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[AltWire Interview] Amy Lee on Artistic Freedom and New Music

As arguably one of the best voices in music today, Amy Lee manages to add a unique element to any music she touches, through her skillful vocals, unbridled creativity and emotionally engaging songwriting that fans across the world have grown to love since 2003.

But while many may appreciate Lee for her range, it is not just only her voice that sets her apart from the crowd, as I found out in our first interview last October when Amy had a three minute off the record conversation with me about my father, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2016. While the exchange was not included in the printed interview, the experience was humbling and I left that interview feeling an even deeper admiration for Amy Lee as a person. When I recently was contacted to interview Amy again to promote her latest track Speak To Me, it was an opportunity I accepted without second thought.

Read below as Amy and I discuss her creative process, her inspiration for Speak To Me, and the upcoming Evanescence music set to drop later this year.

 Derek Oswald [AltWire]: Let’s start off by talking about Voice From The Stone. How is it that you first became involved with this project?

Amy Lee [Evanescence / Solo Artist]: Man, it’s so cool when it happens like this. The director felt inspired about me and thought of me and had this idea to have me try to do a song for his movie. So he got hold of me, and showed me the film while they were still working on it to see if I liked it or if I had an idea, and I was immediately just sucked into the story. It’s so beautiful, so unique and you don’t know what’s happening next, and it’s just a really good film.

Being a new mom I had an extra level of inspiration about it, because basically this film is about a boy who lost his mother, and in his grieving he hasn’t spoken since her death. So I’m from the perspective of the mom, on the other side, singing to him.  It’s sort of like their bond is so great, and their love is so big, that it’s bigger than death.

That to me was such a great inspiration that instantly I had ideas. I knew what I wanted it to feel like, and I spoke to Eric the director and also Michael the score composer on the phone right after watching it. We talked about what they were imagining and what I was imagining and it was just really lining up. I was super excited, and I got off the phone, ran over to the piano and had the initial idea that night, mocked up. Just the basics of it.

Usually the hard part is showing off that thing that you’re quietly in love with, and hearing them go, ‘Yeah, it’s nothing like what I wanted.’ But that didn’t happen. They loved it and we were really on the same page from the beginning. That’s just the beginning of the story. I could go on and on about the whole thing, but that’s really how I got into it.

AW: This is certainly not your first foray into contributing to a soundtrack, as you previously provided music to the films War Story and Indigo Grey. But this time seems a lot more personal to you. Was there a stronger personal connection this time around? How would you say the creative experience for this song differed from your work on those other films?

AL: I’ll always get into it and try and find ways to be able to get myself where I need to be, but yes, this one I was literally connecting with in some ways, and it really just felt like it was meant to be. And you know what? Not only was it about a mother (and I’m a new mom) but also the mother in this film was a famous classical musician. She was a singer and a piano player. So I was like ‘COME ON!’ [laughs] ‘This is totally and in every way me!’ Like, I could just see myself in this part.

So that was really cool, because as much as you could do with the song, I felt like I really was invited in to be a character in the film. You never hear her sing, but it’s all in the backstory about her life. So when the song comes in and it begins with nothing but the vocals, no piano or anything, it’s like you’re hearing her voice for the first time. I feel it’s so powerful and cool to be able to play that part a little bit.

AW: Your soundtrack and film score portfolio has grown consistently since 2013. Career-wise, do you see your future self musically heading more towards film scoring, or is there a part of you still hungry to record more solo records and Evanescence records?

AL: I’m hungry for both!  I make these big projects – like an Evanescence album – and it’s easy to get stuck in the process of it where it really does take a year and a half from the beginning to the very end of it. And that’s awesome, but somewhere in the middle of that year and a half, there are all these moments where you feel like, ‘Man, I wish I could do something completely different right now. I wish I had another outlet.’ And that for a lot of my life has been the part where I paint, or do designs for clothing I’m going to wear on stage or in a video… stuff like that.

I have a lot of paintings in my house where you’d never think it was ‘the girl from Evanescence’ doing them, because they’re very colorful. It’s the opposite, almost like kids’ stuff! The kids’ album Dream Too Much incorporated a lot of my art design. They were renditions of my paintings, all those characters like the sheep, those are all paintings in my house. And the reason all those paintings really started is because I’d be off making this huge, very dramatic, very soul-wrenching Evanescence album, and somewhere in the middle of it at some point, I just badly needed to be able to express the opposite emotion!

So it’s really nice for me to be able to be in this place where I feel like I can do anything at any time. Like, if I have this crazy idea to do a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Going To California, or do a solo song because I heard it on the radio in Italian and I love it but I really want to do it in English and in a different way, I can do that and not feel like I’m trapped inside a giant monster and I’m only allowed to do that one thing. Or that the people around me only know how to market that one thing.

I feel a lot of freedom right now! I feel like anything is possible and it makes me enjoy the Evanescence part a lot more because I feel like the only reason I’m doing it is because I want to be doing it, not because I have to in any way. So we’ve been having a lot of fun doing the Evanescence stuff. We’ve gotten together to play shows the last couple of years off and on, and it’s just been more and more inspiring. So that’s why we’re getting creative again!

 

“In life, sometimes your emotions are a huge hurricane of stuff and other times it’s just one little simple thought….”

