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Joe Hottinger

In this episode we speak with Halestorm guitarist Joe Hottinger about the group’s amazing journey from local bar band to Grammy award-winning artists. Joe discusses his development as a guitar player, his first meeting with Lzzy and Arejay Hale, his life in Nashville, his influences, and much more.

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Transcript

Evan Ball:
Hello, welcome to Ernie Ball's Striking a Chord. I'm Evan Ball. Today on the show, we have Joe Hottinger, guitarist of Halestorm. We will talk about many things, including the first time he met Lzzy Hale and joined the band, his early quest to become a lead guitar player, Halestorm's journey from local bar band to rock stardom. Talk about living in Nashville. His inspirations, from Nirvana to Jeff Buckley, and of course, we'll talk about the current state of his band and music in general.
In the first couple of weeks of the corona shutdowns, I was able to grab a bunch of remote interviews. Things have changed a bit since then, but not really much at all for bands, so we'll continue to hear about that as these episodes are released. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Hottinger.

Evan Ball:
Joe Hottinger, welcome to the podcast.

Joe Hottinger:
Hey, man. Thanks for having me.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. This is our first remote interview in the year age of sheltering in place.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Maybe we can start out touching on that? From your vantage point, what is the current state of the music industry look like?

Joe Hottinger:
I mean, what music industry?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
No, I mean, crazy. It's chaos and upheaval in a really strange way and very passive way. Obviously, everyone is streaming things now, which is really cool because they need to be seeing some artist singing some songs live and kind of in the moment, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah [crosstalk 00:01:47]-

Joe Hottinger:
It's exciting. Doesn't even come close to the live show experience, but it's neat. Really, it's unprecedented times for all of us alive today and it's weird, so it is kind of comforting to hear that stuff and to feel a little more connected to people. Yeah, man. We've gotten really busy, which I thought was strange, just doing lots of streaming things and interviews. It's a trip. It's kind of neat in the sense that, like I say, we're connecting with people.

Joe Hottinger:
I think there's like a reckoning happening with a lot of people and a reset happening. I know it's happening in my life. I feel like I'm kind of resetting how I'm living or how I was living. It's an opportunity to start over, so I hope in the music business... I don't know what that startover's going to be like. It's crazy. It's part of the ongoing discussion happening right now.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I mean, it could be some sort of crazy creativity renaissance from memes to home music recording [crosstalk 00:02:56]-

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, you know [crosstalk 00:02:56]-

Evan Ball:
It's hard to predict what'll come out of it.

Joe Hottinger:
We're planning on taking this time to write anyway. We were supposed to start at the beginning of March and we did. We have been writing, so this is all going according to plan. Not really, but the rhythm section can't. Lzzy and I live together, so we're just here doing music and putting puzzles together and watching movies. Thank God it's so nice to be with someone who's so creative like she is. It's inspiring. I don't think we've tapped into our groove yet writing. We're still fighting digging that whole and trying to get to the point of it all, but we've got time, so it's all right.

Evan Ball:
You guys are a band that tours an awful lot on [crosstalk 00:03:40]-

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah [inaudible 00:03:41].

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I mean, there's so much unknown right now. I would think even rescheduling a tour, you're crossing your fingers when you're doing that.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, Man, I don't know. I'm kind of like still mentally preparing myself for the lean months ahead. It's crazy. Everything this year so far has been... Not everything this year. We've got stuff in the summer. I have a feeling this is going to last the whole year and we won't be able to play another show until next year. I hope not, but I'm kind of [crosstalk 00:04:14] preparing myself for that. That's insane. We haven't gone a year without playing a show... I haven't in probably 20 years and, I don't know, that's like our drug, our favorite thing to do ever is play rock shows. It's crazy.

Evan Ball:
That's right.

Joe Hottinger:
The streaming thing is like a little touch of a hit of it, but it's not the same. You don't get the energy.

Evan Ball:
No, and I should point out, we're recording this on April 1st and this will probably air in a month or so because things are changing so fast. We don't even know what a month from now looks like, but [crosstalk 00:04:44]-

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, right.

Evan Ball:
I'll just timestamp this. Yeah. I think it's strange for everybody being cooped up at home, but I would think especially strange for people who are like you, used to living on the road.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. The road is home really. When we're home, it's kind of like vacation.

Evan Ball:
Any good puzzles or movies?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. We have like a little game closet and I found this unopened puzzle in there from like three or four years ago that a fan gave us and it was this photo of Ronnie James Dio made into at puzzle.

Evan Ball:
Oh, okay.

Joe Hottinger:
I was like, "Oh, awesome! We got a Dio puzzle!" A little 500-piece thing. I took it out and did it over like three or four days. I was like, "Oh, great. This Dio puzzle." I was like, "I want another puzzle. That was fun." Apparently, everyone has had this idea because everyone on Amazon... There was like no puzzles available, like none. You couldn't get them. I mean, they are a nonessential item totally and maybe it's for a good cause, but there was only one that was available with two-day shipping that wasn't like, "It'll show up in two months." I got this puzzle and the only problem is that it's 18,000 pieces.

Evan Ball:
I haven't done one of those.

Joe Hottinger:
It's literally 9' X 6' and they're all regular tiny-sized pieces and it comes in four bags, each one is 4500, so I'm still working on the first one. It's great. I'm excited [crosstalk 00:06:09]-

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Joe Hottinger:
It's totally ridiculous.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that's a project. What about revenue streams for artists in general? I don't know if bands sell much merch online. I would think most of that happens at live shows, too.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. We're not a huge online merch band. It does all right, but it's not like the kind of money that's going to keep you afloat. We're lucky, man. We've had such a lucky career and we've busted our ass getting to where we are. We're going to be all right. We're trying to keep our crew afloat because they're not going to be working this year. We're doing what we can, but I think it's lean times and I think that's going to be one of the most interesting things to come out of this whole scenario is I think there's going to be like a new music business.

Joe Hottinger:
I don't know what it's going to be exactly, but people are getting creative. People are doing live shows online. Code Orange is doing really cool stuff, but I don't know. I don't know what we're going to do. We're talking to our management right now trying to figure out what the next steps in this life are, which is crazy to think about.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Are you one to sit around on the couch or wherever with an acoustic guitar and just kind of noodle and maybe parts come up?

