Amy Lee Delves Deep Into Evanescence’s Return
It’s been five long years since Evanescence fans have been able to sink their teeth into anything new from Amy Lee and company, and for a long time, the return of Evanescence was entirely up in the air. Having immersed herself in Evanescence since high school, Lee took an indefinite break to enjoy life and her new marriage and focus on writing material on her own. Somewhere within that time she realized that Evanescence are an important part of who she is and that she needed the band as much as the fans did. She reunited with the newly solidified band to write their third album, simply calling it ‘Evanescence.’
With the album debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, it’s safe to say that music fans are happy that Evanescence are back. The sound of ‘Evanescence’ takes everything you know about the band and amplifies it, taking each element to the next level, showing off their musicianship throughout. Lee calls it “aggressive and strong, confident and empowering” and hopes fans will feel that, as well.
We recently caught up with Lee, who talked about the new album, working intimately with the band and why she's having more fun then ever.
Your path took lots of twists and turns for you to get to the point where you were ready to actually release ‘Evanescence.' Can you take us through what you were going through during that time between albums?
For me, I like to not have a plan. When we finished in 2007, I didn’t have a plan for the next record, we weren’t even thinking about it, in every way we were just going to stop indefinitely with the Evanescence thing. It had been the center of my life for so many years at that point, I started obsessing over it when I was still high school, and of course after ‘Fallen’ took off it became even more obsessive and then we went straight into the next record.
I had just gotten married in 2007; I went straight back on the road after a week off from touring so I wanted to be with my husband and all the stuff. The thing about that is, a big part of who I am is just someone who loves music and loves to create so I was writing just because, just because I love to write. It started out a lot, just me on my own, I wrote some with Tim [McCord], I wrote with Will Hunt – not the drummer in our band, a programmer named Will Hunt who’s a good friend of mine – we wrote some of the songs together that actually ended up on the record. They were in a much different place originally, they were very electronic, I went through an electronic moment and those elements came with us to where we ended up with the record but we brought the band into it in a big way afterwards.
So, there was a time when a new Evanescence album was not something you were planning; what changed your path and brought you back to it?
It took me a long time to find the true vision for exactly what this record sounds like now. I went through a lot of pieces of it -- separated -- before it all came together. It’s funny, I think part of needing a break from Evanescence made me rebel against the classic elements of Evanescence like guitars. I had been writing for a while and I started listening back to the music. I was loving it but I came to the realization somewhere along the way that that’s what was missing, the band. The band wasn’t present enough. It wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t like an Evanescence record and if I was going to be really honest, some of the music I had was more like a solo record.
So you had approached a crossroads?
I had a choice to make, am I going to do an Evanescence record or not? It had been three years at that point that we’d been away from it and I missed it. I’d been feeling like, 'Wow, that is a huge part of me and it sounds like it does because I love all of those elements,' so we spent the better part of 2010 and the first part of 2011 as a band just hammering stuff out and focusing on the band elements, writing songs as a team. [Producer] Nick Raskulinecz came in once we had the body of work that we really wanted to work on. He put us in pre-production together and made us focus even more on writing as a full band and arranging the songs that we already had.
We ended up writing six or seven more songs just during the pre-production process, which is awesome. We just kept going and writing and writing. When you find something good, when you find something that sparks that inspiration, you don’t want to stop. You want to keep going until it’s exhausted. We really wrote a ton of music and worked on it for a long time and ended up with ‘Evanescence’ which I think where it ends up is you hear there’s some left turns. There’s some new attitudes, some new influences, but the band is the biggest thing that you’re hearing. I think that you’re hearing us at our strongest because of the way that we were working so much together.
People tend to associate Amy Lee with Evanescence as if they are one in the same. Would you call this album the most collaborative album to date between yourself and the band?
The thing is, the albums have always been a collaboration; I’ve never done it all myself. I couldn’t, I need that other side. Most of the records were with one main collaborator -- the first one was with Ben [Moody] and the second one was Terry [Balsamo]. This time, instead of having it be such a one on one intimate process, where I’m bringing my part to just one other person, I had a whole band to work with as that other collaborator. It’s still a collaboration but instead of just one guy, I had an awesome team and I think you can really hear that in the way that the instruments work together, weave in and out of each other, play off of each other, everything is built together so I think that the tightness comes through in a way that it never has before.
You’ve called this album 'fun.' Of all the positive words there are to describe the album, 'fun' isn’t exactly at the forefront; can you tell us what you meant by that?
