Interview with Amy Lee of Evanescence

 

Your twenties are the years when you are finding your feet, going
through stressful transitions on the road to discover who you are or
what you want to be. It can be tricky decade for most, but what if you
are having to maneuver round all its challenges and obstacles in the
glare of the spotlight. Evanescence’ striking front-women Amy Lee was just twenty two when their debut studio album Fallen
was released. Selling more the 15 million worldwide, topping the charts
in 10 countries and earning them five Grammy nominations, the band were
catapulted to super stardom, resulting in Amy being unwittingly labeled
as a role model and sex symbol, as well as a commended and respected
songwriter. The next few years would see further success, which would
ensure many months on the road touring. This, compounded with
departures and other numerous strains created a tumultuous and unsettled
time for the band. After a necessary break, one which allowed Amy to
get married and enjoy normality, 2011 saw Evanescence triumphantly
return with a self titled album. But the process of creating their
latest ‘dynamic’ output was not without its stalls, when their pairing
with producer Steve Lilywhite proved to be a bad fit. Thankfully teaming up with acclaimed rock producer Nick Raskulinecz
(who has previously worked with Foo Fighters, Deftones, Stone Sour to
name a few) proved to be a very savvy move, culminating in an album the
band are completely proud of. Culture Compass had the chance to
speak to the idolized front-woman about the making and performing of new
material with band-mates Terry, Tory, Tim and Will, her upcoming
landmark birthday,  as well as her plans for Christmas……


You have just completed the tour in Munich. You have said that
writing the record as a band brought you closer, did the tour prove to
bolster the new bond further?
No, now we’re sick of each other
(Haha)! It was a great first tour back, we’re having a really good time
out there. Having a mission, something to fight and make sacrifices for,
gives me the sweetest satisfaction. We’re in a good place being back on
the road where we started again and remembering parts of ourselves that
had been dormant for awhile.

After such a long break I know you worried about being able to
evolve back into your on stage character. How did you manage, and has
the stage persona you embody notably changed since your last tour?

I’m your average bad-ass housewife who tries to replicate food she sees
on Iron Chef and makes weird music in the attic all night. I’ve been
pretty domestic and totally underground the past few years since I got
married and I was a tiny bit nervous about getting back up onstage and
throwing my soul down. But I swear I’ve never felt more comfortable
onstage than I do now. It’s a great release if you let it be, and I’ve
really loved performing again.

When working with Steve Lilywhite you were experimenting heavily,
and with the latest album in its completed state it has been described 
as ‘fun’ –  very different to the descriptions of previous releases. Is
there a certain amount of anxiety when trying something new. Do you
think it is necessary for musicians to be brave?
I do think it’s
necessary for musicians to be brave. How can you know everything you’re
capable of unless you try everything? What if your greatest talents
haven’t even been discovered yet? You have to challenge yourself,
experiment, play. It is music after all, it’s supposed to be fun and
creative.

From the audience reactions, twitter and forum conversations, can
you get a good gauge of the overall feelings towards the changes in
sound?
It’s funny, different people hear it differently. Some people
think it is a great departure, and more positive than our other albums,
and then other people think it’s very dark and heavy, and classic
Evanescence. I think that’s because it is both. You have a song like
Swimming Home, which is the most peaceful and experimental sounding song
I think we’ve ever had, but then you have Never Go Back which is an
extremely heavy, epic song, both in sound and meaning. The album is just
very dynamic.

Working with a name as big as Steve I am guessing you entered the
NY studio excited and expecting great things. Why do you think it didn’t
work and how well do you cope with moving forward when things don’t go
to plan?
Some of the songs we started recording in 2010 were just
the rad new flavor we needed and others just weren’t right for the band.
I realized that after spending a little time in the studio. It just
wasn’t happening, it felt wrong and the vision was getting lost. I care
too much about the music to ever sacrifice what could be something great
if you let it fully bake. I’m willing to put the work in- even till it
almost kills me- to get it right, to make something I want to listen to
or the rest of my life.

