Interview by Dale Kawashima
Amy Lee has been the lead singer & main songwriter of rock band Evanescence since its inception. The band first broke through in 2003 with their multi-platinum debut album Fallen, and they subsequently won Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance. Evanescence has also had the worldwide hits “Bring Me to Life,” “My Immortal” and “Call Me When You’re Sober.”
Since then, the band has released three more albums (The Open Door, Evanescence and Synthesis), but it’s been nine years since they released an album of all new material. This is about to change, because Evanescence is getting ready to release an album of new songs, called The Bitter Truth.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Amy Lee of Evanescence. She discussed the making of the band’s new album The Bitter Truth, and what inspired her to write their excellent new song, “Use My Voice.”
DK: I like the three new songs you’ve released from your upcoming album, The Bitter Truth. Can you talk about the making of this album?
Amy Lee: This has been a different process for us. Even pre-pandemic, I wanted to do this in a different way. Instead of getting all of our songs written and ready to go, and then going in the studio and recording it the traditional way all at once, I had been enjoying the way that we’ve structured our schedule the past couple of years, in that we just keep breaking things up. We would go on tour for about six weeks, and then come off, get a little catch-up time with our family, and then get together and write music. Then we would go back on tour, and we did a type of music and touring that was very different, with a full orchestra.
Part of [this approach] came from learning how to be better at multi-tasking after becoming a mom, because you simply cannot have that much time to do one thing all at once (laughs), and you have to learn to go with the flow of life. So I’ve learned something about myself creatively. I don’t need to finish something all at once. I can set something down when I get frustrated or stuck with it, and do something else for a minute, and come back to it with fresh perspective and work on it more.
With our new album, we went in to record it with just our first four songs, right before everything got locked in February and March. [But we knew that] we were still going to be writing, and the opportunity to get together to record those four songs was also an opportunity to do some more writing and creating.
DK: Currently, are you still writing more songs for your album?
Lee: We are still writing, and we’re releasing a song at a time, and then eventually we’ll drop the rest of the album. I like this different approach, and what it’s done for us. I’m able to live in the moment with these songs when they’re fresh, right out of the oven, and be able to share them with our fans and talk about them and experience them. It’s all been very immediate. I feel present in the feelings, and the meaning, and everything that’s going on with our music.
DK: “Use My Voice“ is a powerful new song about speaking out and becoming active, to help bring change and justice. What inspired you to write this song?
Lee: That’s a song that has been brewing for awhile. I began the writing of that song after reading this incredible impact statement written by a young woman named Chanel Miller. She was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus, and she was unconscious. It was this big horrible thing, but the attacker got off with a really light sentence. It was awful, but [Miller] turned out to be this incredibly articulate, smart, strong young woman. And at the end of the trial, she stood up and read this statement to her attacker. It was so incredibly powerful, and it hit me. I was cryintg…it was beautiful. She stood up and shared her truth in a way that made me see that there was nothing they could do, no weapon could be stronger than her voice…standing up, speaking her truth and telling her experience. And I was so impacted by her story and her statement. That was the first thing that inspired me about the song.
That was a couple years ago, and over the past couple years we’ve seen so much in our government, and in our world around us…things that are so wrong, blatant lies, horrible injustice, and the words [for this song] kept coming out, one line at a time. Yeah, with “Use My Voice”, it was very satisfying to get to the end of the writing journey on that one, because it had a long life before it was finished. I couldn’t be more proud of it…I feel like it’s finished and come out now for a reason.
DK: “Use My Voice” has become the official song for HeadCount’s voting registration public service announcement. Can you talk about your partnership with them?
Lee: First of all, they’re awesome. They’re a non-partisan, just total information—free, easy to access, concise information about how to vote in your state. Every state is different with different rules, and different times for voting. Everybody this year needs to know and be empowered with that information, so it can be as easy as possible to vote. I also believe that this election is more important than any election I’ve seen in my lifetime.
