2004 Evanescence interview

Tim Cashmere

A lot has changed since Evanescence last dropped by Undercover and that was only six months ago.

Founding member and collaborator Ben Moody went AWOL and was last seen writing for Avril Lavigne. Amy Lee continues the band under the name Evanescence and has recruited new guitarist Terry Balsamo to take the place of Moody.

Now with the new unit in place, Evanescence for the first time is working as a band instead of a duo as they move closer to laying down their second album.

To bring you up to date with Evanescence 2004, Amy Lee spoke once again to Undercover's Tim Cashmere.

Tim Cashmere: Let's first talk about 'Fallen', which last year was the fourth highest selling album in the U.S.A. with sales of around three and a half million units, and I believe it's up to about seven million worldwide…

Amy Lee: That's awesome. Yeah it's not quite to seven yet.

TC: How does that make you feel?

AL: It makes me feel like I did a good job. It makes me feel like I'm glad that a lot of people like our music. It was never about worldwide success or domination for me. People wonder why I'm not jumping up and down excited like "I'm a millionaire!" It's not like that. I just wanted to make music, so I'm happy.

TC: Last time you were here you say you never get recognized on the street. Is that happening yet?

AL: A little more than I used to definitely, I think last year I was here in June or something, it's definitely happening more. It's not at the point where I can't go out in public; it's never going to be at that point, just because I'm not a pop icon or an actress or something… I hope, or I would just hate life. It's cool when you meet a fan, sign an autograph and they respect your music and your work. It's a compliment, but I don't usually wear makeup or anything and I keep going out not expecting to get recognized, and people want to take my picture and put it on the internet or something and I'm like "Please don't take my picture!"

TC: You've been quoted as saying that Evanescence used to be just you and Ben [Moody] and a bunch of other guys and now you're working as one unit. How so?

AL: Well, I think it's important for a band to all feel like they've invested their heart in the project. Before what happened was the rest of the guys were brought into the band after it was already recorded, so it wasn't like they had their heart into it. We taught them how to play and they played it. Especially under Ben it was a really strict regime, you do everything exactly to measure and I don't believe in that. I believe in the heart of music, that's what music is supposed to be. It's not supposed to be dictated that way, it's supposed to be in your heart. It's supposed to be about feeling and everyone's really just been able to take it their own way and they understand what our band is about. It's not like they're going to try and make it country western or anything. Our new guitarist Terry Balsamo is bringing another element to it that's really beautiful and really amazing. Also we've had a chance to really go through something together, the loss of "the big main member!" The guy who was there before any of them, other than me obviously and we came together and said "Let's make this better!" Also we've been writing together and everyone feels like they have the chance to be in a real band, not just a hired musician.

TC: So last time Ben wrote quite a bit of the album, so with the next album will that have a big effect on how the songs are written?

AL: It's going to have a big effect. I think the album's going to be much better!

TC: Does that mean you're not happy with this one?

AL: It's just that I've grown out of it. I feel like it's hard sometimes just to do the same songs that were written when I was 16, 17, 18, when so much has happened to me and I'm just a different person now. You grow up and you change and you feel different feelings. It's hard for me to sing coming from such a vulnerable place, which I was when I wrote these songs, when I feel like I don't want to be vulnerable anymore. I want to be stronger than that. So I'm definitely ready to write about the more mature feelings that I have and the things that I've been through. I want to speak! I don't want to be silent anymore.

TC: Do you have any songs completed for the next album?

AL: Yeah a couple. Not much. We really need to get in there. We've got a lot of pieces and concepts and plans and things so if we could ever just get off tour we could put it together. We'll be finished at the end of February or the beginning of March, so we'll finally get to start then.

TC: So as soon as you're finished it's straight back in there. No rest for you!

AL: True. It's just that I have so much building up in me that I want to write about. It's like if I don't put it down soon I'm going to blow up. This is the longest I've ever gone in my life without writing. I've always been a writer, before Ben, during Ben, after Ben. It had nothing to do with Ben, Ben didn't write the album, we did it together. So for me not to be putting this into songs it feels really empty.

TC: Can you not write while you're on tour?

AL: Think about this okay. Last night we played a show, so instantly when I got home I went to bed I promise! Not a drink! So I went to bed at about one o'clock, 6.45am I wake up. That's not a lot of sleep for one thing. Then I get up and I get on a plane and fly to the next town, then one hour after I get to the hotel I have interviews for three hours or something, so when the interviews are done I go to soundcheck, which means between the soundcheck and the show I only have about three or four hours to eat and rest. The only time I could write anything would be during those three hours, which are in the middle of the day. It's like forcing myself to put something down when I don't even feel like writing, I just feel like sleeping, you know? It's a really difficult time. On a day off once in a while it's made it out anyway, like the other day I finally recorded one that I've had floating around for a while, but writing on tour is virtually impossible, especially when your tour schedule is this packed.

TC: Tomorrow might be a little worse for you, because it's a five hour flight to Perth.

