Music

Amy Lee on fighting to be Evanescence’s female lead in male-dominated genre: ‘They wanted us to change the whole band and it scared me – but we won’


Amy had to fight for her place in rock (Picture: Getty)

In the age of streaming and social media, 10 years is a lifetime. But that’s how long it’s been since Evanescence’s last album of new music. 

In that time, frontwoman Amy Lee has experienced life, love, loss and everything in between. So it’s no wonder that the band’s new album, The Bitter Truth, might just be their best yet. There’s been a lot to talk about.

Since their rapid rise in the early noughties, Evanescence’s fusion of American hard-rock, symphonic metal and gothic pop has seen the band become one of the most commercially successful rock acts of the century. 2003’s Fallen, their debut album, has sold over 17 million copies worldwide. The kind of numbers that even the most prominent mainstream artists can scarcely imagine in the 2020s, let alone those in the rock world. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Lee and co.

At a time when rock was dominated by men even more so than it is now, Amy Lee’s voice was a welcome tonic among a sea of nu-metal leftovers and cookie-cutter radio-rock. Not that that made her creative endeavours any less of a struggle in those early days. Lee overcame record label bureaucracy, pigeonholing and misogyny at large to become the voice of female empowerment that she is today. But given Evanescence’s hard-fought success and artistic vindication over the years, you doubt that Lee would change a single thing.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, Amy Lee talks to us about being a mother, her experiences in the music industry, and the inspiration behind Evanescence’s new album, The Bitter Truth.

From start to finish, the new record sounds so assured. Having had 10 years between all-new studio albums, would you say the time away has given the band something really worth saying?

Definitely. You’ve gotta live some life so you have something to talk about. That doesn’t mean it has to be 10 years, but throughout that time, individually and as a band, we’ve experienced a lot. Your perspective changes, and you have new things to say. I’ve felt new feelings that I’d never felt before in those 10 years. I had my first and only child, Jack, in 2014, and that experience blew my mind. We’ve had a lot of loss in our band family as well, so there’s been great highs and great lows. It just makes for things that I need to get off my chest. I do think that if you wait for inspiration to really drive what you’re doing out of the passion and the need to do it, then you can make your best work.

Evanescence are back with a new album

How has motherhood changed you? And after the past year of lockdowns, have you had more chance to connect with your home life?

He [Jack] just dreams of the days when he got to sleep in a bunk and go on tour with the band! Kids wake up really early, so our crew would hang out with him, let him put on the little construction vest, and then by night he could watch his mom onstage. It was a blast. Visiting places like the UK, Paris, and getting to taste food from all over the world. I’m very proud that my son brags about eating snails and caviar!

But there’s things that I can look at and appreciate, for sure. It’s definitely put a lot of things into perspective. Right before things shut down, we were about to leave on a tour and Jack had just started going to school. I was looking forward to the tour but being apart from him is always really hard. So the bright side of things being postponed was that I could take that weight off my heart and spend more time with him. But then of course school was cancelled, so we really spent a lot of time together! I have a whole new respect for teachers, especially teachers of young kids [laughs]. Oh my god, he has so much energy.

You mentioned some sad losses within the band’s family. Did the writing of this album give you a chance to process things?

One of the big life events that’s been a part of the inspiration behind the album was the loss of my brother in 2018. Being a big sister to my little brother, we spent a lot of great time together and had a weird amount in common, despite the 12-year age gap. Something that’s beautiful about Jack and spending this time together now is that he’s that age, so I feel like I’m getting a piece of myself back that I had lost.

Amy ‘earned the right to fight back’ (Picture: P R Brown)

In spite of its title, The Bitter Truth, the album actually sounds very upbeat. Very defiant. Is that the message you tried to put across?

Music is my place to heal, and healing for me comes from purging. There is plenty of defiance and fight on this album. When I listen to it, I feel empowered. Which is interesting because I don’t just wake up feeling that way. There’s a struggle. But having music as an outlet has always been an important part of my life. Music is my home where I can lay everything out, talk about it and usually come to a good place in the end. Feeling the satisfaction of taking the challenges, the pains and the struggles and using music to turn it into something good. The Bitter Truth means facing the things that we don’t necessarily wanna face, because the only way out is through, so I’m glad that you hear that.

What is the bitterest truth?

I mean, I can say it in a very sad, dramatic way. We’re all gonna die. An easier way to say that is that I think our time is short. I’m getting to a place where that doesn’t always make me sad. It does sometimes, but to recognise it is kind of giving me a new sense of ‘seize the day’. Let’s not waste a minute. Especially through all the incredible chaos of this pandemic. We don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow, so I feel like the best thing that we can do is appreciate that time is precious and do our best not to waste it. Not just work our asses off, either, but enjoy life and spend time doing the things that we love.

Compared to when you first hit the mainstream, how do you perceive the music industry today?

It’s pretty different, but I’m in a pretty different place, too. It’s been a struggle to get to where we are on the business side, but I’m finally at a place where I’m not worried about it. Just not having to worry about fighting for my art or proving to people that I really can write my own songs. We’re finally in this great place where we’re surrounded by real support and people that believe in us. It just makes the whole thing so much better.

Evanescence haven’t released an album in a decade (Picture: Rowen Lawrence/WireImage)

Is it true that your former label requested the feature of Paul McCoy on Bring Me To Life [the band’s breakthrough single] to win favour with male rock fans?

If you’re an artist or somebody who believes in expressing themselves, everybody has their own fight to fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. But my particular fight did have something to do with me being a woman. Anything about us that made us unique or stand out against the norm, to me, it seemed like a positive, not an obstacle. But starting to understand that the people around us saw that as an obstacle that needed to be remedied scared me and made me frustrated. That’s not what I wanted, to fit in.

The fact that we got it down to a guest thing on just one song was great, because that wasn’t the original request. They wanted us to change the whole band. So in the end, I feel like that was a victory. It was a compromise but that’s the biggest one I’ve ever had to make. After that, I felt like I earned the right to fight back, and I always did.

Lzzy Hale [Halestorm], Taylor Momsen [The Pretty Reckless] and Sharon Adel [Within Temptation] feature on the new album. All prominent women in the rock world. How much did you enjoy that?

I love listening to female voices in music, I always have. It’s not that I don’t listen to guys too. Chino [Moreno] from Deftones is one of my favourite singers. So was Chris Cornell. Maynard [James Keenan, Tool] as well. But when it comes to the majority of what I listen to, I just love female voices in all genres of music. They make me feel empowered, and people like Lzzy and Taylor, and all the women I’ve had the pleasure of performing with, it feels so good to support each other. When there’s less of you, it makes it a sort of special club where we’re all about lifting each other up. Which is funny, because in the past there was some kind of stereotype that women would fight each other, be jealous, or that there could only be one. For me, it couldn’t be more the opposite! We even have another woman in our band now. Having Jen [Majura, guitarist] in the band is great.

All being well, you’ll be touring at the end of the year. What do you think the future holds for Evanescence beyond that?

I don’t know as far as making another album, but I’m really open-minded to music and the different ways of making music. I don’t feel like there has to be a big commitment like there used to be. Right now, I’m really excited about Evanescence. It’s unfortunate that we can’t be on tour at this moment, but I can’t wait for our fans to hear the album!

The Bitter Truth is out now.


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