AltWire Interview With Amy Lee of Evanescence
- Posted on October 12, 2016 at 5:23 PM by Derek Oswald
One of the biggest acts of the early 2000’s, the rock band Evanescence came exploding onto the scene with their smash 2003 hit ‘Bring Me To Life’. Buoyed by an inclusion on the Daredevil Soundtrack, and constant rotation on MTV and rock radio, their tantalizing debut would go on to become 7 times platinum in the United States, selling an incredible 17 million copies worldwide, pushing the band (and their highly talented lead vocalist) to super-stardom.
The band would undergo multiple lineup changes over the following 8 years (with vocalist Amy Lee now being the only remaining original member), all while releasing a live DVD and two fantastic followup albums – 2006’s The Open Door, and 2011’s Evanescence – before ultimately going on hiatus at the end of 2012. In the intervening years, vocalist Amy Lee would go on to compose the soundtrack for the movie Aftermath, as well as two solo releases, a covers EP called Recover, Vol. 1 and a children’s album titled Dream Too Much.
Now on the heels of their first US tour in nearly four years, Evanescence are gearing up to release a special Ultimate Collection vinyl box set, featuring all of their major studio albums, a collection of rare tracks titled, Lost Whispers, and for the first time ever…a re-issue of their pre-Fallen record Origin, originally recorded and printed in 2000. The vinyl boxset can be pre-ordered here and for a limited time, will feature a special Amy Lee autographed booklet.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to Amy on the future of Evanescence, her newly released children’s album Dream Too Much, and a slew of other topics. Check out our interview below!
AW: You’re about to put out a vinyl box set containing all of your released music, including music recorded before the release of Fallen. You’ve been quoted elsewhere as saying you ‘hated and buried’ your earliest music. What influenced you to finally re-release it after all this time? When did you become comfortable with re-issuing those songs?
Amy Lee: I think part of it is just having enough time and space in-between ‘me now’ and ‘me then’. I’m not worried at this point that somebody is going to be confused, and that’s going to define me, if that makes sense? I was asked ‘do we want to or not’ when I first started about making this box set thing, and my gut initial thought was ‘No! No way, I’m never going to release that!’ But then I thought ‘You know what? As a fan…I get why that’s cool’. And I went back and I listened to it, and I was still cringing but I can see the beauty in it y’know, as the very beginnings of what eventually became Evanescence, and me and who I am today. It’s all those beginning little ‘buds’.
So I don’t know, I guess growing up a bit and having a little distance from it, I think it’s really cool if I can step outside of myself and my perfectionism just a bit and hear it as a fan. As a fan I want that y’know, and I want to give that to our fans. There are a lot of requests out there for it and I want to make them happy. So, screw it! It’s only vinyl! [laughs]
AW: For the release of this box set you re-recorded an old pre-Fallen song, ‘Even in Death’. What was it like to revisit such an old track after all this time? Does it hold the same emotional meaning for you now as it did back then and could we see more old tracks getting this treatment in the future?
AL: [responding to last part of question] I don’t know about that part, but recording the song was such a satisfying experience. First of all, I just listened to Origin in its entirety for the first time in many years, and I was just kind of searching for something. Because for all the other albums we have b-sides, there’s songs that didn’t make the cut. There is a whole disc full of b-sides for that. But there wasn’t anything for Origin because it’s, y’know, our early stuff, and I didn’t want to put a weird old demo on there. I wanted it to be something of some level of quality [laughs]! So I listened through and I was like ‘you know what? Is there anything here that can kind of still stand up enough for me to get behind it emotionally and re-record it?’
Even in Death was that song for me. I think that the production of the old version was really ‘tinny’ – like rough and cheesy, because we’re just sort of kids! We were just kind of learning and trying to experiment to find ways to get the emotion across that we were trying to express, and it was pretty over dramatic. But being able to listen to it through (or past) the production, and into the heart of the song itself and the lyrics, I still love it, y’know?
So I just stripped it down and did it in a new way, and treated it with the same feeling and emotion and ability that I have now, and did the same treatment that I would give any new song. And that felt really good to do because I’ve only had that old version for so many years. I don’t even know how long, its 2016…so that’s about twenty years ago, which is a really crazy thing to say. In fact that is how old it is, that song is 20 years old. So to be able to take that 20 years later and create a version of it that I really love, and I’m not just sharing all the mistakes – I shouldn’t say mistakes – all the flaws and the things I wish I could change about it, well…I just did! That like, to me, the song is redeemed and it might as well be new again, I love it again. So I’m very excited to share that one, for sure.
AW: With the addition of Jen Majura to the lineup, it adds an exciting new element to the Evanescence lineup as you were before the only female in the band (if you don’t count your sisters on backing vocals!). Although it may be too early to tell at this point, how do you feel the addition of Jen will impact the sound of Evanescence going forward?
AL: That’s interesting to say because we haven’t really written any new material yet as a group. So with that part, it’s hard to put it in those terms, but as for the live show, when you play live there is a ‘sound’. And depending on the lineup, the songs you’re playing, all of it, each song live it has its own ‘life’ every time you play it and especially every tour.