It has been described as less angsty in content. Do you think this
is because of where you are in your life, because you gained closure
via previous outputs, or merely because you wanted to channel a
different side of your personality?
I’m so not sure it’s less
angsty! Made of Stone, A New Way to Bleed, Sick- all pretty
angst-ridden. But I’ve grown up a lot, I don’t blame everything on
everyone else anymore, you know? I’ve started to accept things,
appreciate what I have, forgive faster because life is too short to
spend bitter and angry. My lyrics are just- me, so I guess you’re just
hearing who I am now.

I imagine performing extremely emotional songs must be draining
for you. Does the emotion get diluted when performing the songs so
frequently or are you always taken back to that moment in time?
It
is draining but in a really good way. I can’t honestly say I’m
completely lost in the meaning of every song every night, there’s a lot
going on in my head on stage (Focus on the pitch, transpose the keyboard
for the next song, what town are we in again??).  But there are these
great moments, when everyone is in the zone and the crowd is singing
along and you don’t even have to think you just feel the music. There’s
nothing better than that.

You have said that nature features in some of the lyrics. Do you
find a particular environment more conducive to creativity… Stormy
weather or crashing waves over LA sun for instance?
Yes. I’m the
most creative when it’s storming. The rain is my favorite writing tool,
it just sets the perfect mood. I shack up in my house and make things-
music, paintings, clothes, whatever. It just feels like my time- like a
sick day. No one expects anything and I do it just for me. I feel a
weird connection to bad weather- it brings my feelings to life. I’ll be
writing a song and start to feel like I’m on to something and then it
will start pouring on cue. Then I feel like there’s magic in the song-
like nature and I are in sync.

The trials and ups and downs of life also influence the words on
the record. Do lyrics and creativity flow better in times of darkness?
Has the period of time off, getting married and enjoying domestic bliss
made it harder to write?
I have a lot of ideas, I am very in touch
with my emotions, and I just plain love music, so I never go too long
without feeling like I have something to write about. Being happy is a
GOOD thing, and I can write when things are going well. But I think
great art is something people feel connected to because it reminds them
of their own life, and everyone with a heart will have it broken at some
point. Often times the most honest expression comes from that broken
place.

Eventually you joined Nick Rasculinez in the studio, who produced
one of my favourite recent albums ( Deftones’ Diamond Eyes). Did you all
click instantly and what makes his company and contribution unique to
him?
We all really love Nick. He and I did click instantly. I flew
down to meet him at Blackbird studios in Nashville, in the same room
where we ended up recording. We started talking about music, the
industry, why we do what we do, and how we work and all of a sudden, 2
hours had gone by. I knew he would push us to be a better band, make
this album really special. He made us work together and completely
expose ourselves as musicians. He pushed every one of us to be the best
possible version of ourselves, and you can hear a lot of personality
coming through in all of the parts. I love that about it.

Has the success of working with him made you think its best to stick with rock producers from now on? Nope. I will always remain open minded and want to continue to experience new forms of music and art till the day I die.

You incorporated the harp into the album. Is it important to you to continue challenging yourself musically?
I took up the harp for fun and it ended up being something I really
love. I hope to always improve myself musically, throughout my life.
Music is such a big part of who I am and I will probably always be
searching for new ways to make it.

You have expressed admiration for the work of Bjork (her 1st
record in particular). She is extremely inventive in every respect of
her work. Do you also consider the visuals, video treatments, styling,
technology just as carefully as the music?
Absolutely. it’s
important to have a vision, fashion and visuals express who you are and
draw the landscape for the music. I design most of my stage clothes and
come up with a lot of the concepts for our music videos and special
events. Like the album cover for The Open Door- I sketched the cover,
and then had the giant door and the dress made, so we could recreate the
drawing in a photo. You need your artwork and look to do the best
possible job describing you as you see yourself so that people can get
closer to the heart of the music. I always have video ideas, the videos
are the visual expression of the songs, and another dimension of what
they mean to me. I love them because anything is possible!
Were there any records you were all listening to at the time of writing
or tracking the record that ended up informing your sound?