Joe Hottinger:
Sometimes. I don't know, I've got to be in the mood to sit around and... We have a studio in the basement and I like to sit down there and I got a Riffstation upstairs. We live on a lake looking out over the lake, so I might riff and look at the water or go down in the studio and be productive.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, okay.

Joe Hottinger:
I don't know. I like watching shows and stuff. I'll maybe watch one episode of something a day at the end of the day. I can't just sit and watch stuff. I get too antsy. I don't like it.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah. What else are you doing besides puzzles?

Joe Hottinger:
Really, just playing music.

Evan Ball:
Okay, good.

Joe Hottinger:
Cooking a lot of food. We kind of prepared a few weeks before this all went down and got a lot of frozen [inaudible 00:08:08] the writing on the wall, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Kind of overstocked on things. We've just been hanging out here and go fishing if it's a nice day, but trying to work on music. Trying to stay productive, you know?

Evan Ball:
Does your whole band live nearby?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
You guys could all shelter in place together and write your next five albums?

Joe Hottinger:
You know, no, it'd be cool. We stopped getting together right when that shelter-in-place order came out because the boys were coming over every day. We're just working on new music and, I don't know, we just decided not to take a chance. None of us want to get sick and-

Evan Ball:
Good call.

Joe Hottinger:
If one of us does, I don't want to get them sick and their families and whatever.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. You can do a lot remotely, too.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, and honestly, Lzzy and I just make demos and then we'll work them out with the guys. Whatever they come up with, they got little portable studios. We'll all get together once this all blows over and hustle, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Are you guys in the Nashville area?

Joe Hottinger:
Yep.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I know there's a crazy amount of musicians per capita there, but wondering why specifically did you guys choose to settle in Nashville over some other city?

Joe Hottinger:
Really, I was following my guitars and we made our second record and started using a tour bus for the first time on that one, I guess eight years ago. The first few tours we did... We're from Pennsylvania. While we were making the second record, Lzzy's parents, which is where all of our stuff was kind of stashed at their house in PA, they decided to move to Florida. We got done with the second record and ended up in Florida. We didn't live anywhere, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Ended up going to Florida because my parents were done there, too, and they weren't that far away. Everyone was kind of living with their parents. We'd start a tour and we had all of our gear down there and the tour bus would come up to Nashville and pick us up in Florida. We'd do the run and then drop us off in Florida, and then the tour bus would drive back. It's called the dead head, because nobody in the bus but the driver to drive from Nashville to Florida and back, and each tour ended up costing us like 10 grand per tour just to have the bus pick us up and drop us off.

Evan Ball:
Oh, wow.

Joe Hottinger:
Whatever, that was the bus companies where you use. There's so many of them in Nashville. After two tours of that, we were like, "Okay, it's cheaper to fly everyone to Nashville, get the gear, and get on the bus than it is to have the bus", you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
It was a business decision and we were like, "All right, we're moving the gear", and I was just like, "If my guitars are going, I'm going. I can afford an apartment now. Like, whatever." Right?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
"I'm going", and we did and fell in love with the town right away. A lot of music comes through and, obviously, it's Music City. There's musicians everywhere and they're all amazing. Within like the first few months, just accidentally stumbled on this Rock N' Roll Residency that was going on at the time. These dudes, now they play for Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons and all of the guys in Accept.

Joe Hottinger:
They're just killing it, but at the time, every Tuesday night they'd get together and just play like '70s rock and have guests come up. They saw Lzzy and I there and they're like, "You guys should come up and play", so we did and just kind of got welcomed into this rock and roll family in this town. There's such a great rock and roll family in this town. Just some of the nicest, best people from a bunch of really legendary bands. It's cool. I love it.

Evan Ball:
Really unique place. I haven't been there for a while. I went to this last Summer NAMM with my cousin. You visit a lot of the music stuff and went to a studio or two, I had no idea like the bachelorette central... like way more than Vegas. It was insane. I don't know if it was just that weekend or if that's [crosstalk 00:11:59]-

Joe Hottinger:
No [crosstalk 00:12:00]-

Evan Ball:
This thing.

Joe Hottinger:
It's always. It's been within like the last five or six years. It's just gone crazy downtown.

Evan Ball:
The previous Summer NAMM I went to was probably 12, 15 years ago and every bar on... It's Broadway, right? The main strip there?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, yeah.

Evan Ball:
Every bar on Broadway had a ripping country guitar player, and then this time it was pure cover bands.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, it's weird [crosstalk 00:12:26]-

Evan Ball:
Except [crosstalk 00:12:26]-

Joe Hottinger:
There's only one [crosstalk 00:12:27]-

Evan Ball:
Robert's [crosstalk 00:12:27]-

Joe Hottinger:
Good one left, Robert's Western World, it's the only good one left.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, we went over to [crosstalk 00:12:31]. Do you know Daniel Donato?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. We went out with him and he used to be the house guitar player there when he was 17 or whatever.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, just five years old. The kid is so ridiculous. We saw him.We had a day off in Charlottesville and I saw he was playing. We don't know him that well. We've met him a few times and seen him around, but he's just insane. There's so many pickers like that. Jared James Nichols lives out here now. He's just a ripper. It's disgusting. I love it, man. There's [crosstalk 00:13:02]-

Evan Ball:
Crazy talent, yeah. You know what? At least they were cover bands instead of... At least it was still live music, I guess?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Evan Ball:
That's something.

Joe Hottinger:
We have a bunch of friends that make a living playing music because of Broadway. Well, they used to. That's changed, but I hope they can get back to it because this is life-changing, whatever's going on, especially for musicians. Regardless, I can't stomach that cover band that long. You go down Broadway, those guys just like [crosstalk 00:13:35]-

Evan Ball:
You're not hanging out at Broadway every night?

