Nonpartisan voter organization HeadCount just hit a major milestone by registering over 1 million voters since it was founded in 2004. Although the organization may be best known for registering voters at concerts and music festivals, HeadCount has shifted to a mostly digital approach during the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to register more than 425,000 during the 2020 election cycle – nearly half of its total voters. One of the artists helping get out the vote is Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee, the music spokeswoman this fall for HeadCount.
The anthem “Use My Voice,” Evanescence’s latest single from its upcoming album The Bitter Truth, is featured as the inspiring soundtrack behind HeadCount’s voter engagement campaign, with a joint website UseMyVoice.org set up for voters to easily register, check their registration and request information about candidates. Fans who register or check their registration via the site will receive a ticket for a special virtual performance from the band. Pollstar checked in with Lee to learn more.
“Use My Voice” is the band’s first social-message song. Why was it the right time to release a song like this?
Wow, there’s so many reasons. This song has been a long time coming and as much as is about and needs to be about this very moment, the writing for it started a couple years back. The first thing that inspired me was this incredible impact statement that Chanel Miller read at the end of a court case. She’s a sexual assault survivor and it was such an empowering thing to hear her use her voice. At the end of this long, just degrading, humiliating trial, she simply spoke her truth from the heart. No tricks, no loopholes and no legal speak – just the real truth. I had tears streaming down my face reading what she read straight to her attacker. Right after reading it that day I sat down and started writing the beginning of that song. That experience and that feeling really resonated with me, things that I’ve been through.
But also, watching the world around us, watching what’s happening in our country, our government, and feeling more and more how powerful it can be when we all use our voices – that’s something that is so important for me right now. I think it’s so important for all of us right now, not just in America, but in the world. I think that democracy is being attacked. As much as all we want to do is scream … that’s not going to fix it. What’s really going to fix it is if all vote; that’s the only way. The beauty of our country is that we’re all different. We all need to have all of our voices heard, not just me, not just my opinion, not just my experience, but all of us together. We need to be able to be different but still have a conversation and still be united and still work together.
The song is extra powerful because it features some standout female musicians including Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and violinist Lindsey Stirling. Earlier in your career, your label forced you to feature a male vocalist on Evanescence’s first single because it was assumed that it was needed to sell it for radio. Do you think things have improved in the music industry? Or is there still a lot to be done as far as how the business treats female musicians?
I think there’s always more to be done. I mean, look at the charts – there’s a huge difference. We’re in the minority, for sure. I grew up seeing that as a strength. It’s not because I’m trying to be weird or be different. The mainstream, the thing that’s the most popular usually isn’t my favorite thing. I like uniqueness. When my band was first starting out all the artists that I really looked up to and everything that I thought about us that was positive was the things that didn’t sound like everybody else.
My favorite thing to come out of recent times is Billie Eilish. And the fact that somebody doing something so different made it and broke through into the mainstream and ruled it, makes me so happy, made me have so much hope. … In general I think as a society we need to keep showing people diversity in every way, whether it’s just the sound of your music or your gender or the color of your skin or whatever it is, we just need to keep showing people that having an open mind is better. We don’t want more of the same.
I grew up in the alternative era, like grunge and Björk and weirdness was cool. Nirvana would never have made it if somebody wasn’t willing to put something that sounded like nothing else on the radio. So I take pride in being unusual and I take pride in being a woman in rock because it is less common. And I think that’s a cool thing.
And to answer your question, it has much improved. Because when we were first starting out, playing festivals, on tour many, many days would go by and I wouldn’t see a woman. I was the only one. And that’s not the way it is now. Onstage, backstage, all of it – from tour managers to women in bands to engineers. I think it’s a harder thing possibly for a woman to be seen as a good behind-the-scenes force, like someone who is extremely capable as a mixer or a great business woman who can do the tour managing and then settle and do a great job with that. I don’t know why really, other than, in some of those realms, we weren’t here first. It’s just not a role that people assume that person is going to be the best at, they assume that’s a man. It’s been really cool to see the change.
Personally, I like to surround myself with strong, excellent, talented women. You can see that I’ve had quite a hand in picking the people that we play with like Halestorm and Pretty Reckless. There’s a lot of social issues that have just been pushed into the forefront. And I think it’s a good thing. It’s not all about one thing or the other. I think they’re all important. Like I said before, I think it’s really important that everybody’s voice and everybody’s opinion gets counted. We need to all be able to share our views. And that doesn’t mean I want everybody to agree with me.
With HeadCount being nonpartisan, it seems like it was a natural fit for you to be the music spokeswoman. Why did you decide to become involved with the organization?
HeadCount has always been in the music industry. You’ve probably seen them at concerts, set up to get people registered to vote. They’re just one of those cool rock-the-vote organizations. When we were in the studio recording “Use My Voice” and we were getting close to the end of it we were listening to the song over and over again, laying down the last pieces. I was sitting there on the couch in the back room feeling this heaviness in my heart, feeling totally convicted: what I’m singing in this song I’m not doing in my life. We need to do something, whatever we can to use our platform, to use my voice for real, to encourage and empower and inspire people and just try to shine a light on truth however we can. And I think that the best way to do that is to empower and encourage people to vote.
In your own personal life have you always been politically active?
No, no. (laughs) 2020 has just beaten the life out of me. That’s not the way to put it. But I am having a moment myself. Many people right now are just becoming more aware of a lot of things and I think that’s really positive.
And I’ll be the first one to say, no, I have not been some kind of crazy voting activist with strong opinions in my past. I haven’t voted every time. And in general have a sort of disdain for politicians. I think that there is no perfect anybody who’s in that world. It’s always like, well, they’ve got to toe the line so hard, how are they not going to let you down in some way? (laughs).
Some people might be embarrassed if they’ve missed elections. So I think that that’s great you’re sharing that because it’s relatable.
It’s hard right now not to want to just shut it all out. I can’t speak for everybody, but many of us, including myself, there are times oh, my God all I wanna do is run away. But me just plugging my ears and wishing it wasn’t happening isn’t going to change anything.
If we want things to be better then we’ve got to do a little bit of work to start trying to get better. So any way that I can encourage people that voting is important. I’ll do that, I’ll raise that flag.
Evanescence is planning a special virtual performance later this month. Have details been announced?
No, it hasn’t yet. It’s been one of those things that’s sorta difficult to plan. All of our band members aren’t even in the same country so we can’t all get together. It will be pre-recorded live. We’re gonna have to sort of sew it together but it will be mainly live. We’re actually working on that this week, putting it together.
I think it’s going to be really cool and special. Troy [McLawhorn, lead guitarist] and I will be in the studio where we’ve been recording the album, so it’ll be cool to show fans where we’ve been working on this thing.
Do you already have a plan for voting as far as in person or by mail? I do. I’m going to do early voting and in my state [Tennessee] early voting starts tomorrow so I’m going to go first thing. … I’ve just been dying to go vote. Honestly, I’m so ready.