Natalie Foster: I am so happy to do another interview with you! This is a big deal- you guys are on Season Four of the show. How does it feel?
Stephanie Hayden: It’s great! When we first started this so long ago we thought we would do a couple of seasons and it would be fun and then, you know, you would go back to your regular job. But to see that people took to us so well and that they want us to stay around is just phenomenal. It is such a compliment and we are really humbled.
NF: This season has already been such a cool one. The fact that you guys had Chris Kyle come in wanting your dad’s signature and the Red Jacket logo on a gun for his charity is so cool.
SH: Thanks, you know, we always just try to make sure that anything we are doing is putting a positive light on the industry. Having someone like Chris Kyle say that a signature from one of us is actually going to increase the value of a firearm still blows us away. To have someone like Chris ask you for something like that is just unbelievable. It doesn’t even really register. And Chris is such a great guy. He is just so cool to work with. He is honestly probably one of the funniest good ol’ boys I have ever met. For being the US’s most deadly sniper, that was kind of a surprise for me. He definitely has a really great personality.
NF: That segment between Flem (Glen Flemming) and Chris Kyle in which they discussed PTSD and the process of leaving the military was one of my favorites. Can you give me a little window – a behind the scenes picture of how that happened? Was that spontaneous or was that something they really wanted to talk about on the show?
SH: No, that was just part of their conversation. I have seen that many times before. When guys get together and they have both been through the same thing – it’s like two moms talking about kids, but instead it is two guys talking about war. They understand each other and it is totally natural for them to get to that place. A lot of the guys who have been through that come out with that same feeling. The friends that you make there are family and it is really hard to let go. So many of them suffer from stress and they go through so much in their own personal lives, too. It was really cool to see the guys come together with that brotherhood and connect like that. It is kind of strange to see two Billy Badass get all emotional, but it is really cool that they talked about it on the show. I hope other veterans got something out of it.
NF: You guys have been so great about the military from the beginning of the show. Your dad was a Marine and, of course, Flem served. It’s really cool to see that you guys continue to honor those who serve for our freedom.
SH: Thanks. This country would not be what it is today without them. There are so many things that these men and women do for us that people take for granted.
NF: Ok, switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about more of your guests. Joe Perry of Aerosmith came on the show. I know you are a fan of his. How was that for you?
SH: That was insane! I have been such a huge fan of Aerosmith since I was a kid. I was born in the 80s and my mom loved all the hair bands, so I grew up listening to Aerosmith and I have never stopped. They continue to put out great music. So when they came down we got to work on a really cool old-school project with them we were so excited. It was a dream come true. And we really got to know them, which was awesome. It was unreal to get to spend time getting to know someone who you grew up thinking was one of the gods of Rock and Roll. They are really just down to earth, great people. For a guy that is such an icon, such a legend to be that down to earth and friendly – it really surprised me. They say that there are stars out there who are still good people, but Joe redefines “great people.” The whole family is really wonderful.
NF: You have met some pretty incredible people because of the show. You’ve had Ted Nugent come visit as well as other music legends. I bet Kris, with his blooming music career, is really excited about that.
SH: Yeah, Kris thought it was incredible. He has been invited to go play with Joe’s son – it is one of those things that he will get to as soon as he gets a moment away from Red Jacket. It has been really cool. Kris has had a chance to meet a lot of the people that he really looked up to in music and it has been awesome. It may not necessarily be the type of music he plays, but he is still in awe.
NF: So beyond Joe Perry and Chris Kyle, this season has already been amazing. What else can we look forward to?
SH: Well, of course, if it hasn’t been released, I cant say anything, but I can tell you that we are building some of the most incredible weapons I have seen lately. You already saw our 57mm recoilless. They used to use it for avalanches. That one was so fun to work on. I mean, how often do you get a snow storm in the South?
NF: Sounds like you guys are having fun down there, as usual. So tell me about how life has changed for you since the show started airing. It was less than 2 years ago that life was kind of normal, right? And now, four seasons in, things are very different. You have a huge fan base, you got married – tell me about how the adjustment has been.
SH: Well, yes, I am married. Kris is a wonderful father. We do have two kids. A lot of people are asking about babies and the thing is, we are already raising two! So I don’t see that coming any time soon (laughs). We are just both really focused on what we are doing and trying to progress with life. We bought some land and we have been trying to get it ready to build a house. All of that has been a lot of work. And that is just personally. With the job, we have gone from one of those places that a handful of people knew about to this huge company. But things have stayed the same in a lot of ways. It is just a bigger family. That is the way we like to describe it because it still has that home-y feel but now we have more cousins and brothers and so on. The projects are definitely getting more interesting. We have branched out even more than before and it is just always getting better.
NF: How has the celebrity factor been for you? All of you guys have fans who adore you and I know you like to interact with them a lot. Is it fun or challenging or a little bit of both? How do you deal with it?
SH: I would say it is a little bit of both. The thing is, when you are on TV people expect you to be perfect. And we are just people. We are just doing our job. You can’t be perfect no matter how hard you try to be. Other than every now and again when someone chooses to point out a personal flaw, most of the people we meet are just so wonderful and they give you such positive feedback. It reminds you why you do what you do – why you deal with that camera in your face every day. And honestly, we don’t mind having the cameras around. The crew does a great job of staying out of the way – just doing their thing and letting us do our thing. But with the fans, it is always great to spend some time with them and talk to them and see what they think about what we are doing. The kids are my favorite. I got to go to Survival Expo in Las Vegas recently and we met so many kids who watch the show and it was the most heartwarming thing ever. One little girl named Haley walked up to me with tears in her eyes and told me I was her hero. I had to do everything in my power not to break down crying. I am just a regular girl from the South. It just blows you away that people connect with you so much. All Haley could say was that it was so great to see a strong independent girl on TV. I thought about it for a while and I get it, it’s just, who would have ever thought it would be me? And all I can do is to try to be that- to be a good person and to do good things for people and to deserve that admiration. And trust me, you never really feel like you deserve it.
NF: So what comes next? What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year? Any big trips or events going on?
SH: Well, we are actually currently shooting Season Five, so you have plenty more to look forward to. We are trying to go to SHOT show again, in Vegas, which is always fun. I am also trying to get back to Phoenix. I fell in love last time I was there. I have a great friend who lives there who I am dying to go back and see. And I can assure you there are plenty of surprises in store other than that.
Thanks, Steph! Keep up the good work!