Joe Hottinger:
Oh my God. No, I can't. I can't do it. It's just so intense and there's so many other cool bars in Nashville where [crosstalk 00:13:45] I'll go and grab a drink.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, I'm sure. We just ventured out from our hotel and that's where we saw it, but-

Joe Hottinger:
No, you got to do it [crosstalk 00:13:51]-

Evan Ball:
It's still entertaining, right. All right. Well, let's get some of your backstory. When did you join your first band?

Joe Hottinger:
I started my first band in '97 in high school. I remember we had our first gig booked at Scenario Coffeehouse in Westchester, PA. It was a hippy coffeehouse that had bands and the only other bands I knew in the area would play there, so to me like, we got a gig. We recorded a demo on like a cassette tape, hit record on it, play, and I was like, "We did it! We got a gig!"

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Turned out it was Jerry Garcia's birthday and they closed in remembrance of him or something, or maybe it was his death day, I don't know. It was such a bummer. I was doing an interview maybe six, seven years ago with Lzzy and Jeremy and this guy asked us each when our first-ever gig was. Lzzy and I were doing the interview and we realized that our first-ever shows were in the same month of the same year, just like a country or two apart. We didn't know each other-

Evan Ball:
No way.

Joe Hottinger:
But yeah, we both started at literally exactly the same time.

Evan Ball:
So '97?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, that was '97 until I graduated in 2000, and went to college in James Madison in Virginia for three years and I think I was in two different bands down there. I knew more music people in Philly, so I kind of quit college, moved to downtown Philly. It was like the first week I was there, I answered an ad in Origivation Magazine, which is like the local music rag. It was just in all of the music shops.

Joe Hottinger:
It's the only ad I've answered in my life and thank God I did because it was... They didn't say who it was, it didn't matter. I wouldn't have known who Nils Thom was anyway. They didn't have anything going on yet. They were looking for a guitar player and I went and auditioned. They asked me to come out and I was impressed because it was at this studio. Lzzy had been working with this producer, Dave Ivory, and he had engineered one of the early Roots records, so he had a Gold record on the wall. I was like, "Whoa, this is the real stuff", you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
"There's a Gold record on the wall." I joined the band. You hear her sing for the first time and it's kind of like, "Whoa, your voice is really cool." I remember it was really intimidating, actually, because I kind of walked in not knowing what the hell I was getting into. They didn't tell what the band was or any songs. There was just like, "Come in and play and see what happens." She like walked up to me like, "Hi!" She's kind of got a low speaking voice because she's always been singing. I was like, "Oh, hi. Okay. Wow, this lady's crazy." Then, she started singing and I was like, "Holy shit. That girl's got a voice." Luckily, they wanted to play music with me and I've literally been doing that ever since.

Evan Ball:
You overlapped a bit with Lzzy's dad still playing bass, right?

Joe Hottinger:
No, he wasn't on bass anymore. She was 19 I think. Arejay was like 15 or 16 years old. He was just bouncing off the walls in that audition room. They were looking for a bass player, too, at the time.

Evan Ball:
Okay, so this was kind of an era of an overall reboot I would think?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. No, totally. They had two kids in the band with them who had dropped out six months earlier to join cover bands because they wanted to make money, you know?

Evan Ball:
Oops.

Joe Hottinger:
Or something like that. Yeah, thank God. I'm glad. Their poor decisions, my win. Lzzy and Arejay were the first people I ever met that had the ideas that I had. Some of my musician friends kind of did in Philly, but not really. I was always like, "Well, we can do this. You just got to work. We got to practice every day and we got to hit the ground and get as many gigs as we can. We could play every day if we work hard." I don't know, just-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
It seemed possible to, I don't know, but to make a living, to just be a musician to me.

Evan Ball:
They had that drive, that work ethic?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. They had that. They had already been a band for I think five years, the two of them, since they were little kids. They're in Central PA, so they kind of had like this network of shows and venues that they could play at. That was built in, and like I knew people in Philly kind of, so I was trying to get shows in Philly going, but whatever. They had their shit together.

Joe Hottinger:
They're the first people I met that were like hustling and always wanting to get better, and I always wanted to get better and all I cared about was like making moments in music. They had the same ideas, so it was awesome. It was a relief with a bunch of people that wanted to work because we've all been bands where there's always the guys that are just like, "Yeah, whatever." You're just like, "No, but if we all chipped in, we could do this. Okay, nevermind."

Evan Ball:
What about style-wise? Was this similar to what you had been doing before with previous bands?

Joe Hottinger:
No. I had just like a year or two earlier discovered Jeff Buckley and it kind of like rocked my world, you know? Like-

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Real quick, I learned that emotion and music were so closely tied together, which, duh, but I don't know. It didn't click with me. I would hear him play chords and the way he sang and the way that lined up and the way it made me feel. It was like masterful to me because I'd never written with those sort of ideas before and those sort of moments that literally... You know when good music makes your skin crawl and it can move your muscles and you like twitch and [crosstalk 00:19:27]-

Evan Ball:
Yeah [crosstalk 00:19:28]-

Joe Hottinger:
Oh my God [crosstalk 00:19:28]-

Evan Ball:
Jeff Buckley, that's a prime example of someone who's going to give you goosebumps.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, so like some of the best moments of Zeppelin could do it. Like everything I had listened to up until I heard Jeff, I kind of threw out the window and I was like, "All right, none of that matters." I started like kind of listening back to see if what I liked was actually good, but I would call it like the Buckley Test, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
My buddies and I, but a lot of it like Soundgarden, hearing that again with these new ears and as to what to me, my new standard of what music should be and how moments should be made, is what I considered good music. They were killing it. Pearl Jam, STP, like [crosstalk 00:20:11]-

Evan Ball:
You were more rooted in the Grunge scene before that?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, yeah. It was Nirvana that made me want to play guitar. Kurt was like my first music hero, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
I was late to it all. I think it was '94, '95 when I got into rock and roll. He had already died and so it was no way I'd ever see him, but I didn't care. I got into Nirvana and then anything that was played on the radio, I loved it. I just loved every single thing and I had to figure out how to play it, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Well, so you came of age when the guitar solo was maybe not as prominent as it had been. You're a skilled lead player, so when does that come about?

