Josh Smith, (seen here on the left), bass player with American rock band Halestorm, chats with Kevin Cooper about having Geezer Butler opening for them, touring in an old Mail truck, their latest album Vicious and their forthcoming four dates in the UK.

Josh Smith is an American bass player with Halestorm. The band was founded in 1997 by siblings, Lzzy and Arejay Hale who were later joined by guitarist Joe Hottinger before Josh Smith joined them in 2004.

The band’s self titled debut album was released in 2009 and was followed up by The Strange Case Of…in 2012. Its lead single Love Bites (So Do I) won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013. Since then there have been two further releases, Into The Wild Life in 2015 and Vicious last year.

Since 2006, the band have toured extensively, not only their own headline tours but also with the likes of Alice Cooper, Alter Bridge, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and Shinedown.

Whilst busy touring Germany ahead of their four date tour of the UK, Kevin Cooper caught up with Josh Smith and this is what he had to say.

Hi Josh, how are you?

Hi Kevin, I fine thanks, how are you doing?

I’m good thanks, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, it’s totally my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

What can I say; life at the minute is wonderful man. So far it has been a full-on, crazy, busy year for Halestorm, in fact it must be coming up to a year and a half now. We have just been going and going, but in our opinion, what better way to end the year than playing an international tour. It is going to be great. These will, in fact, be some of the biggest shows that I have ever played when we finally make it over there to the UK. Let me tell you, we are all beaming; it’s a great way for us to end the year.

I must tell you that a lot of fans have been left feeling a little frustrated as you are only playing four dates here in the UK. Do you have any comment on that?

What can I say but yes, that really is frustrating for both the fans and the band, and we are truly sorry that we cannot fit any more shows into the UK schedule this time around. As soon as we finish the UK leg of the tour, we will be jumping onto a plane and heading off to Sweden, Japan, Australia and Malaysia.

It’s a hard life (laughter).

(Laughter) you know, it’s tiring but you don’t realise just how tired you are until you get home and sleep in your own bed. Up until that point it is a total blast but man, you do enjoy sleeping in your own bed (laughter).

Do you enjoy the time that you spend here in the UK?

Yes, I do, very much so. I totally love the UK. Ever since we first started going over there, we have always felt that there was an instant connection with the fans and let me tell you, that has never gone away. None of us could have ever expected such a quick rise in popularity as that. In fact, I think that it took half the time there in the UK as it did for us here in the USA. We always thought that our popularity over there in the UK would eventually die down, but just how wrong could we be. The UK really are diehard rock fans, who continue to come out and see us whenever we are over there. For us, the UK is truly one of the best places for us to go and play. We love you guys.

The burning question on everybody’s lips is have you adapted yet to our warm beer?

No, I haven’t really (laughter). Having said that, every time that I find myself over there in the UK, I find that there are a few more IPA’s and Specialty Beers which do allow me a small taste of home. But as yet, I haven’t really got into the bitter type of ales. They are simply not my kind of thing, not yet anyway (laughter).

You have briefly mentioned the audiences; how do the UK audiences compare to the audiences back home in the USA?

Back home they are awesome, its home you know. Whenever we play over here in the States it is home and so that makes it amazing. However, what I find with the audiences over there in the UK is that they are not afraid to let themselves go and be there in the moment. I feel that on either a Sunday or Monday night you can look into the audience, especially in the USA, and I know because I have been there, and you can see it in their faces, it’s like, ‘oh fuck, I’ve got to go to work tomorrow’ (laughter). However, over there in the UK you can see that the people are there to have a good time and are more than willing to let themselves go on any night of the week (laughter).

I think that the warm beer may have something to do with that (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s right, I had never given it any thought until now, but I think that you could be right on that (laughter).

You are playing The Motorpoint Arena here in Nottingham on 25th November. Just what can we expect?

Man, what can I say, you should expect a great evening and a fantastic show. There is a great line-up; we have very special guests In This Moment, together with New Year’s Day opening proceedings for us each night. Let me tell you if you have heard either of those bands, they are truly awesome, and both bring something different and something unique to the show. It all really is a lot of fun. I would expect a fun night of rock with three truly different approaches to rock music.

I personally think that we will be spending the evening with some pretty powerful women. Going to a show that contains Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Maria Brink (In This Moment) and Ash Costello (New Year’s Day) you simply couldn’t and shouldn’t expect anything else.

That’s for sure, and I have to say that you are so right in your assumption. It really is amazing to watch these women take to the stage, stand up front and bring it on. What can I say, these girls really are amazing; they are three great talents.

Now forgive me if it sounds like I am playing catch-up, but you released your last album, Vicious, here in the UK on 27th July 2018 and I have to say that I personally feel that it is a great piece of work.

Thank you for saying that. I must tell you that for a musician it is always nice to hear that your work is being appreciated, so thank you.

At this moment in time, I have got three go to tracks. They are Heart Of Novocaine, The Silence and Black Vultures. I really do think that they are three standout tracks.

Thanks for saying that. In my opinion they really are three great tracks that you have picked out there. I have to tell you that recording Heart Of Novocaine really was fun. To me, that one was super rewarding in its recording process because we simply had no idea how to approach it (laughter). I don’t know how that song came about but I seem to think that it was a piano song that Lzzy wrote. However, when we heard the track, we didn’t want it to be played on just the piano and neither did we want it to be an acoustic song. So, we ended up throwing everything that we had at it (laughter). We took a very oblique strategy and approach to that song; we tried everything that we had. We even tried a bass solo (laughter).

