Even if Amy Lee is a smaller star now than she was during Evanescence’s chart-topping days, she hasn’t lost her bite when it comes Goth-metal melodrama.
EVANESCENCE frontwoman Amy Lee says that playing at the Noble Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, two months ago was a huge highlight in her career. “They called! I know it’s crazy,” said Lee. “We got invited ... they called for us and I wondered how this happened!”
The Nobel Peace Prize Concert was held on Dec 11 and featured 13 performers including king of oud Ahmed Fathi, the World Youth Choir and English singer-songwriter David Gray.
“It was a big deal and we just felt completely humbled. It felt so much more important than our regular rock shows, it’s about people that are changing the world and we felt completely honoured to be a part of that so that was a huge highlight and it just happened,” said pianist-vocalist Lee, 30, during a phone interview from Nashville, Tennessee, the United States.
Vamp factor: Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee, who remains one of modern rock’s leading ladies, is all geared up to raise the roof at KL Live on Feb 23. “There were people in beautiful gowns and suits and it was all very formal and very different from our usual shows. It was definitely something that we’ll never forget.”
The rock band which shot to fame in 2003 with Bring Me To Life is scheduled to play its first ever concert in Malaysia on Feb 23 at KL Live, and Lee seemed genuinely excited about making the band’s presence felt in this part of the world. She was warm and friendly throughout the interview and happily answered any question.
After a four-year hiatus, Evanescence recently released its third album in October, and found chart success again.
Why the long break, and why the comeback?
In 2006, during Evanescence’s The Open Door tour, Lee got married to therapist Josh Hartzler, her long-time friend.
“By the time we got to the end of the tour, I wanted to take a break from Evanescence and, you know, be normal, be married, work on my house, be in New York with my husband and just sort of live off the road. It was the first time I really stopped writing and creating, and took a break.”
After years of not writing at all, however, Lee said that it just started happening naturally again. “After a couple of years away, I just missed it really bad and I was ready to make another album and it became a full-on obsession. Then two years later, here we are with our album.”
For the band’s self-titled album (12 songs), it got to work with well-known producer Nick Raskulinecsz (who has also worked with the likes of Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson, Trivium, Deftones and Velvet Revolver). The experience was a great one.
“Nick was wonderful. Immediately when we met, we clicked with him; his personality really fit with ours,” said Lee about working with Raskculinecsz. “He’s pushed every one of us in really good ways which is something a great producer would do. I would love to work with Nick again.”
Which does Lee and the band favour – performing live or recording in the studio?
“That’s a difficult one. We were talking about it that day in the van and it’s hard whatever you are doing – you miss the other thing. We’re here in Nashville rehearsing for the tour and this is where we recorded the album. A few months ago, I kind of missed the studio ... I wanted us to go back to Blackbird (Studio) and they were like, ‘yeah!’ But when was I was in Blackbird, all I wanted to do was go on tour!
“So they are both completely different things and they are both awesome in different ways. I love creating, I love being in the studio and recording something for the first time, but there’s also a very special magic about playing live; the energy of the crowd changes the music from night to night.”
Today, the band consists of Lee, guitarists Terry Balsamo and Troy McLawhorn, drummer Will Hunt and bassist Tim McCord, a vastly different line-up from how it started.
In 1995, Lee and guitarist Ben Moody met at a youth camp and began writing and recording songs like Solitude, My Immortal, Give Unto Me and Understanding together.
“I’ve been fully entrenched with Evanescence since I was very young ... I was 14 years old!” revealed Lee.
The band released its first album Fallen in 2003, and it spawned four singles that peaked in the charts. Of the four singles, Bring Me To Life can be heard on the radio all around the world until today. The band also won Best New Artiste and Best Hard Rock Performance at the Grammy Awards that year. At that time Evanescence consisted of Lee, Moody and their friends – guitarist John LeCompt, drummer Rocky Gray and bassist Will Boyd.
The band followed the album with its first tour, Anywhere But Home, halfway through which co-founder Moody left. This marked the first of many changes in line-up over the years. Soon, Gray, Boyd and LeCompt left the band at different times. And today, only Lee remains from the original line-up.
Despite her much-publicised fallouts with ex-band members over the years, Lee claims that Evanescence is very much a collaborative effort these days.
In the October issue of Spin magazine, she was quoted saying: “Everyone being a part of this album, from the ground up, is an entirely new approach for us. There’s nobody that’s just coming in to play guitar. Everybody’s invested. We’re more truly a band now than ever before.”
Though the new album has met with mixed reviews, its recent chart success has pleased Lee to no end.
“We didn’t expect that. Especially after all the time away, we were coming into this with a very humble attitude. We loved our music ... we thought we made the best album we have ever made, and that was good enough for us. Whatever that meant in today’s market, we just didn’t want to get our hopes up. And to go to No.1 was incredible. I’m still very proud of us.”
Evanescence performing at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway in December last year. A different knot
Since Lee’s marriage, she says her songwriting has been affected, but not in a bad way. People always question how she is able to write dark and dramatic songs, now that she is happily married.
Lee said: “Well, life is complicated, there is no such thing as happily ever after, there are always things to feel and things to go through, things that will be hard and things that will be wonderful. I like that, lyrically, our music has become more and more dynamic, and it’s easier to describe the first album than the second and third because it was the same kind of feelings over and over again.”
“Now ... the emotion is at its peak and you know there’s a little bit of everything. I think that’s what makes it very cool. It’s like a whole person not just bits and pieces,” continued Lee.
According to Lee, Evanescence writes its own music all the time. Its inspirations while writing music are not very specific.
“For me, it’s on a pretty deep level, you kind of surprise yourself sometimes with what comes out of your subconscious. For me, that’s how it goes. Then I really hone in on what I’m writing about emotionally and then, you know, finish the song.
“When we write, the lyrics don’t come first: that’s usually afterwards. You just feel it, you put your hands on the piano and start playing what you feel like. After we have a song, I take it and start singing and see what comes out,” said Lee.
The band’s songs are mainly about its members’ deepest feelings, mostly Lee’s as she usually writes the lyrics to the songs. “I guess when I think about this album, a lot of times I hear myself singing about a quest for freedom, I’m always trying to hear myself and fix my problems,” said Lee.
“Music for me has always been an outlet for all the difficult things that I go through,” said Lee about her songs. She also compares writing songs to a therapy session where she can say she needs to say about how she is feeling and then get on with her life. “So I think in the music there is a lot of me processing my experiences and my emotions.”
The band’s first ever tour was in 2003 for the album Fallen. Since then, it has been touring most of the time. According to lead singer Amy, touring never gets boring as it is challenging for her to perform live in front of an audience, as she has to concentrate and focus on all the difficult vocal parts and difficult piano parts as well.
“There is kind of a lot to think about on stage so it’s never boring,” said Lee.
A few of the band’s favourite places to perform live are Greece, Brazil and Japan. The band has not been anywhere in Asia other than Japan, so they are all very excited about this tour as they will be performing in more countries in Asia including Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia.
“It’s very, very exciting to us and it’s going to be a whole new experience,” said Lee. “The plan at the beginning of this year was to go the all the countries that we haven’t been to, especially the ones where the fans are active on the Internet.”
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