Halsey Reigns As ‘Festival Queen’ With ‘Love And Power Tour’
To properly celebrate her major label deal with Capitol Records in 2014, Halsey’s managers Jason Aron and Anthony Li brought her to the top of the Empire State Building to sign the paperwork, then headed to Governors Ball Music Festival to enjoy the fest for the day. Halsey will mark another milestone moment in their career when they return to Gov Ball June 11 to headline Saturday at NYC’s Citi Field, just one of several festival headline plays on their “Love and Power Tour” this year.
“She’s played the festival before in developing slots, but she’s never headlined and closed the main stage,” UTA agent Matt Meyer, who has represented Halsey for eight years, tells Pollstar. “They have earned and deserve that slot and it’s just a big moment for them and their team. Her team is super close – Jason Aron, Anthony Li, Jeremy Vuernick, her A&R [at Capitol] – and they’re all from the East Coast. We’re for sure all going [to Gov Ball] and ideally get Carbone reservations and have a weekend out of it.”
Halsey will hit the road in May on the “Love and Power Tour,” with festival appearances across the globe and a run through North American amphitheaters, including many of the venues she was supposed to play in 2020 before the pandemic disrupted her “Manic World Tour.”
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter from Edison, N.J., born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, is touring in support of their fourth studio album, the ambitious, critically acclaimed If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. The LP is a concept project devoted to the “joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth.”
The intense subject matter of the alternative rock album, which also mixes in elements of pop-punk and grunge, is complemented by industrial, distorted production from the Grammy and Oscar-winning duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. If I Can’t Have Love… was released in August 2021, days after a film that shares its name with the LP and features its music, was screened in select IMAX cinemas and a month after Halsey’s baby Ender Ridley was born. The album was nominated for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy.
While critics have noted the contrast between the darker album and the mood of some of Halsey’s previous releases, including her featured appearances on the mega pop hits “Closer” by The Chainsmokers and “Boy with Luv” by BTS, Halsey has been clear about not digging the pop label.
As she tweeted in 2019: “Part of being an artist is that I can subscribe to whatever brand of myself I wish. Anti-popstar is more about a mentality I think. It has little to do with genre and more about denying the notion that female pop artists should succumb to the social expectations of the genre!”
However their music is labeled, fans are here for it.
“She’s a world-class artist,” Meyer notes. “She lives and breathes performing. They’ve developed from the club rooms to the arenas, amphitheaters, small stadiums. If you’re a fan of pop, rock, dance, whatever you may feel that day, the show will be incredible.”
Though COVID canceled the North American leg of her 2020 “Manic World Tour,” as well as shows in Asia, Halsey played most of her scheduled Europe gigs in February and March that year – which landed her at No. 67 on Pollstar’s Year End Worldwide Tours chart with $4.73 million grossed and 100,594 total tickets sold from 16 dates. Highlights from the tour included a March 8, 2020, show at The O2 in London that sold 15,603 tickets and grossed $668,408.
Halsey started out 2022 with a high-profile appearance at Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena Feb. 10, a show with Machine Gun Kelly that sold 12,480 tickets and grossed more than $1.2 million, marking her first gig since March 2020.
Their “Love and Power Tour” launches with a few gigs in Florida ahead of Halsey’s headline appearance at Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 21. Meyer explains that with Halsey being a new mom, the focus was a “very concise tour. … We routed it around Ender’s birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day. … The [goal] was 30, 35 shows this year – try to touch as many continents as possible within reason of having a personal life.”
Stops on the trek – which features support from Beabadoobee, Pink Pantheress, The Marias and Abby Roberts – include the 19,900-capacity Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass.; 17,500-capacity Hollywood Bowl; the 20,000-cap Dos Equis Pavilion in Dallas, along with Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
In addition to Hangout and Gov Ball, Halsey is headlining Canada’s Festival d’été de Québec and Japan’s Fuji Rock in July, England’s Reading and Leeds in August and Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., in September.
“She’s always been a festival queen,” Meyer says. “It was super important to her. I remember we booked them on the BMI stage at Lollapalooza in 2015 and they got $500 to play this slot. Their special guest was Twenty One Pilots, which was a baby band at the time. … Goals early on [included] headlining festivals … and now it’s a constant conversation on a global level.”
Pollstar checked in with Halsey to learn more about the LP and “Love and Power Tour.”
Pollstar: You’ve said that If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is not a “girl power album.” What’s the message you hope listeners take away from the album?
Halsey: It’s definitely not a girl power album. It’s basically a body horror album! I’ve written so many songs about heartbreak and insecurity and sadness. So many feelings are varying degrees of another. This was a time in my life that was so singular and unexplored. Being pregnant made me reckon with so many things. The parts of me I lost, I gained, and which ones I wanted to keep were on the table. Pregnancy is beautiful but it’s also grotesque in some ways. It’s lovecraftian horror and its history is so medieval! There was a lot of tension but also so much empowerment. I wanted to document the highs and the lows.