So we’ve played several little bursts of shows together now and I love the way we sound, I really do. Jen does have her own little sound and it’s difficult to define or say how it’s different but she’s really talented. She comes from a lot of inspirations that are straight ‘rock’, like we’ve shared and talked about a love of Aerosmith, that kind of stuff. So there’s this good solid rock and roll influence in there, but also she really gets into y’know that classical, soft, ‘metal’ too which I think is important for being a guitar player in Evanescence, or a drummer. To have that backbone so we can take a sidestep into it once and a while.
She’s the whole package, and sorry if I’m rambling but I’m trying to think out how to best describe how it will be different. Sound wise I’m not sure yet, but I can tell you that the vibe when we’re all together is really, really fun and positive. I think that our stage ‘feeling’ has already changed. She just brings such positivity and she’s such a motivated happy spirit! She smiles a lot. Smiling on stage, can you imagine? It’s wonderful! One thing that is literally different live is that she sings background vocals. It’s the first time that we’ve been able to have live background vocals going on in an Evanescence show. That’s been really fun and exciting, just to be able to do things on the spot like that.
AW: Given that your music often has been known to deeply personal, emotional and very revealing, how strange was it for you to tap into such a different vibe and range of emotions for ‘Dream Too Much’? Do you find it easier to write music like this, or does Evanescence’s music come far more naturally?
AL: I do find it easier to write children’s music if I’m being very honest, because it’s all about hooks and repetition. But part of what I wanted to do with this is keep it from being just hooks and repetition. I wanted to make it something that would inspire kids’ imaginations and maybe teach them something. So we definitely took it to deeper levels than the most ‘surface’ level if that makes sense. In ‘Little Bird’ we’re singing about different birds and we specifically talk about different kinds of birds, and we really use those real bird’s calls [laughs].
Kids love learning, its fun! Jack really lights up when he’s learning something. He loves to learn, and I think that’s just how kids work. They’re learning all the time, and especially at that young age. It was and inspiring to me watching him enjoy it, and we tried to incorporate things that would stimulate the mind while we were making the music. So it wasn’t the simplest of things, but making a giant, complex ‘200 tracks in a Pro Tools session’ Evanescence song is definitely more work.
AW: How do you think the birth of your child has changed your outlook on life? Comparing your mindset to your 2011 self-titled, where would you say you are at now mentally?
AL: It really helps me put things in perspective. I get overwhelmed sometimes. It feels sometimes like things get shifted, it’s the end of the world. Or if any one thing goes wrong with a project or things don’t go as planned, it just gets to be a lot of pressure and there’s been lots of times, lots of times for sure, during every album cycle where I get overwhelmed.
Now that there’s something in my life that’s far more important than my career, I don’t get overwhelmed in the same way. I don’t feel like my whole world is falling apart, even if my album is falling apart – not that I have an album right now that’s falling apart right this minute – but you know, there’s a point like this all the time. For every one thing you hear from me, I did ten other things that you didn’t hear. So [laughs] there’s plenty of disappointment! You just got to get back out there and keep going! That one didn’t make it into that film; ok well…make another song! And that’s okay. That’s part of it, that’s part of the process.
I think having Jack just makes things less scary for me. I have more confidence and a little bit more of a light heart in terms of what’s going to kill me and what I can handle. It’s more about him; he’s a little bit more in my center of focus all the time and it makes me really happy. I just know that as long as everything is alright with me and him, that everything else is less important so it’s okay.
“(On how her son Jack affects her outlook in life) I think having Jack just makes things less scary for me. I have more confidence and a little bit more of a light heart in terms of what’s going to kill me and what I can handle…”
AW: Dream Too Much was created as a gift for your father. Growing up in a family of musicians, how would you describe your family’s influence on you as a musician? How big of a role did they play in shaping you to be who you are today?
AL: Aw that’s so sweet! What a great question! My dad was my hero as a kid, and I mean he still is. Musically my dad was just one of those guys that could pick up any instrument, work on it for a little while and be able to play it. And I don’t think that’s really me, but that’s what I’ve aspired to be like.
My dad plays the drums, my dad can play the guitar, he plays the ukulele and we moved to Arkansas when I was 13 and O Brother Where Art Thou came out and he decided ‘oh cool I want to play the banjo now!’ He got really inspired and practiced for 2-3 hours a day for a year until he became this great banjo player – just for fun! Not for any reason, not because he was in a band, but just because he loves music.
That was a big inspiration for me, all of that, growing up. He was a big influence to me and he’s a big influence on this record in a very tangible way. Like ‘Goodnight My Love’ was my lullaby growing up, me and my siblings. ‘Rubber Ducky’ was a song he played for us a million times, usually in the Ernie voice [laughs] but I made him drop the Ernie voice for this. And then the other songs which are inspired by Jack, y’know they have their own world a little bit, but since my dad, and my sisters and my uncle were all a part of it, I really wanted to keep in all the realm of my family and my roots. What we sound like (only better) when we’re jamming together.