It really was fun and to say that none of us knew just what to do with that song, where to start and where to go, it really was a fun journey and I really do still love the result. The Silence was something that Joe (Hottinger) had written on the guitar years ago. I can always remember hearing pieces of that song during the last four years until one day, Lzzy sat down and wrote those lyrics and it was like ‘yes that is awesome’. What is also great about The Silence is that it is our very first acoustic song that has made it onto a full-length album. That was fun and I look forward to writing and recording more songs like that. We are a rock band so we really should have some more acoustic songs (laughter).

Black Vultures was the song which became the mission statement of the album. Once we had bought that song into the equation, Lzzy and Joe had the idea that we should just get ourselves into the studio and record the song, which we did the following day. And it was at that point that the idea of that song became the mission statement of the album. Up until that point we were like ‘what are we going to do’ and ‘I don’t know I think that we are lost’ (laughter). At times, it feels as though you are trying to follow some altruist process when making an album. To me, it feels as if you have to scratch everything that you know, start over and try to remember just how a song is written (laughter).

It just feels like that, over and over again with every album that we make. However, with the last album it was an approach that we had used before but an approach that we hadn’t used on any of the previous three albums. It will sound so stupid to say this but, it was the four of us writing and working together in a room at the same time as opposed to Lzzy and Joe coming into the studio with a song. This time it was the four of us in a room, together, working out parts, movements, structures, and as soon as we had Black Vultures then we finally had a direction to go in with this album. It is all about not giving up; surviving everything that is thrown at you and becoming stronger from it. We knew that this was our fists in the air anthem and that we had set the bar for future comparisons very high indeed.

Your UK fans are claiming that it is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

Really, well that is really nice to hear and yes, I would absolutely agree with them. Personally, I am proud of everything that we have done, and very proud of our growth. I think that with every album, with every show, we learn something new about ourselves and we get better. I hope that we continue to do that; if we don’t then what’s the point in all of this.

How many of the new songs are currently on the set list?

Being honest with you, that changes from night to night, but I would have to say that at least half of the album is on the set list.

I know that it is still early days but are there currently any thoughts on a new studio album?

Yes, there are, there are a lot of thoughts regarding our next album. We are going to start digging into that early next year, after this tour is finally over. Our direction early next year is to start writing and working on a new studio album. We have already been compiling ideas so what can I say; studio time is just around the corner.

You are well known for playing two hundred and fifty shows per year. Do you not have a fear of burning out?

No, not at all, we just keep on doing it because it is what we know. I also think that as we have gotten older, we tour a bit smarter now. We try not to play so many shows in a row. We are all up there giving it everything every night, but we all have to be mindful of Lzzy’s voice and the preservation of it. We are always going to tour, but now, we are doing it smarter as we get older. As I said, it is what we know, what we love, it is nice to get home but that burn to get back out on the road, is always just around the corner whenever you come home. Whenever you go to see a show it’s like ‘let me get up onstage and play’ (laughter).

I have a baby boy now and that makes it hard for me to leave home, but it’s the life. It is getting better and hopefully he will come out onto the road with me from time to time, and that will make my life a little easier. What can I say; we are going to keep playing man (laughter).

You have been with the band now for fifteen years, are you enjoying the ride?

Yes, I am, so very much. It’s so funny and it is such a great ride. New Years Day have been over to the UK before, and we recently got talking and they started telling us about their very first touring vehicle. Naturally, we then had to tell them about our first touring vehicle which just happened to be an old Mail truck that had been converted into a touring vehicle (laughter). It had a couple of bunks and a little sink and that was about it (laughter). Take it from me, man it was rough but at the same time it was awesome (laughter). This life is never short for a good story. So yes, I love that about it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Taking you back to January 2012 you won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for Love Bites (So Do I). How did that feel?

That was really cool. It was cool for the four of us to be there again. The first time was like ‘oh dang, look, we are on the red-carpet’ (laughter). Everything was happening so fast. However, the second time that we were there; I personally felt that we needed to soak it in a lot more. Lzzy got to go up onto the stage and present some of the awards, which was really cool to see. She actually got to present some of the Latin Awards, and all in all the night really was so much fun. It is just another great part of this journey and so much fun to be around. It’s a great feeling when your peers, the people that you look up to together with the people who are out here fighting the same fight that you are, recognise your work in such a positive way.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

I would have to say that accepting the Grammy was pretty cool. (Laughter) this has just popped into my head, so I am going to say it, it’s not a highlight but it is a funny story. We were playing Rocking At The Ring and for some reason I just didn’t feel right; I was totally out of sorts. It was just one of those days when I thought that I wasn’t going to have a good show. Geezer Butler’s band (Black Sabbath) were playing before us and I was telling my guitar tech “dude, this is going to be a rough show, I can feel it already” and he is like “dude, Geezer Butler is opening up for you right now” (laughter). For me to be able to nod to Geezer Butler as he left the stage as I was just going on, man, that really did turn me around (laughter). That really was pretty fucking cool (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

The very first record that I bought was an album and it was Achtung Baby by U2.

Who did you first see performing live?

That would have been Tower Of Power.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That would be anything by Damien Rice. I don’t know if it is his lyrics or his melodies but man, he gets to me every time.

How will you be spending Christmas?

I moved to Nashville three years ago now, and every year we go to Philadelphia, to spend Christmas with my family. We have travelled so much this year that my wife and I have decided that this year we would stay at home. So, this year, we are going to stay in Nashville, and have our own Nuclear Family Christmas (laughter). I have some family just outside of Nashville so no doubt we will be seeing them as well. We really are going to stay close to home this year.

On that note Josh, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been delightful. You take care and I hope to see you here in Nottingham.

Thank you, Kevin, it was nice talking to you and I hope that we can catch up when we get over to Nottingham.