 

AW: With the recent re-emergence of Evanescence, naturally the question on everyone’s minds is: What’s coming next?  You’ve been hinting a little bit lately about a ‘unique’ project with the band that’s different from the normal Evanescence fare. While I understand your desire to remain tight-lipped, are there ANY details you can spare on this project?

AL: I am going to spill all of the details on this project in about a month – I just need to give it some time. I know that’s annoying for a journalist, but the core of it is getting to hear Evanescence in a new way. It really is. It’s not just ‘the next Evanescence album’ – it’s something else, and it’s definitely challenging. It’s from a place where it still connects absolutely to the core of what the band is, but it’s forcing everyone to try new things and work outside of our comfort zone completely, and work in new elements. So I’m very excited about it, and that’s what I’ve been spending the majority of my time doing during all of this stress for all of the other things in the background. I’m just working over a bubbling cauldron of stuff over here! I’m very excited about it, and I really hope the fans are too when they hear what it is, but I can’t give any other information than that right now.

AW: While the upcoming project is still very hush-hush, perhaps you can give your input on this: Now that you have a strong new lineup, do you have an idea of what direction you’d like the band to head in? Not exactly just with this album, but what you would like to achieve with future Evanescence material over the next few years?

AL: Um, I see how you’re trying to be tricky and just get more information out of me about the ‘thing’!

[We both burst out laughing]

AL: BUT [laughs] I feel that would just be giving it away! So, this is just a very general statement, because I don’t have a specific direction for the next-next-thing – although we’re starting to formulate that already – but I’m starting to learn that less is more, in a way. Evanescence, for me, has always been this place where every single thing you can imagine is in there. We’ve used so many tracks that pro tools can’t handle it, and it’s an issue. So with all the strings, the programming, the guitars, the background vocals, and all of these things that go into our music, as wonderful as that all is, I’ve come to realize that sometimes you’re not hearing all that we’re doing because of all that is going on. I’ve come to sometimes enjoy being able to hear just one thing at a time a little bit.

That being said, that’s not meant to really describe anything other than that my headspace right now is that I can appreciate moments of simplicity, and I think that’s important. I think that’s an important direction for us to think about in the future, that everything doesn’t always have to be so full or so complicated. Because in life, sometimes your emotions are a huge hurricane of stuff and other times it’s just one little simple thought.

AW: Lost Whispers was well received by the fan base, but there have been a few songs over the years that were performed live but not released, such as Your Love and Find A Way. Some fans were hoping to see these on Lost Whispers, but they were not included. Will these songs ever see the light of day?

AL: You know…it’s one of those things. Those are a couple of songs that have made it out a little bit, so you’ve heard parts of them… like Take Cover, that’s a B-side of ours that we’ve played live only, and what you don’t know is that there’s this huge pile of songs like that. We’ve got this cool playlist of songs that we’ve got to draw from, of music that didn’t quite make it. Music that got sort of pushed to the side over the years, the ones that didn’t quite make it enough to be recorded.  Like Find A Way and Your Love, for example, those don’t have full recordings, at least at this point. But that’s not to say that they aren’t any good, and I do hear what’s cool about that music. But it’s nice to have that big bank of stuff because honestly, sometimes the reason it didn’t make it out is because it’s not as good as another song that’s kind of like it. I’ve gotten like that about a few things, and that’s what happened with Your Love. I’m trying to think of what it reminded me of where we thought the other one was better, but it’s kind of like that.

Will they ever see the light of day? Well, I have heard a rumor that Legends and Lyrics is planning on releasing the performance we did with Your Love on it, so if they do that would be cool! I don’t control it – if I did, I would’ve done it myself. But it’s kind of funny coming out now because it was so long ago! My hair was chopped off, it was in 2009 or 2010. So we’ll see! It would be nice to watch it actually; I’d like to see it again.

Find A Way is a cool song! That’s a song that I wrote for a film, I was just trying to get on the soundtrack of this Middle Eastern kind of movie a few years ago and it didn’t make it. I do that all the time. I’ve got a nice pile of ‘Oh that didn’t work, oh well! Maybe I’ll come back to that when it makes sense.’ When we go to the next place, or the next album, it’s always like that. We go to the pile! Even if it’s not that we use a whole song, sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, the verse of this song is great but the chorus could be better…’ and then we can use it, you know? I’ve definitely done that quite a few times.

So we’ll see what happens with those two specifically, I’m not really sure yet. Don’t be shocked if they change! If the chorus is done and all of a sudden it has a different name, well that’s just too bad [laughs].

AW: Beyond what we’ve already discussed, what can fans expect from both you and Evanescence in the year ahead?

AL: We will be releasing something this year! So there is definitely stuff to be looking forward to in the very near future. In two weeks we’re going to be going on a tour in South America, and then shortly after that we’re going to be playing a European tour, and it’s a pretty significant and kind of long one. So we’ll be seeing fans, and you can come see us live, and meanwhile we’ll be working on this new thing that will be out this year. So I think there’s a lot on the horizon for the band.

I do plan on doing more solo stuff, but it’s kind of nice that it’s been sort of piecemeal, because like I was talking about before, the recording process gets to be this big thing and I need an outlet from it. It’s nice to be able to record a song for a film every once in a while, and do a song on my own, and I definitely have some ideas about my next covers EP. So I’ll be doing that at some point when I have a free moment…

AW: [deadpan]…which never happens.

AL: NEVER! All free moments I spend with Jack. [laughs]

 

Amy Lee – “Speak To Me”:

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