Q&A with Lzzy Hale on “Terrible Things” with Ashley McBryde and Breaking the Mental Health Stigma

Lzzy Hale knows there are “Terrible Things” in the world. But she also knows that on the other side of that are inherently good people.

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The Halestorm frontwoman teamed up with country star Ashley McBryde for a duet version of the band’s song “Terrible Things,” which originally appeared on their 2022 album, Back From the Dead. In a Q&A with American Songwriter, Hale shares why McBryde was the ideal duet partner, her own experiences with mental health and how this song reflects the human experience.

American Songwriter (AS): What’s the meaning behind “Terrible Things?” 

Lzzy Hale (LH): “Terrible Things” is about forgiveness of one’s self and also the world we live in, and the strength it takes to maintain that faith in humanity as a whole.

AS: How did Ashley McBryde become a part of this song? What made her the right fit?

LH: We had been talking about making the song a duet/guest appearance since we recorded it. And instead of staying in our hard rock lane, we, in true Halestorm style, wanted the take a risk and blur the lines. Because as a music fan, regardless of whether you love pop, classical, jazz or country…we are all rockers at heart. And Ashley… is a ROCKER.

So, we decided to reach out to see if it inspired her. She said “fuck yes” straight away. And her voice and presence created this whole other level to the track. Also, our voices blend really well together, which in my opinion is very rare. Once more, when we were filming the music video, I saw how much she cared about the message of the song. Her eye contact blew me away. She knows who she is and what she brings to the table. It was beautiful.

AS: Why is it important for you to shine a spotlight on mental health through your music?

LH: It’s very important that we break the stigma and talk about it. I grew up in a culture where if you say you need help out loud or start with a therapist that meant that you were crazy, and you were viewed as damaged or broken. That is not true. I view asking for help and seeking out that help as a form of bravery and ownership of the things that plague you.

My brother and I are the first in our family to break this cycle, and because we have this amazing platform that we’ve built, we can pass the hope along. I’ve used writing my whole life to deal with my dark and sinister sides, and it’s so beautiful to discover that those black spots in your life do not define you, they exist. Through therapy, I’ve learned to acknowledge and respect them instead of pushing them down or denying them, which in turn comes through in the music.

AS: What are your experiences with mental health and how did you channel them into this song? 

LH: I’ve dealt with panic attacks and anxiety as a child, a few times having to leave school and go home because of them. I still endure deep low spots of depression, and immense imposter syndrome despite everything I’ve overcome and done with my life and career.

I’ve gone to the depths where I don’t even want to do music anymore and go through a procrastination stage. Then, I rediscover how important creation and music [are] for my mental well-being and go through a stage of incredible highs. This is where I’m at my best. I have an amazing therapist now who will constantly remind me of how music has been a constant savior, and to lean on that in my times of trouble. I’m looking forward to how that shapes my future.

AS: What’s the most powerful moment in the music video? 

LH: The most powerful moment for me is the bridge scene at the end. Our lead character, even after going through all this hardship, decides at the end to believe in all the good she’s seen. A cashier at a store being OK with her stealing some food, a crack addict coming to her aid when she’s attacked in an alley, a homeless man offering her what’s left of his sandwich. She chooses to believe that humans are inherently good, and only learn through conditions to hate.

AS: How do you hope “Terrible Things” impacts the people who hear it? 

LH: We are human / We are violent / We learn our lessons / Then defy themBut in my dreams / I believe / We’re not these terrible things. There’s so much magic in us, so much kindness and beauty we can offer to our own souls and the world. I hope to inspire change and a grand epiphany of how we spend our meager time in this life.

AS: What message are you trying to convey through the song?

LH: Above all, I hope people hear the hope calling at the end of a dark tunnel. Whether that means your inner battle or your war against so much hate and evil we see within the human race. We are being bombarded by news of how violent and terrible we are capable of being. I want people to take a step back, and just be grateful that we exist.

What will you do with your time? Are you going to hate yourself or others, and live miserably or will you choose to believe in love? Even the simple gesture of complimenting a stranger, being there for a friend, or loving yourself…can change the world.

Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

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