My parents got me piano lessons, and encouraged me to be in a band and be a musician, even though I was making music as a teenager that disturbed them a little bit, they would always drive me to the pizza place to put on a weird show in the middle of the day and support me the best that they could and I love them for that.
AW: This is the beginning of the return of Evanescence. You guys will be going back on tour in the US for the first time in years. While you have not commented publicly on a new album being in the works, what are some of the fun things fans can expect on this upcoming tour and in the year ahead? Have you guys begun work on the early foundations of some new songs?
AL: I don’t want to give it away, because here’s where we’re at: we’re in the phase where we usually spend the month or two months leading up to the tour, talking about the set list, getting ideas, asking fans on the internet what they’d like to hear and mixing that with our own desires of what we’d like to play and what we know works live and what hasn’t in the past.
We take in all those things, and start building a set list plan, and then we all practice on our own. We’re going to have a week to practice at the beginning of the tour and hammer that all out. See what works when we come together and what doesn’t, so I at this point don’t exactly know what we’ll end up playing. Because we’ve built kind of a bigger set list than what we’ll actually play. We’ll practice things, cut out the weakest two songs, and throw in something that we didn’t think we were gonna play, y’know all that stuff happens in rehearsal.
So, our goal always is – when you’re playing shows and you don’t have a new album that you’re touring at the same time, you have to find ways to make it interesting. Because we have a lot of really die-hard, wonderful, lifelong fans who come to all the shows. So I don’t want to do the same songs, I don’t want to do the same set list that we did when we played a couple of months ago, or last October. They’ve got to be something different somehow.
So in light of all this box set stuff, and revisiting history, we’re going back to the vault and looking for songs that we haven’t played for a long time, or haven’t played before and seeing how we can spice up the set list with some things that will make the fans very happy. So without getting too specific, let’s see where that takes us.
AW: That’s awesome! Well hey, thank you for taking the time out to talk with us, I know you have a busy schedule today so…
AL: [interjecting] that’s every day man! Now that I have a child its work, work, work and then later there’s a different kind of work, work, work [laughs]. Get up super early, stay up super late. I still have time to go sifting through my attic, because I don’t have anything to wear! For the tour! I just realized three weeks out I usually design a thing or two, and I am working on that with a friend kind of, but I’m getting close and I’m like “okay! I have to put outfits together!”
Usually I’m ahead of this, and I’ve been digging through all this old stuff that I’ve had from the beginning and it’s so fun to look at! I’m so glad I got to keep so many cool things. So yeah, late at night after the baby has gone to bed and I’ve done everything else, I go digging through closets and try to put outfits together before I fall asleep. So that’s a fun project for me.
AW: That’s hilarious because one of my other writers Amanda wanted me to ask about your potential outfits for the tour if I had time to ask, so you just answered that question for her.
AL: There’s always gotta be something new! Just because I have to face the internet, and have them be like ‘she wore the same thing last time’! I can’t do that. I gotta be cool, I gotta be fresh, but my whole inspiration for this tour right now is a fresh twist on the history of the band, if that makes any sense. A throwback in a new way. So it’ll be cool to be able to go through the old stuff that I’ve used before and kind of twist it and change it and alter it and maybe, I don’t know, mix and match. I’m going to do that plus some new stuff, so yeah! There’s always the clothing element, and the visual element part of the whole thing so I enjoyed it a lot. So there! You got your bonus question!
AW: Thank you! That was awesome. Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us today.
AL: Thank you!
Amy Lee – “If You’re A Star” (From Her Children’s Album ‘Dream Too Much’):
Evanescence The Ultimate Collection (6-LP Set)
Includes special Amy Lee autographed booklet (for limited time)
Pre-order at Amazon: http://smarturl.it/EVUltimateVinylAMZN
Origin (1 LP)
A4. My Immortal
A5. Where Will You Go
A6. Field Of Innocence
B1. Even In Death
B4. Away From Me
Fallen (1 LP)
A1. Going Under
A2. Bring Me To Life
A3. Everybody’s Fool
A4. My Immortal
B2. Taking Over Me
B4. My Last Breath
The Open Door (2 LP)
A1. Sweet Sacrifice
A2. Call Me When You’re Sober
A3. Weight Of The World
B1. Cloud Nine
B2. Snow White Queen
C1. Like You
C2. Lose Control
C3. The Only One
D1. Your Star
D2. All That I’m Living For
D3. Good Enough
Evanescence (1 LP)
A1. What You Want
A2. Made Of Stone
A3. The Change
A4. My Heart Is Broken
A5. The Other Side
A6. Erase This
B1. Lost In Paradise
B3. The End Of The Dream
B5. Never Go Back
B6. Swimming Home
Lost Whispers (1 LP)
A1. Lost Whispers
A2. Even In Death (2016)
A4. Farther Away
A5. Breathe No More
A6. If You Don’t Mind
B1. Together Again
B2. The Last Song I’m Wasting On You
B3. A New Way To Bleed
B4. Say You Will
B6. Secret Door
The Evanescence 2016 Fall tour begins on October 28th, tour dates at evanescence.com.