You’ve also mentioned this is the album you’ve always wanted to make. Can you share more about that?
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power was a chance for me to work with dream collaborators and write about an experience that was truly unexplored for me. I believe a concept album should always be meticulously specific and grandly universal. It’s a paradox. You take a personal situation and turn it into a sentiment that anyone can relate to. Not everyone listening to the album is/has been/can be pregnant, but everyone can relate to being unsure about the future and feeling like their body is a prison. This material allowed me to really channel my angst in a way I never have before. The entire album is buzzing with an almost hormonal tension. Like an explosion of feeling in every instrument. It’s certainly the most cinematic evolution of my sound because Trent and Atticus have such a way of making music that conjures an image and a feeling.
The production on the album fits the lyrics so well. What was it like working with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross?
I had already written all of the skeletons of the songs when I brought them to Trent and Atticus. I took them a folder of completely manic demos and basically tasked them with bringing the stories to the forefront. They crafted production, and I can hardly call it production because really it’s composing, that made the lyrics feel so visceral. They are so gifted and really a once-in-a-generation talent. It was amazing to watch them build industrial production around essentially pop top lines. They really supported me as a songwriter and helped me develop self-confidence about my songwriting. I thought they’d be tough critics but they were so kind and collaborative and I can’t imagine this album turning out any other way.
You’ve previously done a number of collaborations with fellow big-name artists – how did you approach contributions with this album?
I love collaborating but honestly, I made this album in such a lonely time. I was pregnant, during a pandemic. Home-bound and often, bed-bound. It was such an isolated experience and I wrote it so quickly and fervently it never really occurred to me to bring in any other artists. Instead of incorporating vocal features, I brought in some artists to add ambience and environment to my songs, Dave Grohl, Pino Palladino, Lindsey Buckingham, Dave Sitek — iconic artists and instrumentalists to bring energy and passion to the production of these songs. But of course I convinced Trent to slip his timeless vocals into the end of “The Lighthouse”. There’s three characters in that song: me, the drowned sailor, and the devil. I guess it’s up to the listeners to decide whose voice Trent represents.
How will the shift in the sound and production influence your live show?
I never got the chance to tour my previous album, Manic, in the U.S. It’s a really colorful and effervescent album. The juxtaposition is going to be really fun to play with. I love building a show that is a ride of grand showmanship and almost stand-up comedy-like intimacy. It’s fun to switch between a character who is larger than life; and a sort of awkward performer who just wants to bond with the crowd. I want everyone to leave feeling not only like they just saw the best show of their lives, but also like they have gotten to know me in such a more grounded way. We are always experimenting with new production and new tech as far as lighting and lasers and LED. On the Manic European tour I was doing contortion ballet on a staircase suspended 50 feet in the air so you can definitely expect some stunts. I’m an adrenaline junkie onstage.
What’s your favorite thing about playing live?
Honestly, just the rush. It’s the most amazing thing. For two hours, time flies by in vivid color and I’m full of life. I just feel fearless onstage. Like I could run into the crowd and grab anyone by the hand and dance with them in a crowded bar. It’s such a community of like-minded people and all of us are singing our hearts out to the same stories. We can all look around and go “Damn. you’ve been there too…”
Your upcoming tour features Beabadoobee, Pink Pantheress, The Marias, Abby Roberts and Wolf Alice. How were these artists chosen to join you on the road?
I wanted to pull together the most badass group of women imaginable to accompany me on this tour: artists that have a strong creative presence and work their asses off to put incredible music out into the world. I’ve been touring for so long I’ve become hypersensitive to the energy of the touring lifestyle. It translates to the stage when all of the artists on the road are fans of each other and supportive of each other. I want the audience to feel that vibe.
The album is called If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, but the tour is called “Love and Power.” Is it possible to have it all? How do you view power over your own career these days?
I don’t know that it’s possible to have it all. There will always be one force trying to cannibalize the other. But I’ve learned to embrace the struggle and just go along for the ride. As far as both love and power go, I grew up craving both and now have more than I know what to do with. I’m just submitting to the intensity and enjoying the journey.
You’ve described Halsey as an alter ego – what’s your relationship with Halsey like these days?
Being home for so long in the pandemic gave me a greater appreciation for Halsey. Not just as a “person” but as an entity. Every single person who makes the records and the shows possible. We were all worried for a while back there that we’d never get to do the thing we love ever again. When I was touring for years it could definitely get mundane or frustrating at times, but to almost lose it made me never take it for granted again. When I see my crew, my band, my tour manager I just want to squeeze them and never let go. When I see my fans in the crowd I’ll just want to shout “I hope we get to do this forever.” I love this business and everyone who makes it happen. We’re a part of something amazing. Something the world needs.