When Evanescence un­leashed Fallen in 2003, they in­spired a gen­er­a­tion. But for Amy Lee, it was the start of a decade-long strug­gle to con­trol her own des­tiny

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: CATHER­INE MOR­RIS

When Evanescence crashed the charts in 2003,

they changed mu­sic and alt-cul­ture.

Amy re­mem­bers the tears and the tu­tus.

Amy Lee is in a play­ful mood. De­spite talk­ing to press all day, the Evanescence singer and gothic rock su­per­star is warm and chatty, an­tic­i­pat­ing our next ques­tion with a, “C’mon, what you got, whatcha got?” and gig­gling. “You’re my last in a looong block of in­ter­views,” she tells us in her throaty, sing-song voice be­fore we be­gin – but to her credit, it’s clear that when it comes to talk­ing about Evanescence, she’s so fiercely proud of her band that she rel­ishes the chance to set a few things straight.

Over 22 years, Evanescence have con­tin­ued to defy ex­pec­ta­tion. From their hum­ble, teenage be­gin­nings in the 90s to the over­whelm­ing break­through of Bring Me To Life, the song that be­came ubiq­ui­tous on ev­ery mu­sic chan­nel for its iconic de­pic­tion of Amy Lee as a kind of gothic Ra­pun­zel, to their new record Syn­the­sis, an or­ches­tral ret­ro­spec­tive of their ca­reer, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Yes, with just three stu­dio al­bums in 20 years, they’ve ap­peared to have some long breaks, but Amy is adamant that it’s all part of a process that’s al­lowed the band to con­tinue.

“Peo­ple are like, ‘Oh, so you’ve been hang­ing out and do­ing noth­ing for five years, how come?’” she says sar­don­ically, ref­er­enc­ing the last hia­tus fol­low­ing their third, self-ti­tled al­bum, re­leased in 2011. “It’s never like that! We toured for a year and a half, and then, you know, I had a baby, blah, blah, blah…” she trails off, laugh­ing.

It quickly be­comes ap­par­ent that she has a ten­dency to in­ject hu­mour and gloss over some of the more per­sonal as­pects of her life, serv­ing as an­other re­minder that we’re talk­ing to some­one who at one time was a bona fide megas­tar, thrust into the lime­light at 21. When she gets se­ri­ous is when talk­ing about her mu­sic, ex­plain­ing the need for her lat­est break: “To make some­thing you re­ally mean, for me, means I have to go live my life for a while, fig­ure out who I am again and have some ex­pe­ri­ences I need to get off my chest. I need to step away and not feel like a–” she hes­i­tates be­fore say­ing the next word – “a ‘rock­star’ any more. I need to go be Amy.”

“And it’s beau­ti­ful, be­cause as much as I’ve been ready and will­ing to aban­don it com­pletely, it al­ways leads me back to Evanescence,” she says with cer­tainty. “I’m very proud, still – more than ever, even – of our old­est mu­sic. It’s not any­thing I’m ashamed of.”

When your old­est mu­sic in­cludes hits such as My Im­mor­tal, a stun­ning power bal­lad whose bridge con­tains one of the most heart-wrench­ing chord pro­gres­sions you’ll ever hear, it’s hard to see why there would be any need for shame at all. But though their enor­mous main­stream suc­cess in 2003 might seem like a fairy­tale, with Fallen sell­ing more than 17mil­lion copies world­wide, what Amy re­mem­bers from that first al­bum cy­cle is a whirl­wind of un­cer­tainty, about their mu­sic and about her­self.

“It wasn’t all just roses,” she re­mem­bers, weigh­ing her words. “I felt… in­se­cure, try­ing to fig­ure things out. Frus­trated. I had to fight for ev­ery­thing I wanted and got treated like a child.”

She’s pre­vi­ously spo­ken to Ham­mer about the com­pro­mises she made while writ­ing Fallen. On Bring Me To Life, “the suits” re­quested the band hire a rap­per, Paul McCoy, for guest vo­cals.

“Peo­ple who at­tach them­selves to you are usu­ally try­ing to take ad­van­tage – I felt that with the first half of my ca­reer, but I can iden­tify it bet­ter now,” she ex­plains. “Part of it is be­ing a woman but part of it is just be­ing young. You’re an artist; some­one who wants to talk about feel­ings, not num­bers.” (When Ham­mer asks her how she feels about hav­ing to be a busi­ness­woman, she ex­claims, “It sucks! I hate the busi­ness!”).