Joe Hottinger:
Oh, I appreciate that. I'm [crosstalk 00:20:53]-

Evan Ball:
Well, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Still busting my ass. The point of all of that was like I had sold all of my rock and roll gear and I bought a Tele and I wanted the same amp Jeff Buckley had but I couldn't afford this Fender. I don't know what it was. I got like a Mesa/Boogie combo, it was like a Recto-Verb. Just wanted something with the reverb in it. I was still learning, trying to figure it out, but I was not a lead player at all. It just never made a sense to me. Joined the band, Lzzy's like, "Oh, you got to do a solo here", and I was like, "Oh, really? Okay." I just started trying to do solos and trying to figure out how that worked.

Joe Hottinger:
I'm still trying to figure out how that works and that's now become like my favorite thing is just pure melodic improve and something that we've been working into our set the last few years. It's been a journey. I've been in the band how long now? What is that, almost 20 years? 17 years? I feel like in the last year I'm finally getting to a point where my fingers are starting to do the things that my brain is wanting to do, which is it shouldn't take that long. Maybe I'm a bum, but [crosstalk 00:22:02]-

Evan Ball:
Where do you look at that point for inspiration or for guidance on learning leads?

Joe Hottinger:
You know, I remember I would like kind of bounce around and take lessons around Philly and I think I took some lessons in Central PA here and there, just trying to, I don't know, tap into anything that made sense to me. The biggest steps I made were learning other people's solos, but exactly. It was something Tremonti taught me back in like eight or nine years ago and we did a tour with Alterbridge and every day I'd like wake up at noon and he'd be in there like hustling on the fretboard. I'm like, "Dude, what are you doing? How is there that much?" He was like, "Oh, I'm doing"... He was on TrueFire learning solos of this guy's improv class.

Joe Hottinger:
`He's like, "No, but I'm not just learning it, I'm like learning it like down to every nuance." He's like, "Now, only when you get to nuance and I can play it all the way through without screwing up, and then I'll move on." That blew my mind. I was like, "Wow, that's insane." I'd be like, "Well, okay." I was like, "I'm going to do it, too." He showed me what lesson and I bought it and I like kind of went through one. I went back to it. I was like, "I think it's like this." He's like, "No, dude. Watch, he's throwing his middle finger in and like flick that string there and he's actually playing it on this finger and doing the bend with that finger." I was like, "Oh-

Evan Ball:
Nice. Nitty-gritty.

Joe Hottinger:
"Oh shit." Yeah. No, down to like every detail. I learned this one solo and for the first time ever, my fingers felt fluid. It was like, "Oh, man [crosstalk 00:23:41]-

Evan Ball:
What kind of solos? Like what bands?

Joe Hottinger:
It was like Zeppelin stuff. Nowadays, I just love Dickie Betts and the Allman Brothers and I'll put on... I've got a bunch of the live Brothers records. I'll just throw one of those on and jam along to a side and kind of tap into some licks. I don't get exactly. I probably need to spend more time learning nuance like Mark had showed me. Every once in a while, I get into the nuance things and I'll do a Truefire class or I'll pick a record or a solo and dig deep, but mostly now, I'm more kind of concerned with like the expression, just the spontaneous improvs. How do you make these moments and make it melodic but throw in some ripping? Give it a little ripping into?

Joe Hottinger:
Patience, the thing I have to work on so hard is patience and take a breath and space. It's like the hardest thing for me because I get so excited. It's like solo time and I just want to do all of the things real fast. I still fall into that and it's just like, "Take a breath, man."

Evan Ball:
Right, right. Let's get back to Halestorm real quick. You joined, what's the popularity level of the band at that point?

Joe Hottinger:
When I joined?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
I don't know. Maybe-

Evan Ball:
Touring? Or local [crosstalk 00:25:02]-

Joe Hottinger:
No, no, no. I mean, my first show was in Shamokin, PA. It was a coal town and the venue there, I had never played it, but it was called The Coal Hole, which I thought was hilarious, but it was like this weird outdoor like townfest. The big headliner was an Ozzy tribute band.

Evan Ball:
Okay, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
We're on like in the middle of the afternoon playing to people who had no idea who we were. If we went and played at a bar, maybe 10 people would show up, if even, if it was in the right town. There wasn't much going on. The kids had been busting their ass, for sure, but it was just bar band stuff and [crosstalk 00:25:46]-

Evan Ball:
Was it a pretty quick ascent from there? Didn't you get signed by Atlantic not too long after that?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, in 2005.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Joe Hottinger:
So-

Evan Ball:
Were you being heavily scouted? Or was this something that was fairly unexpected?

Joe Hottinger:
I remember in the beginning of '04, Dave Ivory, who we were working with, was trying to get A&R guys to see us. In fact, Pete Ganbarg, who's been our A&R guy now, not the guy who signed us, but he's been our A&R guy since the first record, actually came out and saw us at a show at Grape Street in Philly. Totally passed. I remember seeing his Mercedes outside and like, "Oh, he's here somewhere." We didn't even meet him. He must have popped in, watched a few songs and left. There was like other people. I remember someone from Columbia Records came by Dave Ivory's studio and they're like, "A woman can't be on rock radio, not right now. There's already one out there and she's so fucked up." That's crazy.

Joe Hottinger:
One lady was like, "Oh, no. They're at least a year away from being close to anything." We're like, "Okay, whatever that means, whatever." We kind of got sick of it. There was a really sweet guy, Larry Mazer. He managed Pat Benatar and Cinderella and he was working with Breaking Benjamin at the time. We didn't sign with him but he was like, "I think I can get you guys a deal." He brought some people who all passed on us. We're like, "Whatever." We were always trying to whatever the next step forward was, you know? Like [crosstalk 00:27:15]-

Evan Ball:
Is this interest that you're getting, is it based on recording? Or because you've been playing live and generating a following?

Joe Hottinger:
No, it was based on the fact that like Dave Ivory had taken an interest and he was trying to stir up his music business friends. He had worked with Silvertide, too, who had gotten signed out of Philly not long before that. He had like an ear to the ground thing and people were paying attention, you know?