I think what I was saying was that I’m having fun. As a band, working together the way we did and having it work for me, was a great experience. Something that’s fun for me is a challenge. When you have a challenge and you take on that challenge and succeed, that’s the best feeling. I feel like that happened multiple times in the making of this record. Working outside of my comfort zone was a big theme for me. I was constantly trying things that I wasn’t comfortable with and when those things would break through and create something new that you wouldn’t have had before because you wouldn’t have worked that way, its fun, it’s a great feeling! I felt like there was a lot of growth.
Also, the other thing about it is, a song like ‘What You Want’ is totally heavy but at the same time the vocals are kind of pop in a cool way. The attitude is almost like “I don’t care.” And I totally care but the attitude is that I’m singing because it’s fun to do it, literally that is why. But more than anything, it’s that we’re having a blast. We had a blast when we were working our butts off but now that we’re out there touring again we’re having way too much fun. We’re having a great time and it feels very good to be back.
The song ‘Never Go Back’ was inspired by the tragedies in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami. Was the song written specifically for it or was it inspired during the writing process as the events took place?
The way we write, almost always, is music first and lyrics second. It was during the phase when we were in pre-production and we were arranging a lot of the songs that we already had and working through them as a team and making all the parts really gel and also writing new songs. We had the idea of the music going that very week, we had the riff and the verse going and we were starting to work on the chorus and then literally while we were working on the song it was one of those “Oh my god, come here and look at this” kind of things on someone’s laptop. We were all looking at the photos, it had happened that morning, and we were seeing the devastation and it was on all of our minds, what was going on over there.
So it wasn’t like I thought, ‘Okay I’m going to write a song about this,’ but usually what happens is we work all day writing, and we go back to the apartment at night. I go to my room and work on lyrics. So I went to my room and I was working on lyrics and a lot of times I’ll work on the melody and just sing fake words, ‘blablahblah’ but subconsciously it happens and inevitably every time I do those ‘blahblahblah’ lyrics they’re will be one line that’s real and I’ll think, ‘Ooh what does that mean, where did that come from in my head’ and then start going for it. So, that sort of happened. I don’t remember the actual line but I started to hone in on what feeling and what I was thinking about and I realized what was the heaviest on my heart was the victims in Japan. It was sort of like, yeah, I’m writing about this, let’s let that happen, and I put myself there.
It’s funny; I don’t usually even watch movies that are that heavy anymore because it’s going to end up consuming my whole heart for two days. I put myself in that situation, I’m so sympathetic that I end up believing, at least for the moment, that that’s me and that’s what’s happening to me. That’s why it’s a terrible idea for me to watch horror movies anymore. I feel like I’m totally getting chopped up and thrown into the back of a car. So anyway, I put myself in that situation, just what it would be like to lose everything, and that’s how that song happened.
Given how much you throw yourself into each song emotionally, is there a song on the album that you feel most personally connected to?
It’s really hard, ‘Lost in Paradise’ is definitely one of them just because it came from me not trying to say anything about myself or prove anything; it was really to me, for me, from a very pure, raw and broken place. I didn’t even think that it was going to be a song for the album; I remember writing it just thinking it was for me. I held on to it, finally finished the last piece of it at the beginning of this year, and just had it. When we went into pre-production and started picking songs we were going to do, I didn’t bring it up for weeks.
Towards the end of things, I remember I had been listening to it on my own just because I enjoyed it so much myself, it felt good to me, and I thought it would be stupid for me not to share it. I thought if I loved it that someone else might love it too, so I told our producer that I knew we had enough ballads but I really believe in this song. I think it’s really good and you might too, so just check it out. He went home and listened to it that night and came back and said he loved it and that we should definitely do it, but that we should throw the band in. Then it became the big epic thing that it is now. I love that song, I feel very connected to that one for sure.
What do you want fans both new and old to take away from ‘Evanescence?’
That’s the hardest. You spend so much time focused on what you want out of it for you. I hope they hear it the way we hear it. I hope that always, with each record, the people are hearing a clearer picture of my heart. I always do, I’m always trying to make it more, and bigger, even more of myself, things I haven’t said before, just a bigger spectrum of ideas and emotions and sounds. I think this record is really empowering actually. It’s full of moments of talking about being lost or even hopeless but at the same time, after all of that, the true spirit that I hope everyone can hear is that I believe that there’s a better outcome and I’m always searching for the answers.
I think, for me, the album is aggressive and strong and confident and empowering, I hope that it comes across that way. That’s what it is for me, when I listen to the record I feel really good. We play the record live and I feel happy, and the way that I’m having fun is not desperate, it’s confidence and empowerment.
Editor's note: Read our review and see an exclusive gallery of Evanescence's recent concert in Worcester, Mass., here. In addition, see what Amy Lee told us about the 'Evanescence' song 'End of the Dream' here.