AL: It's not going to be bad for me so much as the crew, because load-in is usually 8am or something and we're leaving and it's a four or five hour flight or whatever and then we have to get it all in before lunchtime and still have time for a soundcheck.

TC: Maybe you'll be playing at about four o'clock in the morning?

AL: You never know. The shows here are earlier than they are in the States, for us at least.

TC: It wouldn't be if you played at a club.

AL: We've been playing at like 9:30. We're used to playing at more like ten thirty or eleven. I thought you guys were partiers, what the hell?

TC: What about these rumours of you and Wes Borland working together?

AL: Well, Wes Borland and I are friends and we actually did work together, he and I and Danny Lohner [Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, David Bowie] on the Underworld score, but due to lawyers and managers and all that legal crap, they couldn't use my vocals, which is really a big shame because we did some really cool writing. When Ben left the band we discussed him doing some writing with me on the next album, which I think could be really cool, but I feel like the most important thing is that I write with my band. I'd love experiment and goof around, it would be really amazing, but definitely the most important thing is writing with the band.

TC: Will there ever be an Amy Lee solo album?

AL: I don't know. I don't think so, but I can't tell, it's hard to say. I think that after Evanescence has finished I will probably have had quite enough of the music business.

TC: Terry from Cold is on guitar now. How is he going?

AL: Better than I ever expected, because I knew him, but I didn't know him so well that it was like we were best friends and I knew I could count on him and it's been such a relief, it's like one thing in a million other things that has happened so naturally. Terry's an insane guitar player with awesome stage presence. He has a good personality and he's down to Earth and on top of all that stuff he's a great writer and he's done a lot of great writing. I didn't really realise when we first brought him into the band, so all around Terry is one of the best decisions we've made.

TC: Does this mean that Cold is now finished with?

AL: I'm pretty sure it does. They could hire another guitar player and continue, but I'm pretty sure that their lead singer is in and out of rehab and having real problems. He has been for a long time and I don't think they're going to be making another record. Terry was in a situation also where their band was very unhappy, so I think we came together on a common ground.

TC: So does anyone from Cold have sore feelings towards Evanescence?

AL: I don't know! I haven't talked to them because we all went on tour together in the States, which is funny, that's how we met. Scooter, the lead singer was really hurting, it was not good, but the rest of the guys in the band are really awesome. I love Jeremy and Kelly's really cool and I was friends with both of those guys. I didn't know the drummer very well, but I don't think there's be any sore feelings, I think they were all pretty sick of the situation in their band.

TC: You're out here with Finger Eleven…

AL: Yeah we love them, we've toured a lot with them. They're really nice guys, they're one of the most talented bands that haven't been successful that I know of, and they're really intelligent, cool, good guys. I don't want to say anything about favourites, but James is really great and Scott the lead singer, he's really sweet.

TC: Do you get the chance to socialize a lot on a tour like this?

AL: Not always. We're in Australia, so everybody is trying as hard as we can to make it fun. I think it's mostly me that's just stuck doing interviews all day. Pretty much everyone else gets to go hang out, but sometimes I do go out after a show like this is I have some energy left. I used to more when I didn't have so much work to do, but you know, it's a life, it's a job.

TC: It just happens to be a very good job.

AL: It is a very good job. I was sitting on the porch with Beth, my assistant, she's also my hair and makeup artist and does everything for me… I don't know what to call her! But we were sitting on the porch braiding my hair and eating lunch and we had four hours off and we were like "You know what? This is our job! We're getting paid right now!" and she's like "Yep, it don't suck."

TC: Well I'll let you go on that note.

AL: "It don't suck" is actually a Terry quote. We were doing a press conference and we were standing there after we'd just won two Billboard awards and we were at this big press conference and they go "So Terry, how does it feel to just enter the band now when they're already a huge international success and sold six million copies?" and he said "It don't suck!" and we thought it was the coolest thing anyone has ever said.



Getting the Art of Evanescence’s Amy Lee

Rex Rutkoski

"I feel like all my writing life I’ve been trying to express myself and feeling like no one understood me," says Amy Lee, co-founder and voice of rock phenom Evanescence.

"My ultimate goal was that they would get it. It turns out that not only a few people but millions of people all over the world have. I never got into this to be some huge international band. That was never the plan or anything I necessarily wanted. It’s a really cool surprise."

Indeed it has been—both for this intriguing group from Little Rock, Ark., which blends metal, industrial and classical, among other elements, and for music fans everywhere looking for a fresh listening experience.

Acknowledgement comes from members of the Recording Industry Association of America itself, which has selected Evanescence for an eye-popping five Grammy nominations—music’s highest honor: Album of the Year (Fallen), Best New Artist, Best Rock Album, Best Hard Rock Performance ("Bring Me To Life") and Best Rock Song ("Bring Me to Life").

The other awards shows that they have been to are fun, Lee says, but she views them as "mostly a pageant. But the Grammys are really special. They are the one thing that has been around forever. They really stand out and mean something. People in the industry vote for the awards. I was hoping to get one nomination. The fact we got five is a shock to me."