Evan Ball:
Okay. You got the right guy to believe in you and the guy with connections?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, and the way we got signed was he got this guy that was an old executive from Atlantic, Frank... I can't remember his last name, but he was starting a new label and he wanted to sign a band. Dave had talked to him and he was like, "All right, well, maybe this band." We went up to Don Hill's up in New York City. We played this Wednesday for this showcase for this dude. It didn't work out. It was like everything else, whatever. It didn't happen, but Don Hill saw us. Don was like, "Hey, I think you guys are really cool and I want you to come back next week and play again and I'm going to bring my lawyer out because I think he can get you a record deal." At this point, we've heard, "Yeah, we can get you a record deal" like 50 times, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
People that see us play live, because the recordings weren't doing it and they'd be like, "Oh, I get it. Yeah, we'll get you a record deal." We just stopped believing people. We're like, "Whatever." We're actually making a living playing music at that point. Lzzy and I were playing three, four nights a week acoustic during the week, and weekends we were playing electric shows, one or two nights a week full band. We were playing like five, six nights a week in like a hundred-mile radius. We were just busting our ass. We'd have like these four-hour acoustic shows, get 75 or 150 bucks each night and entertain the crowd and we were having a blast and making a living. We were like, "Whatever."

Joe Hottinger:
We kind of cracked the code on making a living playing music and we were happy doing that. We were always taking every opportunity that was thrown at us, but it was like it became kind of take it with a grain of salt. "Oh, I can do this." I remember one show we played CBGB's and some lady that worked there was like, "You guys were amazing." She's like, "I'm going to help you out." She's like, "You know, the only other band I've ever said that to was a little band that played here. They were called The Police." We're like, "Cool. Whatever."

Joe Hottinger:
I'm sure she had good intentions. She was very excited and we were just doing our things, trying to make moments like I was talking about. We kind of got really good at making... Every song had to have some killer moment that made people go like, "What the hell?" Lzzy's voice was so insane that we could do it every song, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
We kept doing that. Sorry, I'm giving you like the super long version [crosstalk 00:30:07]-

Evan Ball:
No, it's great.

Joe Hottinger:
Regardless, Don Hill had us come back, play for his lawyer. His lawyer, David, was like, "Yeah, oh yeah, I'll get you guys a deal. Whatever." We're like, "Yeah, okay. Whatever." He's like, "No, seriously. Come back next week. Bring an acoustic. We'll go up to Epic. We'll go to Columbia. We'll hit a few labels." Like, "All right, screw it. What's the worst that could happen?" We did. We played acoustic at a bunch of labels. They were like, "Okay." I think we had a full-band gig that night, too, at Don Hill's again. He was like, "That was just a warmup." He was like, "The one guy, I think, that is really going to get you and would work well with you guys is Leigh Lust. He's at Atlantic Records and he's coming out, so just do your thing."

Joe Hottinger:
We did and Leigh was excited. He was like, "Hey, I want to see you guys play in Philly. I got to see that again." That kind of got the ball rolling and he came down. We did like a private show for him at Grape Street and he was just telling us that like, "Hey, I'm really into you guys. I'm going to try to get a record deal for you." I'm like, "Cool." He's like, "I had to see you again to see if that magic I saw that night was like a thing or was a fluke." Leigh was an A&R guy, a consummate A&R guy. He was out every night of the week in New York City seeing bands, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
He was like, "I have seen bands that have completely melted my brain and then that was the only show they've ever played where they were that good." He was like, "I had to check it out again", which was cool. It was a nice compliment, but-

Evan Ball:
Yeah [crosstalk 00:31:34]-

Joe Hottinger:
Then, we got Mondayed and Fridayed for the next like eight months to the point where we didn't care, you know [crosstalk 00:31:41] and we did, but it was just like, "No, we'll have a deal ready on Monday. No, we'll have it by Friday. Well, there's going to be a deal." Meanwhile, we're going up to New York like once a month playing. "Here's the President of the label. Here's the Chairman of Warner. Here's this guy. Here's the marketing team." Leigh did his work to get us signed and good on him because it worked because we ended up signing a deal.

Evan Ball:
Wow, so you were on the verge for a while?

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. I mean, yeah, we were just [crosstalk 00:32:11]-

Evan Ball:
Maybe that's probably condensed into a shorter time, but lots of interactions there.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. No, totally.

Evan Ball:
You've had a somewhat gradual climb, but are there certain milestones or memories that stand out?

Joe Hottinger:
I remember our first time in a tour bus. That was like, "Whoa", right?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah. "This is happening."

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. We never did too much van touring because we took our whole like recording advance and stuff and put it into an old shitty RV and put bunks in it to save money on the road and it worked. We were able to do that first album cycle kind of in the black. I think it was by like $11, but we didn't lose money and we'd stay in Walmart parking lots every night. If it was a special night, we'd go to a KOA and get showers.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
You know? I remember like you see all these other bands in buses. I remember that was a thing, like some new band would come out and they'd have a bus. I'm like, "They must just be blowing through all of their money", because you're spending $10,000 a week on one of those things. We just couldn't fathom how any band could afford that. We had had a few singles on the radio that did well and-

Evan Ball:
Right [crosstalk 00:33:26]-

Joe Hottinger:
It was going good and we're like, "Oh my God." The second album, we finished that up. We kind of got a new crew. It's hard to hire good crew guys if you're not in a tour bus, for one. Quality crew guys aren't going to go back to a van tour if they're real good at what they're doing. I mean, that's not saying there aren't quality crew guys in a van tour. We were trying to up our game a little bit, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
We kind of pulled the trigger on the bus, which was what I was telling you about when we learned about the Deadheads that cost 10,000 bucks a tour. Like, "Oh my God! We got to move our stuff to Nashville!"

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
That was a big moment, getting on a bus, because we just went nuts that first month. It was awesome. I didn't have to drive anymore, which was [crosstalk 00:34:12]-

Evan Ball:
Oh, nice [crosstalk 00:34:13]-

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, Josh and I used to do all of the driving, so we were like partying it up, having a great time. Then, it was like later that year we got nominated for a Grammy and then we won one, which was like, "What?"

