Amy Lee Talks New Evanescence Album, Tour

Founder and lead singer/pianist Amy Lee recently talked to Pollstar about what she was up to during the band’s hiatus, why she decided to return to Evanescence, and what learning to play the harp represents to her.

On Oct. 11 Evanescence will release the band’s third studio album on Wind-Up Records, marking the band’s first album in five years.  The band’s North American tour kicks off Oct. 10 as the group’s first full-fledged outing since 2007.

In other words, this is a big week for the Grammy Award-winning band that has sold more than 20 million records worldwide. 

Photo: Chapman Baehler

I just wanted to say congratulations on the upcoming album and tour.

Thank you. We’re really excited. It’s awesome after working on it for so long to finally hear it back. We’re so proud of it.

I’m sure the fans are really looking forward to it. I wanted to ask you a few questions about the hiatus you took following The Open Door tour. If you could talk a little bit about what you were up to during the break and the decision to go on hiatus.

Well, as you said, we finished touring The Open Door at the end of 2007. I actually got married in 2007 and went straight back on tour so I really just wanted to be married. I live in New York with my husband and we worked on our place; I decorated my home. Just sort of being a normal person for a while.

My life had been all about Evanescence since I was a teenager, just jumping straight into the next thing every time. So it felt really good to step away and go, “You know, that was awesome; I think we’re going to do this again some day but I don’t know. But right now I need to just be Amy.” It was really good for me.

It’s funny. I really love music. I do. I can’t help but play music all the time. And that’s why I’m here again because as much as I stepped away I [was] still sitting down at the piano most days or at the harp – I started taking harp in the time off too. And that turns into songwriting. And more and more as I got to sort of find myself, I discovered, “Oh yeah, Evanescence is a huge part of me naturally. It’s not just this thing we invented. It’s not just a character. It’s really me.”

So, naturally, I just started writing again. And it eventually became an Evanescence record that we were making. We spent the last two years just working on the record. But before that I just did a lot of living – spending time with family, cooking with friends, listening to other bands perform. I went to Madison Square a lot. I saw an awesome Bjork show, I saw Neil Young play, I saw Deftones, Alice in Chains, all kind of stuff. Just pulling a little bit in, instead of always putting something out, artistically.

Did you always know that you’d return to Evanescence? Or is that something you discovered?

No. I really have to wait for inspiration to come. I have to follow my heart. Sounds corny, but it’s really true. I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted to do anymore, for sure, at the end of The Open Door tour. I really needed to separate myself from it a little bit. But, we’re here because I love it and I missed it. And all those things started coming to life again in me.

In a previous interview that you did, I read that when you started working with the guys again, it became more of a group project. Can you expand on that a bit?

Sure. I’m a very kind of intimate writer in the history of me working so usually the most common way that Evanescence works is with me and one other person, two max. Just sitting at the keyboard, with a guitar and Pro Tools, just creating.

With The Open Door it was Terry [Balsamo]. We wrote almost the entire record, just the two of us. This time I opened it up. I wrote with Tim [McCord], I wrote with Terry. I started writing with Tim and Terry. And then we brought Will [Hunt] into it and we actually wrote some songs just sitting at our instruments. It’s very different for Evanescence. And it worked because this is a live band that we had going on before, we know how to play together, they’re great musicians. And we just added creativity into that and it really worked. I feel like we’re at a place now where we know what Evanescence is and at the same time want to grow it, want to make it the next level.

And everybody’s head was just in that same spot so we did a lot of writing where it really worked for us to sit and jam. And that was an awesome experience for me. I feel like it made me a better musician. It definitely made us a better band.

When the band reunited for those two shows in November 2009, what was it like to get back on stage with the band?

It was awesome. What can I say? I’m trying to think back now. I was a little bit nervous because I definitely was still in a place where I didn’t know what we were doing and we weren’t working on a new record yet really. I was just kind of writing aimlessly. And when we did that show, it felt so good. Honestly, that was a little bit of a turning point for me because remembering all those old songs and listening to them again and getting back up on stage and going, “Oh yeah, this is a really big part of me” made it become a little bit more like we were possibly working towards an album now, an Evanescence album.

What can fans expect from the new album?

I think they can expect to like it a lot. We thought about the fans a lot. You know, it’s funny, as we were writing there were a lot of moments where we were like, “Oh man, the fans are going to love this song!” because we know our fans. At this point it’s not like we’re hoping that somebody will get it.  

As always, I make music that I love. And my method is always that if we just make all the moves, no matter what they are, no matter if we’ve ever done them before, just make something that we love to listen to, somebody else will love to listen to it too. And we really just went by that same method. We wanted to make a record that was absolutely Evanescence and still made our fans happy, but at the same time push into a little bit of a new direction, a little bit of a new place.

I think the album is strong, dynamic, very heavy at times but also very vulnerable at times too. I hope that’s a good enough description. It’s hard to sum it up in just a couple of words.