For anyone still surprised that all this music comes from a band from Little Rock, Lee reminds, "Music comes from inside. It doesn’t matter where you come from. We’re not influenced by the next door neighbor’s banjo playing." She laughs.

It’s not about geography, she says. It’s about the need for an artist to be open-minded. "We are very open-minded. Some of the best bands come out of the middle of nowhere."

Also recognizing that fact is that Evanescence received two Billboard Awards for New Group Artist of the Year and Soundtrack Single of the Year ("Bring Me To Life," from the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner film, Daredevil). The band also received the Best New International Artist title at the MTV Latin America Awards and Best Rock Song of the Year at the Teen Choice Awards.

A confirmation of a vision realized? "It’s a great congratulations for a job well done," she says. "We all worked very hard. This is sort of like a really, really nice pat on the back. I feel gratified that we have done something. I really put my heart in this album and it worked. It’s cool to see someone go out of their way and go ‘Wow! Good job!'"

Why has the music of Evanescence resonated for people? "If I knew that, it would be the secret to everything and putting out another album and having it do as well," Lee says, laughing again. "I really like that people can feel the honesty in the music. A lot of music out there is not genuine. Our music is in our hearts. I like to think people can feel that it is very genuine and honest. And I’ve always been very open and honest about what I’m going through."

Lee says music has always been about her life. "If people can connect, hopefully I’ve said things other people are afraid to say."

It’s important that people realize they are not alone with their problems, she suggests. "Music to me is therapy. If nobody bought it I’d still be writing. The fact it can also serve a purpose, and people realize they’re not alone, is good. Everyone feels alone."

Lee, 21, insists she wouldn’t mind being a social worker someday, "or having a job that allows you to be there for kids with problems and women who have been abused."
She says she would like to work with people who have been hurt and help handle problems. "I feel I understand them very well. I know it’s so hard to listen. You feel no one can understand how you feel. I do understand and empathize."

She appreciates that sensibility can come through in her music. It might be the closest way for her to be a social worker right now, she says. "Music mixes both," she says. "I hope people take anything from my music that helps them through what they are going through. I hope people learn to open their minds and ears and imagine the unfathomable."

For themes and subject matter, Lee says she is drawn to "whatever my heart is saying. There are things I want to talk about and say to people, but you have to wait for it to come to you and be inspired by it."

Lee assumes that she probably will be writing more with the departure of Evanescence co-founder and lead guitarist Ben Moody. "Ben and I basically wrote 50-50. I wrote lyrics. And Ben wrote a lot of the music. We have great writers in the band."

She looks to her past for her source of creativity. "I went through some pretty dramatic experiences when I was a little girl. Not that I’m glad they happened, but I’m very grateful for the way we have come out of it. I feel I owe a lot of what happened to me to my little sister, who passed away when I was a child. We were kind of best friends. After she died it was like I was picked up and dropped in a different world from then on. I never felt like anyone was like me, for whatever reason I couldn’t understand."

Lee feels that in many ways her sister is her muse for everything. Music remains her therapy. "I’ve never gone to therapy. I’m a very healthy person emotionally and mentally. I know how to balance things. I’ve definitely been through situations where things weren’t handled the way they should. I’m balanced through using my art."

It seems appropriate to ask if this is a bittersweet time for Evanescence right now, a time in which the band, despite its accolades, finds itself out of balance because of Moody’s departure.
"I can’t tell you how happy we are. I wish everyone could see us for one day backstage," Lee says. "We’re happier now as a band than we’ve ever been. Things are just working better. It’s hard when you’re not all on the same page. We are all a single unit now."

Earlier in the year she told a writer, "Nobody has ever understood the band’s vision except Ben and me together." Does she now see herself as the caretaker of that vision, or does it now embrace more people?

"I feel like I’m the leader of the vision, like the one still stuck with the understanding. I feel like each album is unique. I don’t expect to make another album like Fallen. Fallen is one thing we had the vision for together. It couldn’t have happened without Ben. For the future, it will still be Evanescence, but different."

She says she wants to keep the band around for a very long time. The best piece of advice she received from her radio DJ father about dealing with the music business is to have fun. "That’s a thing I heard most of the time from him in my life and there’s a lot of truth to it: ‘It’s short, have fun. OK, Amy, do your best, smile. Most of all have fun.’"
She really seems to be.

The industry is acknowledging Evanescence as the first female-led band to attain Number One since Courtney Love’s Hole in 1998.

Lee says she does not give much consideration as to whether she is carrying on a torch of tradition. "I know a lot of girls are looking up to me. I go to our shows and it’s scary the amount of teenage girls and older women who look up to me and watch my every move, and guys too," she says. "In some ways I feel proud that I’m doing something really based on talent and not on the way I look. I don’t think I use the way I look at all. It’s not like there isn’t any sensuality in our music. I’m the big sister in my family and I feel responsible for setting a good example."


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