Evan Ball:
Amazing, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
That was awesome personally just because we didn't even know that we were on the Academy's radar just to even get nominated. There was actually an amazing picture out there. We were playing in Wisconsin. Google like "Lzzy Hale finds out about a Grammy" or something. This girl took it from the crowd, but we were in the middle of a show at this theater in Madison. We all walked off and Lzzy does a piano thing. She was kind of talking to the crowd for a bit.

Joe Hottinger:
My guitar tech was like, "Joe, you got nominated for a Grammy, dude!" I was like, "What?" Like, "I don't believe you. Shut the fuck up." I Googled it and I was like, "Oh, shit. We did." She hadn't started playing yet, so I ran out and I kind of just whispered it in her ear. Right as she kind of realized it, this girl took a picture and such a good picture. It like makes my heart melt every time [crosstalk 00:35:16]-

Evan Ball:
Oh, that's awesome.

Joe Hottinger:
It was awesome. Her face looks... She's got the most amazing face. It's totally unbelievable, and it was unbelievable. It was kind of a game changer for us. We didn't know at the time it would be, but it gave us some sort of credit, especially with like older booking guys. You got a Grammy, like-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, and just to emphasize that, you guys went ahead and actually won it.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. Insane. We went there to go have fun with the parties. We were sure we weren't going to win. We were like, "We're not going to win." I don't know how that worked out, but it was awesome and it was such a good moment. I remember we won and we were like, "Oh my God", and we're walking down this hallway. You have to go get your picture taken holding it. My Dad called me. He was watching it online and he was like crying. He was like, "I'm so proud of you!" You know? You get [crosstalk 00:36:09]-

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
That's a cool moment.

Evan Ball:
I mean [crosstalk 00:36:11] yeah. There's not [crosstalk 00:36:12]-

Joe Hottinger:
It's a-

Evan Ball:
Really a bigger milestone in music than that. That's huge.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. It was adorable and [crosstalk 00:36:18]-

Evan Ball:
Who did you guys think was going to win it? Do you remember?

Joe Hottinger:
I thought it was Lamb of God because [crosstalk 00:36:23] I'm just a fan of that band. The song we were up for, Love Bites, it was like I was learning Lamb of God riffs when we wrote those riffs. I forget what song, but I was like deep into some Lamb of God riffing. The way we went down and worked out Love Bites and there's totally like Lamb of God influence all over that. I was like, "Well, they're going to win. Whatever." It was a trip. They didn't call out Halestorm. The guy said, "Love Bites", and we're like "Oh. Oh, wait. That's us. Oh shit!"

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah. Were there more milestones you want to hit? Grow your fan base even more? Or do you feel like you're at a point now where you can basically say, "We're here", and just continue to put out good music and whatever happens?

Joe Hottinger:
Well, you know, one thing I learned during that second album cycle and beyond is that you never really run out of dreams. We had a lot of them, which is, how lucky are we? It's so cool. I mean, just to be able to tour the world doing what we love with the people that we love, we're all best friends and we hang out on days off and when we're at home. It's just fun. Same with our crew. We have one of the best crews ever and they're our buddies. It's what we like to do, go out and play rock shows. To me, the next big milestone, well, it's not even a milestone, it's just a goal is to just keep going. Keep pushing forward and keep making moments and just ride it.

Joe Hottinger:
I don't want to settle. That's my thing. I'm not settled right now. I'm totally freaked out about the next record because I've written a whole bunch of stuff and I don't think any of it's good enough and it's freaking me out. On one hand, I'm glad we have a lot of time right now, but whatever. It's like this every record. You start out, you dive in, and realize that nothing is good enough, and then you have to have a reckoning and figure out what the hell. Then, it starts happening. I don't know.

Evan Ball:
Well, does a Grammy... Is that something you're looking forward to even more now that you've actually tasted it? More Grammys?

Joe Hottinger:
That'd be cool. We got nominated on this last record-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
And whatever. I'm glad Chris Cornell one. I was hoping he would, honestly, and we were sitting next to the Alice In Chains boys. They lost their category and Jerry was so funny. He was like, "11-time loser. All right! I'm out of here! See you guys later." It was kind of fun losing with them and-

Evan Ball:
Sure. Good company.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah, but we've won one. We've been privileged. We've been lucky, so, yeah, of course, you'd want to win more. That'd be great and it's fun to go. It's a trip, man. Music is celebrated, and really that whole non-television portion of the Grammys that gets streamed online, you haven't watched that, you've got to because it is the best. All of these categories and musicians that you've probably never really heard of. This award is like life-changing for these people. They go out there and give their speeches and it's so emotional. I cry every time. It's like [crosstalk 00:39:34] it's so awesome. That to me is where the real music celebration is going on, like watching these jazz people and these Latin and music people and the children's album, and best [crosstalk 00:39:46]-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that's great.

Joe Hottinger:
Roots. There's so many great moments during that thing. The televised thing is just a big, weird pop concert. It was nice. This last nomination meant a lot because making the last record, Vicious, we were like really lost in the beginning. We had written like 12 or 15 songs and they were all good. They probably would have done fine, maybe even better than... Who knows? I don't know, it felt like it wasn't inspiring. It wasn't inspiring to me or any of us when were kind of bummed out about it because we knew that some of our label guys like loved some of them. Some were like, "Fuck".

Joe Hottinger:
We met with Nick Raskulinecz, who ended up producing the record. He said exactly what we were thinking. He's like, "I love you guys. I'm a big fan of your band, but I don't want to make this record." We were like, "Thank you so much because we don't want to make this record either." That leaves us with, "What the fuck do we do?" We didn't know what to do. We didn't know what we wanted to do. We knew what we didn't want to do, which was sound like those songs, and Nick is the best, man. He was like, "All right, no problem. This is what I do. I got you." We set up our gear in this little cabin that he was recording in at the time and he was like, "Who's got a riff?" That's kind of how that record started.

Evan Ball:
Okay [crosstalk 00:41:15]-

Joe Hottinger:
"Well, I've got a shitload of riffs, but I don't know what to with it." He's like, "Well, play it", so we just started playing. One of the first ones we did, it ended up being Uncomfortable. It was cool to be recognized for that because that one meant a lot to us because it was just us rediscovering ourselves, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right, let's take a quick break and come back. Talk about guitar practice and writing with Lzzy and more.