When we were in the studio, I was listening to the song being played back, and I had a moment where I felt really convicted…that I needed to find some way that I could help serve my country and help empower and inspire people. I think that as artist, we have a responsibility to do that, especially if we have a lot of followers and we do.
My music’s always been a place for me to be honest and pour out my passion, singing what’s happening to me, and that is what this is. And I feel that with a lot of the music we’re writing now. This year, tragedy has befallen the world…we’re all going through a trial together. That trial looks different for everybody…everybody has a different situation that’s harder for some than others. But we are all going through this and we’re all experiencing something huge. So I feel a new connection…a deeper connection through the lyrics and the meanings of our songs with what’s going on right now.
DK: The Bitter Truth will be your first album of all new material in nine years. Can you talk about you and your band’s journey over the past several years? I know that you’re a mom now, too.
Lee: Yeah, it feels so good to be doing it again. I had (my son) Jack in 2014, and I was very inspired. I thought that becoming a mom would make me slow down. But instead, even during my pregnancy, I got creatively inspired in a way that I didn’t expect.
During that time, I was working on a film score during that time. It was released a week after Jack was born. And then I got inspired to do a kids album. Then quickly after that, I got the band back together and we started playing shows again, which felt amazing after it had been so long. Then we gained Jen (Majura), who’s been our guitar player since 2015. She’s a beautiful person, a great guitar player and such a positive addition to our band. Also, we get to have background vocals now, because there’s another girl in the band. So that’s really nice (laughs).
Throughout that, we started playing shows again in 2015, we started going harder at it than I imagined, and we really enjoyed playing shows. We did Synthesis, which was an orchestral and electronic album. And I learned how to multi-task…I’d take Jack on tour with us. You just have to learn to do multiple things at the same time, and I think it’s been good for my brain creatively. I feel like I’ve been able to be more productive somehow.
DK: I watched a video you recently filmed, and I was impressed to see your studio with five keyboards set up. And I know you play guitar too. So what’s your songwriting process? Do you usually write on a keyboard or on guitar?
Lee: I probably go to a keyboard more and look for a cool sound that inspires me. Then I would begin writing around that sound and that feeling. Or just going straight to the piano—piano is my main instrument. To be able to sit at the piano and get a melody and a basic chord progression…that’s kind of my comfort zone. Also, I’ve got my Pro Tools set up here. I do that and I can engineer myself.
But also, I love to get together and write as a band. You don’t want to keep yourself all alone in a vacuum too long. When we can come together as a group, I have fantastic musicians in my band, and we all have slightly different styles. So it’s cool to have a little library of different people’s brains and inspirations and styles to throw ideas into the circle and go, “Oh that’s cool, that’s not what I would have done, let’s start here.” I really enjoy writing with my band, getting in a room facing each other with our instruments, and just playing music until somebody comes up with a cool idea. It’s something that we’ve all gotten so comfortable with working that way, through how much we’ve played live together.
DK: Last week, I watched your Synthesis concert movie, and I listened to your three new songs, and I was impressed that you sing the songs with great emotion and passion, and perform the songs with the same energy that you did when Evanescence started. So does that come naturally for you, to be able to put such great energy and emotion into your songs when you perform?
Lee: Well, thank you for the compliment. For me, I don’t want every single song to be like the most emotional experience of life (laughs). I need a break sometimes, too. But that’s really what my music is for me—it’s a catharsis, a place to pour heavy emotion, whether it’s painful or hopeful, or afraid or sad or angry. So you’re hearing that [energy and emotion] because that’s my place for that. I guess the answer is yes, it comes naturally. But I’m always looking for new ways to push myself, to feel like I’m trying something that I hadn’t tried before. And I think there’s some element to music writing that is a bit beyond our control, if that makes sense. I still believe in the magic. I still believe in the part that is coming from somewhere else, and we just have to tune into the right frequency to grab hold of it (laughs). Believing in that magic, for me, is important.
Source: Songwriter Universe