“What I’d go back and tell my­self is that my gut in­stincts were right and I needed to be strong. I spent a lot of my emo­tional en­ergy in the be­gin­ning feeling like I had to fight for my re­spect as a song­writer. All any­body saw me as was a girl in front of a band; a girl with some man be­hind her do­ing all the work. Now I only work with mu­si­cians that I re­spect and who re­spect me.”

Though by ‘some man’ she’s likely al­lud­ing to her ex-band­mate Ben Moody, with whom she ac­ri­mo­niously parted ways af­ter Fallen, there’s no bit­ter­ness in her voice. At 35, she’s grown into her­self and is con­fi­dent in her own abil­i­ties, and rightly so. Thank­fully, the land­scape is chang­ing for fe­male metal mu­si­cians. But back then, it seemed like fe­male singers in metal – re­gard­less of whether or not they were also the prin­ci­pal song­writ­ers in their band, like Amy, or her con­tem­po­raries Cristina Scabbia (La­cuna Coil) and Sharon den Adel (Within Temp­ta­tion) – only had two choices: to be one of the guys, or to be a tight-laced damsel float­ing around the stage.

Amy was both, and nei­ther. For a gen­er­a­tion of young girls, to see a woman on mu­sic tele­vi­sion with porce­lain skin and black hair, look­ing more like late-90s Frozen- era Madonna than Brit­ney or Christina, was a breath of fresh air that in­flu­enced a whole sub­set of goth cul­ture. She was not just a mu­si­cian, but a style icon, pre­sent­ing looks from the be­atific, pal­lid sleep­walker of Bring Me to Life to the corseted black-and-red en­sem­ble from Go­ing Un­der.

“It’s funny when you think about it in terms of iden­tity – Fallen is our most fa­mous al­bum, so the im­age that peo­ple have in their heads is of me at that time. I was in high school a cou­ple of years be­fore, and sud­denly, boom!” she laughs. “That’s who you are for eter­nity for some peo­ple.”

It was also hard for her to avoid com­par­isons with Nightwish, Within Temp­ta­tion and La­cuna Coil, all of whom also ap­peared in the late 90s. But far from be­ing an­noyed, Amy shows a lot of sol­i­dar­ity for her peers. “There are a lot of women kick­ing ass, and it makes me so happy,” she gushes. “Most of the stuff I lis­ten to nowa­days is sung by a lady, which is pretty awe­some.”

Al­though suc­cess­ful in their own coun­tries, none of those bands ever broke into the UK/US mar­ket in as big a way as Evanescence. We put it to her that, in con­trast to the more con­cep­tual lyri­cal themes of Nightwish et al, Evanescence’s songs are more grounded in re­al­ity.

“There’s some­thing very hon­est in our mu­sic,” she con­curs. “It’s more than sto­ry­telling; it’s a real di­ary en­try. When I’m writ­ing lyrics, I have to be bru­tally hon­est to the point where I’m like, ‘Oh great, now I have to sing this and ex­plain it to my fam­ily!’” She lets out a wicked laugh, ac­knowl­edg­ing the di­rect­ness of songs like the scathing Call Me When You’re Sober, writ­ten about her pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship with Seether’s Shaun Mor­gan.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter Fallen had to have been the cat­a­lyst for a shift on their sec­ond al­bum, The Open Door. With all the hype and fan­fare gone, was this a truer, more hon­est record? “I don’t know if it was truer, but I had more con­trol,” she says. “It was more about strength. Fallen was more about my pain and this was more about the fight. It was a beau­ti­ful op­por­tu­nity.”

And from that mo­ment on, ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened in their re­mark­able ca­reer has cul­mi­nated in Syn­the­sis, an or­ches­tral and elec­tronic re­work­ing of Evanescence’s discog­ra­phy in­ter­spersed with in­stru­men­tals and two new tracks, bring­ing us back to the ori­gins of their best-known songs by re­build­ing them from the demo stage up.

“It’s a re­turn to roots,” Amy says. “Ar­rang­ing the songs like this takes them home for me, on an emo­tional level. I’d be ly­ing if I said gui­tars weren’t a big part of the ori­gins of Evanescence, but it’s also like – what if we went fully into that side of our mu­sic, just for a mo­ment?”

In that sense, Syn­the­sis is not nec­es­sar­ily the clos­ing of one chap­ter of Evanescence’s ca­reer, nor is it an in­di­ca­tor of what’s to come. Amy agrees: “It’s a look at ev­ery­thing so far, but with a new per­spec­tive from the other side.”

Where that will lead them next is any­body’s guess, but as Amy hints that there will be a next record, it’s clear they’re far from done yet.




Evanescence in 2003. Amy’s im­age was a breath of fresh air for many young girls

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