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Evan Ball:
All right. You're in the hard rock/metal scene, so you play shows with a wide swath of bands with varying heaviness, some being really heavy. Where do your taste buds lie on the heaviness spectrum as far as listening to music?

Joe Hottinger:
I like some metal. I'm mot a huge metalhead. No one in the band is really that big of a metalhead. We were when we were younger. I know Sevendust and Metallica were like Lzzy's intro to hard rock. That's what got her into it, the Home record and I forget which Metallica record was her first, but for me, it was like more of the grunge stuff. There's some metal that just like I love, so like Gojira and I love Code Orange.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, I have a podcast with them next week.

Joe Hottinger:
Oh, with the Code Orange kids?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
They're so good, man. That new record I think is so amazing and pushing every boundary and breaking every rule-

Evan Ball:
Definitely.

Joe Hottinger:
Just like it should. It is so cool. There's a few other, like Lamb of God. I love that band, too, and obviously Metallica and the classics, but I really rock and roll. I love the new Pearl Jam record. I think it's a grower, not a shower to me. I think that's really awesome. Every time I listen to it, it sets itself deeper into my... I was listening last night to it for like the fifth time and they're like getting it. There's nobody in that band slacking. Eddie is going nuts and they're all in their 40s, 50s. I don't even know how old they are, and they sound awesome.

Joe Hottinger:
I love rock and roll like that. Queens of the Stone Age. I like a lot of blues. I really do. Like I was saying, I will jam out with Allman Brothers records all of the time. I got a bunch of Freddie King records. Who else have I been listening to? Jared James Nichols, he's a new kid who's just mind melting at guitar. That stuff, and I've been into a lot of jazz lately. There's a great radio station that I listen to a lot called FIP. Do you know about FIP?

Evan Ball:
No.

Joe Hottinger:
F-I-P.

Evan Ball:
F-I-P? Okay.

Joe Hottinger:
It's this French public radio. I think they're doing limited broadcasting now as the country's shut down, but it's an app you can get on your phone. It's a pink app. It's like pink colored and their main station, I heard it... We were doing press in France at the beginning of the last record and we went into our hotel room and there was just a radio station on on the little clock radio. We had had a few drinks and I was like, "Oh yeah, this is cool." It was just really cool music and it would do like this jazz flute thing and then into the Beastie Boys song that sampled it, and then into like a blues song and then into like something classical, and then a hip hop song and then it was a rock song. Like-

Evan Ball:
Oh, that's cool. Okay.

Joe Hottinger:
Genre-free radio with no commercials, just every once in a while [inaudible 00:44:55]. Someone will say something in French. I have no idea what. It's just amazing. I always have it on. You can just put it on in the background and all of a sudden you'll be like, "What am I even listening to right now? Oh my God." Like a bunch of world music, but within that app they have a jazz station that is killer, like super killer.

Joe Hottinger:
Our tour manager/sound guy Mike Mahar always puts on jazz records at night on the bus late night. He used to run a station in his college days, do a jazz station, so he knows all of these old cats. It's all of this '40s, '50s, '60s. It's all like live improv. Just dudes getting it, like getting at it on whatever horn or instrument they're on. That shit inspires me so much. Just listening to that and how they work around changes and where they go and the phrasing is what I'm into with guitar playing right now. I'm not trying to be a jazz player.

Evan Ball:
No-

Joe Hottinger:
I don't have music theory in my brain or in my bones. I go by feel, but I like the rhythms and the phrasing and I like to imagine their melodies and what they're saying and how they're saying it. That's the kind of bigger picture shit that I'm into. I listen to a lot of FIP and FIP jazz.

Evan Ball:
Okay. I'll check it out. Hey, what does your guitar practice look like at this point? Is it a separate thing from band practice? Or does your guitar practice just kind of come mostly through writing and playing Halestorm songs?

Joe Hottinger:
Lately, man, I got a little rusty. I'm putting a solo on my friend's song right now.

Evan Ball:
Okay [crosstalk 00:46:36]-

Joe Hottinger:
He sent it to me yesterday and just in the last two, three weeks I haven't been playing as much. I don't know why, and I was like, "Oh, man, I bet I'm going to be"... You know, if you don't use it, you start to lose it. You can get it back, but there's a breaking-in period. If you take a few days off, your fingers start to lose the fluid stuff, that feeling. My practice hasn't been too much, it's just been the writing. Like getting the songs down. I haven't been like working and keeping my licks up.

Joe Hottinger:
I arranged a solo last night and I got through it the best I could, but I told him, I was like, "Hey, man. I'm a little rusty right now. I played through it like 30 times last night and I ain't feeling it today." I was like, "I don't have it right yet. I'm not going to get it right for another few days. I have to get my fingers back in shape." I'm glad he told me to do that, but really my practice right now, I'm not into focus. I get in and out of focus practicing. Like going on TrueFire, doing some of that stuff, where you sit down and spend a few hours getting your nuance right and your feel right. I'm not in one of those zones right now. I think I'm going to start jamming to some Brothers records again to get my licks back up. If I feel like getting into a focus thing, I will, but-

Evan Ball:
What does it look like when you and Lzzy are writing? Are you usually in the same room? Or is it sort of something where you'll come up with a riff and then hand it over to her?

Joe Hottinger:
It's all things. We'll write together. She's always writing. She's just one of those people that just writes. you know?

Evan Ball:
Will she write [crosstalk 00:48:15] melodies while she's making up chords at the same time to kind of [crosstalk 00:48:18]-

Joe Hottinger:
Oh yeah [crosstalk 00:48:18]-

Evan Ball:
Chords?

Joe Hottinger:
She's good on guitar. She's got like a little guitar rig/vocal rig. She wrote a ton of songs. She's a piano player first, so she writes a bunch on the piano. Now, she's writing a bunch on the guitar just to switch it up. I have a bank of like hundreds... Maybe it's just a riff, sometimes it's like full instrumental songs. I like thinking of titles. Lyrically, I'm not a big lyricist. It's her singing it, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
I love the idea of like thinking of, "What is something Lzzy would say?" Or, "What's a concept Lzzy would talk about?" Then, discussing that with her. Like, "Oh, here's a line or an idea." Like even just a title. We've bene into one-word titles lately. She's been killing it, like [crosstalk 00:49:08]-

Evan Ball:
Is this paired [crosstalk 00:49:09] with a musical idea? Or not necessarily?