I like for the ideas to come from within, honestly.
Just trying things until something strikes you. But I do really love
these big, 80’s Analog synths that are back in music today, and there
are definitely more synths and keyboards on this album than our previous
ones.

Are there any current artists you are enjoying at the moment, ones that you’d even consider a collaboration with? I’ll
collaborate if somebody awesome asks me. I’ve always wanted to work
with Trent Reznor, I think we could make something beautiful.

You were on stage at the EMAs, is that as daunting as it sounds?
How do you feel about mingling with other musicians like Justin Bieber
etc?
Haha. it’s a circus! it’s kind of fun to have a front seat to
watch that craziness up close once in a while. I had a nice time that
night, all I had to do was look pretty and read a paragraph off a
TelePrompTer without fumbling over the words and then sit back and watch
Lady Gaga hop around like a weird bird. Nice.

Whether you wanted to be or not you have become a role model for
many. How do you cope with this? Has it got easier as you have got older
and does it affect what you put out on a day to day basis?
I am the
eldest in my family, and have always been in that big sister role- its
not entirely different from the way I feel about our fans. I always try
to encourage people to be independent, creative and not to give up hope.
Nothing good can really come from being too cynical, even when you’ve
been dealt a difficult hand. I try my best to live that way and remember
that people are listening, and it really matters what you say- in front
of a mic or not, your words and actions affect people.

When fans and journalist are speculating over member departures
and in-band issues they like to point the blame at someone. As the
front-woman/poster girl for the band I expect you got the brunt of this.
Did you make a point of avoiding reading such things?
Being the
front-woman comes with a lot of responsibility. When any part of this
goes wrong I’m the one who has to answer for it. It sucks but I’m used
to it. Sometimes the hardest part is just saying nothing-because its the
only way to stay above the bullshit. I had to get over the need for
everyone to know “the real me.” You can’t really know someone you’ve
never met, and you can’t know the real story if you weren’t there. There
are more constructive and fulfilling things I’d rather do than worry
about settling scores and read articles about myself. My job is to make
music, and I try to stay focused on that.

You are on the cusp of reaching a landmark birthday, how do you
feel about turning 30 and how has your perspective changed since hitting
the big time as an early twenty something?
It feels pretty good.
I’ve lived a very full life already and I am very grateful. I’ve seen
life as brief and precious since I was a little girl when I lost my
sister. I still see it that way and consider every one of these 30 years
a gift, I don’t think that will ever change.

I saw via your twitter that you had your apron on and were ‘ready
to rock the kitchen’ on Thanksgiving… What are your Christmas plans,
do you have time off from your hectic schedule to relax and party
?
HA! I love the holidays. I love how the kitchen brings everyone
together. I’ll be home with my parents, siblings and husband for a few
days for a pretty traditional Christmas. Dad got a manual pasta maker
and were going to try making homemade ravioli for the first time.

What is on your ipod recently played list? Lykke Li. My current favorite.

Hopes and plans for 2012? Loads of touring and not much else!
There’s a big world out there and we’re going to play as many places as
we can. We start in January in the US and Mexico, Japan in February and
much more to follow, we’re just booking as we go.

Something that people might be surprised to know about you? I
have a recurring dream that I’m still in high school, and everything
I’ve done since happened before taking the final exam, and I’ve totally
forgotten everything including my locker combination so I can’t even
study, and I’m flipping out because I’m going to fail and never get my
diploma.

Will we get to see you back in the UK next year, any festival dates lined up? We’re
still planning the tour dates but we will definitely to come back to
the UK at some point next year. Download Festival was a highlight for us
back in 07 so we’re seeing if that will work for us next summer.

Photos courtesy of  Chapman Baehler

www.evanescence.com

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