over the stage and throwing my guitar in the air. The SG was so lightweight that it was easy to do all that.

LZZY: Honestly, that’s why I like the Explorer, too, because it’s the best of both worlds. I have a couple of signature custom Explorers that I’ve been using over the years, and it’s that happy medium between the SG and Les Paul.

Patti: Oh, yeah. It’s what feels good on your body and on stage. The Les Paul was just for the studio because it’s heavy. So I prefer that in the studio.

Lzzy Hale – Photo by Jack Lue

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What kind of advice are you asked most often?

Patti: I was in a store, and this girl came up to me. I guess she knew who I was. She said, ‘I’m a musician, and I’m ready to quit because I’m getting so much flak about being a woman.’ She’s been persevering, right? Couldn’t get anywhere. I sat her down, and we spoke for about a half-hour. I told her, ‘Don’t you dare let other people affect your life path.’ She wrote to me three years later and said, ‘You changed my life that day.’ I’ve played Vietnam, hospitals, concerts, everything, but nothing impressed me more than that girl telling me that I had helped her to be stronger along her career path.

LZZY: That’s amazing, Patti! We were on a five-day cruise called ShipRocked, and I had a very similar thing happen. This thirteen-year-old girl was already playing in a band, just starting to figure out this whole situation, where people love you, hate you, don’t believe in you, etc. My advice, which I still say to myself, was to pay no nevermind to people who love you or hate you. You can love me and think I’m great. That’s cool. You can hate me and think I’m the worst. That’s fine too. All that matters is what you think of you, and what I think of me. That’s been in force since I was a teenager.

I can’t imagine having to do this now in an era of social media, where everybody has something to say. Back in my day, we didn’t have to deal with that. Now, of course, everybody has an opinion and . . .

Patti: Including us!

LZZY: Exactly! And most of them are anonymous, which sucks because most of those people would never say that to your face. When I cut my hair short, I got death threats because I cut my hair.

Patti: Oh, my God! I love your hair short!

LZZY: I appreciate that. But it’s a reality of the world. I thank God there wasn’t Twitter or Instagram when I was a teenager, because I would have gotten in so much trouble. I can’t even imagine being a young girl today and going by what a list of anonymous people say about your picture. Let’s say you have a picture of the best day in your life. You’re hanging out with your best friend by the pool. Maybe you’re in a bikini, have your makeup on, and think you look cool. And now, all of a sudden, your life is ruined because fifty percent of the people online don’t like you, because they don’t think you look cool. That’s just stupid.

Patti: Thank you! It’s all ego. Everybody has their own opinion. Be true to yourself.

LZZY: Exactly. As long as you’re good with you, and you can sit in a room, look in a mirror and be like, ‘You know what? You got this.’ As girls, we’ve got to stop worrying about our squish, whether or not we’re thin enough. We’ve got to stop worrying about whether or not a blemish on our face is gonna ruin our life. We’ve gotta stop worrying about those petty things, because that’s something that’s been programmed in our heads since we were kids, from the media and old white men who can’t handle their own egos.

Patti: I have a daughter who is bringing up her two kids, and all she teaches them is the exact opposite. They want to dress crazy to go to school? Do whatever you want to do. Be kind. I’m so proud of the values she’s giving her kids.

LZZY: That’s amazing!

So I have one last question for you both.

LZZY: Really? Because we can talk all night!

What has been your proudest musical moment so far?

Patti: Mine was in the ‘60s. I was on a tour overseas, and we were playing at a gig for people who had been brought over from Vietnam. They were not even cleaned up yet: full of shrapnel, missing limbs. It was horrible. They had us go in acoustically into the hospital. They’re waiting to be operated on, and we had to go through to the beds and play for people. This one guy, full of shrapnel, he was missing arms, all bloody—he couldn’t even see us. He asked, ‘Can you play “Try a Little Tenderness” for me?’ We could barely make it through, but we did it. That was most momentous, to know we could give him a moment to forget his problems in his moment of deep pain. That showed me, it’s the music. It lifts people up.

LZZY: Oh, that’s so beautiful, Patti. For me, it’s been my brother and my best friend since I was nineteen and also my significant other. We still like each other and haven’t killed each other yet. I consider it mile markers along this big highway. Cool, we’ve won a GRAMMY, toured the world, and played some legendary places. We’ve met our idols. All these things are monumental moments. But really, it’s the journey, the fact that I’m still relevant at the moment. I say, at the moment, because it could all go away tomorrow. The fact that I’m still doing it with my best friends, and we’re still chasing after the same stuff that we got excited about when we were teenagers, that’s our biggest accomplishment.

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