What was behind the decision to give the album a self-titled name? I always find it interesting when bands give albums self-titled names further along in their career rather than their debut.

Well, it really became a band-driven record. Even what we were just talking about, working like a band and having that really work – it felt more like a traditional band with the writing and everything. Everyone, every single member of the band, their style is coming across on the record. And their writing even. And I think it’s really great because it still absolutely works and it’s Evanescence.  And it’s awesome. And it’s tight. And it’s driven by the band. But it is new. This is us now. This is this group.

The reason why it’s self-titled is because it’s a band driven record. You’re hearing the band, first and foremost. And then all the production elements are kind of going on top of that.

How do you feel about the comparisons between We Are The Fallen (which features former Evanescence members Ben Moody, John LeCompt and Rocky Gray) and Evanescence? And do you still keep in contact with your old bandmates?

I’m going to skip the first part of that question if that’s OK with you. But, I do still keep in contact with some of them. Will Boyd and I have always remained friends. He was just actually hitting me up last week saying “Hey, are you in New York? My band’s coming to play a show. I want to see you.” But I wasn’t there. I was working, promoting the record. Yeah, we’re good. No beef.

What can fans expect from the live show?

Oh, it’s going to be great. They can expect a little bit of all three records. Obviously we’re most excited about the new record so we’re going to be playing a lot of new stuff. But, of course, we’ll still be playing some songs from The Open Door and some songs from Fallen. It’s cool, we’re at a point now where we have so many songs it’s really hard to choose. We have a lot of options for our live set. Today’s actually our last day of rehearsal. We’ve spent the past week, week and a half, just kind of going through all of our songs and whittling down the setlist, mourning songs that we’re cutting at the moment.

It’s just going to be a great show. It’s definitely focused a little more on the heavy side, as our live shows usually are. Of course there’s moments with me at the piano and us playing some of our ballads too. It should be just the best show ever.

We start the tour in Brazil at a big, giant festival, Rock In Rio, on Oct. 2. And then we go to Puerto Rico, and the U.S., and then Europe. And we’re just going to be touring throughout the year.

And that’s not the end of it. We’re going to be touring all through next year, all around the world. We’ll be back to the U.S. a couple of times but we’re also going to Europe, Asia, south America, Africa. So just keep checking the website because there’s going to be new dates all the time.

Photo: John Davisson
Family Values Tour, Amway Arena, Orlando, Fla.

Do you still do meet & greets? Or how do you interact with your fans?
Yeah, we do. We’ll always do meet and greets and we sign for whoever we can. But, in addition to that, the Internet’s become more and more useful for us to interact with them. I use my Twitter right on my phone all the time. I’m able to communicate with fans, see what songs they like that we’ve played live so far. And sort of share a little bit behind the scenes with them in real time. It’s cool that now you don’t have to wait for a DVD to come out to see what happened the year before with the band. The day of the video shoot, I can tweet a picture of it.

I read that when you’d first started working on the new album, right before that you’d been recording songs possibly for a solo album. Do you think that you’d still record a solo album at some point down the line?

Yeah, I think that’s definitely a possibility. It wasn’t that I was recording a solo album before. It’s just that we went into the studio to make an Evanescence record in 2010 but we just weren’t done. Like we went into the studio for a minute and then we stepped out and kept working, partially because I kind of realized that a lot of the music that I had was more focused on just me writing by myself; it didn’t really fit everything that I wanted for the record. For the first time I started to see that maybe Evanescence isn’t everything.  Maybe there is actually some types of music that I write that doesn’t fit, that may need to be reserved for a solo project or something else later on. I don’t have a plan for that right now. I’m just fully stoked on Evanescence at the moment but I definitely think that is possible for the future.

You mentioned that you recently starting learning to play the harp. Is the harp featured on the new album or on tour?

Not on tour, not right now anyway. Yeah, it’s very difficult to play. I started taking harp lessons in the time off and really focused on that for a while just because I love learning. I want to always improve myself as a musician. It felt really good to just learn a new instrument. It made me write some things in a way that I don’t think I would have if I was sitting at the piano.

On the deluxe [album] there’s three different songs that have a little bit of harp in them. On the standard, it’s just “Swimming Home,” the very last song that has harp. I used harp to write a couple of songs, which was really good. And then I ended up playing them on the piano later just because it worked better on the piano. But it’s a good writing tool.

I think that it’s really neat that even when you were taking a break that you were still learning, still growing, still focused on music.

I hope to always do that. I just want to become a better and better person until the day I die.

Photo: AP Photo
Rock In Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

After playing Puerto Rico and “Rock In Rio – Rio De Janeiro” in Brazil last week, the band kicks off a North American tour Oct. 10 in Oakland, Calif., at the Fox Theater. U.S. and Canadian dates are booked through a Nov. 1 gig in New York at Terminal 5. A European tour is scheduled Nov. 4-21.