Joe Hottinger:
Sometimes, sometimes not. I really like the bigger picture things, you know?

Evan Ball:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe Hottinger:
We got to look at it that way and it's something that we've been trying to get better at because, man, we've really written some dumb songs that have been on some records where it's just like you're just saying something stupid and it doesn't mean anything. There's nothing to it and it comes down to bands are so interesting, and singers in particular and like their characters. The good ones are almost cartoon character-like in their... Like Slash, you could see an outline, his silhouette and know it's Slash, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Like that idea of this big character. Lzzy's a big character. She's this ferocious hard rock frontwoman that screams her ass off and plays an Explorer. It's awesome. What would she say? Those sort of ideas are some of the big concept things. She'll sit down with some of my riffs and instrumentals. I'll program drums and put bass and maybe do some organ or synthesizer shit, you know? I like to-

Evan Ball:
Uh-huh.

Joe Hottinger:
Create this big bed. She'll sit down and sing on that, or we'll come up with a melody together, or I'll take some of her songs and try to write riffs on that, or get it a little more riffy underneath or something that would be closer to what we do.

Evan Ball:
Do you ever write like awesome music and then you pass it over and she's like, "No, it doesn't work with vocals"?

Joe Hottinger:
Oh yeah. Well, you know, if it doesn't work and it's... Like I have a few right now that I know are so killer-

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
But she sat with it in the booth and put a few melodies down. They weren't right, which is fine. That happens a bunch and to me, that's why I'm glad we have time because then you put it away and you don't think about it for a month. You kind of mute what you did before and then you go back to it and you think about it again. You just approach [crosstalk 00:51:11]-

Evan Ball:
With fresh eyes, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Fresh ears.

Joe Hottinger:
That happens sometimes. Other times, she'll take an instrumental and just destroy it and like take it up to a new level. You're frightened. We have standards that we set for ourselves, and like writing for this new record, we have a bunch of really good songs. I don't think we have anything great yet, but we just started, so whatever. I don't need to put that much pressure on myself, but-

Evan Ball:
You got time now.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. I'm a little annoyed, though, because I'm like, "Man, I thought for sure we'd dive into this." We've had so many ideas stored over the last two years of touring, and they are good ideas, but we just haven't hit it yet, kind of hit the nail on the head. We will. I'm not worried. You just keep digging that hole until you hit something, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
It always works out this way. There's always something when you think, "Yeah! We know what to do this time." Then, you're like, "Oh my God, I have no idea what I'm doing. Can I even do this anymore? We should quit." No, but-

Evan Ball:
Get around the corner and it works out.

Joe Hottinger:
Yeah. Just got to keep fighting.

Evan Ball:
Right, right. Quick check in with strings. Are you still playing Skinny Top/Heavy Bottoms?

Joe Hottinger:
Yep.

Evan Ball:
Yeah? Okay.

Joe Hottinger:
I sure am. Theirs [crosstalk 00:52:17]-

Evan Ball:
Paradigms? Or the regular?

Joe Hottinger:
Man, I love the Paradigms.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
They're well made. I remember the first time I opened a pack. You look at the bottom. I think we talked about this and the string theory thing, but-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
How it's wound up at the bottom at the ball, you can tell it's good. I don't know, I was sitting there with my guitar tech when we first got them and they're like, "Oh yeah, these will do. This is [crosstalk 00:52:39]-

Evan Ball:
Solid. Yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
That was something I had to learn the hard way, that not all strings are made equal.

Evan Ball:
No.

Joe Hottinger:
I remember when we first started out touring in '06, like I was saying earlier, people would be giving us strings and there are some really strange, random, small string companies out there, which I think is awesome. Go get them, entrepreneurs, and some of them I'm sure are great, but I remember getting a pack from these guys, and I hadn't heard of them before or since, but I was like, "Well". I was still buying strings at that point, and so I was like, "Yeah, I'll use them."

Joe Hottinger:
I remember I was playing guitar and I brushed it with my arm and it like ripped all of the hair out of my arm and it was like the first time that they ever happened. I was like, "What is that?" Then, one of the strings broke in the first song and I was like, "Oh my God. There are bad strings out there." I thought of them as just a simple piece of metal.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Regardless, we were impressed with the Paradigms when you sent them [crosstalk 00:53:37].

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
52 bottom, 10 on top.

Evan Ball:
All right. Well, Joe Hottinger, thanks for being on the podcast.

Joe Hottinger:
Well, thanks for having me, man. It was fun talking with you.

Evan Ball:
Thanks again for tuning into Striking A Chord, an Ernie Ball podcast. Thanks to Joe Hottinger for providing process. He's been coming along nicely. If you'd like to contact us, you can email strikingachord@ernieball.com.

Joe Hottinger:
The next tour we went on after that, we learned what tours are really like where you have to beg for a few bottles of water.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
We just had like so much tequila, so much beer. We were going nuts and we just thought it was a party. These other guys out there working, trying to get their singles going, and we were hustling. We'd get to the venue and find the radio station that was presenting and we'd just walk up to them and be like, "Hey, we're opening the show. You want to do an interview?" They'd be like "Sure!" Or, most of them would be like, "Oh, yeah, sure. Hop on the air. How about 10 minutes?" We're like, "Great!"

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Hottinger:
Every sound check was like a show for us. We'd give it our all because we never knew who was watching. It was funny, but after every show, we'd go out into the merch booth and meet people. We did two tours and I think we sold like 20 or 25,000 of those CDs just hustling at the live shows. We set a record for single-night CD sales. In this show in Iowa, we sold like 500 and I think it was us like hustling on those CDs on those first tours. They were like, "Well, they sold like 25,000 records out of the back of their-

Evan Ball:
Yeah, right, right

Joe Hottinger:
"Back of their van, their RV. Maybe we should see what the first record does?" Thank God.

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