Evanescence’s Amy Lee: “I have total hope… but it’s important to be ready to fight when it’s time”
It was supposed to be the year that Evanescence fans had been dreaming of. After nine long years of waiting, the multi-platinum group were officially working on their highly-anticipated fourth studio album. A huge arena tour with Within Temptation beckoned. Everything was primed. And then… Well, you know the rest. What’s interesting, however, is that 2020 nonetheless turned out to be one of the most prolific years in this band’s existence: not only did they manage to circumnavigate all of the obstacles rustled up by COVID to write and record their album The Bitter Truth, they also released a slew of new singles. Back in September, Amy Lee opened up about the inspiration behind some of their new material, from the loss of her brother Robby to her decision to using her platform more to pro-actively call out social injustices – even if it meant alienating some fans in the process. Three months later, the album is finally done. Here, Kerrang! checks in with Amy to get a debrief on the highs and lows of a year like no other…
It’s not been that long since you last spoke to K!, but a lot has changed – Joe Biden has been elected and you finally finished Evanescence’s new album! On a personal and professional level, how are you going to look back on 2020?
“Oh, man, mostly with a lot of pride. Last time we talked, I was coming towards the end of making the album but I wasn’t there yet; I was feeling a lot of pressure. I’m really, really, really proud of what we did with our time this year. It’s been for hard everybody mentally feeling the weight of the world and, to some degree, our mortality. Some days just getting out of bed in the morning has been difficult, so the fact that we made an album, and we made a great album, means I’m always going to look back on this year and feel a big sense of pride.”
From the outside looking in, and given all the obstacles to prevent you making the album, it does seem you kicked quarantine’s arse…
“That is exactly what I feel like! Like, ‘Oh my god, we did it!’ I’m in one last final push now because we finished the music and the album is mastered, and I can’t explain to you what an incredible difference that made on my heart because I’m a perfectionist, I’m a ‘detail person’. There are so many little tiny details in our music and in our art – I can’t let anything go. Every time I listen to something that’s unfinished, which I’ve been doing aaaaaall year, I’ve only been thinking about what’s wrong with it; I hear all the little things that still need to change, whether it’s, ‘That keyboard is too loud!’ or, ‘That one line is not good enough!’ My mood, my heart, has totally changed now I can listen back to the entire album and not hear anything that sounds like a mistake, or something I still have to fix. I can just enjoy it for the first time really – I can’t tell you how good that feels. I’ve just been listening to it on repeat.”
A couple of months ago you told us that we hadn’t heard half of where the Evanescence album goes sonically. Since then you’ve released the curveball of Yeah Right – is that the biggest surprise on the album?
“I think there’s definitely more where that came from. When making a complete album, especially after all this time, I always want to just put out a statement, like, ‘This is where we’re at, this is who we are’ – it has to be a whole spectrum of emotions and reflections that make up who you are, who the band is. So far, I feel like each song that we put out is a very different colour of the spectrum and there are more colours yet to come, for sure. Yeah Right has been a long time coming; I started that song a decade ago. It was mostly there, it had been at the top of the pile for a really, really long time – we’ve always had a cool pile of extra scraps and pieces of unfinished songs. That’s just one that kept on not plugging in, and then something happened this year when we got together and started playing and pulling songs together in pre-production – I was like, ‘I finally know how we can make it work!’ It’s one of those songs that we’re going to have to figure out how to do live because I don’t want to be glued to the moog the whole time. It might be a good time to whip out the keytar!”
You also collaborated with Bring Me The Horizon this year. What was that experience like for you?
“I loved diving into collaborations headfirst this year. It gives me an outlet to just not be bound by anything. The Bring Me The Horizon thing came at an unexpectedly perfect moment. We had sort of talked about, ‘Maybe one day we can do something’, and when their song came through it was during a really busy time for me, I was like, ‘I don’t have time for this – this is the worst time ever and everybody’s waiting on me!’ But then I heard it and I just couldn’t deny it. It was just really, really good for me to take one step out from being thick in in my own woods and take something from start to finish and work with somebody that I’ve never worked with before. Oli [Sykes, frontman] and I just went back and forth encouraging each other and saying, like, ‘Hey, let’s do this! Maybe change this line to this!’ – that kind of stuff. I’d work on an idea, lay it down, send it over and see what he said in the morning! Bring Me The Horizon were incredible to work with. I would love to spend some time playing some shows together or something because I really, really like their music – I love their new album. I’m really grateful that that one came out for me.”
If we’re talking 2020, who’s been your inspiration this year?
“Oh man, I gotta be honest, I don’t have a good answer for that, because I have just had my head so far my own music’s ass – all I have been doing is just really deeply like focused on our stuff. Beyond that, I’m with [my son] Jack and we’re just listening to SpongeBob songs.”
You’ve said that the biggest lesson you learn this year was to not take anything for granted. But what did you discover that you’d been taking for granted?
“Well, touring for one, and obviously everybody who’s in music is saying that right now. But that’s not just lip service. There are times for all of us where we’ve been on tour and just wanted to go home. You get in a habit where it’s fun and you look forward to it but then, sooner than later, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m tired! I miss home.’ We were really looking forward to the tour we were about to go on when everything shut down, we had a bunch of new production. At first, even though that was a big disappointment, it was like, ‘Well, you know what, I was feeling sad to leave Jack – I can look at the bright side and spend some time at home.’ When that couple of weeks turned into months turned into the rest of the year and beyond, we all really just started to realise how lucky we are, and how amazing and special touring is, especially the part where you’re onstage – playing a show and feeling that instant gratification and living reciprocal joy and satisfaction that comes from a live show just fills your soul. And I miss it; I really, really miss it.”
So can we expect the first Evanescence live show with fans again to be an epic four-hour set…
“There’s gonna be tears, there’s gonna be a lot of drinking, it’ll be like, ‘Amy’s voice is thrashed after the first show!’”
Did you use quarantine to learn any new skills?
“I actually did. Now that the mastering is done and I’m not in here putting my music skills to work, I opened back up an old book of Beethoven sonatas that’s been underneath my piano for years, and started working on learning a new piece. I’m not totally nailing it, trust me. But my ear is really good, that’s why I did as well as I did learning classical piano – if I could just hear it, then I can get there a lot easier because I’m a really bad sight reader. So that makes me feel like I’m working my brain and improving myself because it’s really hard – I have to think about like four things at once!”
Other than missing playing live shows, was there anything else you wish you could have done more of this year?
“I’m with my husband and my son but I really miss my siblings and my parents. I really have taken just how much I love my family from all of this. What we can learn is to not take that for granted again and to see how precious our time is. This moment right now, this December, is not forever. And I know it’ll be different soon but rushing will be bad. We’re in a very bad place medically in our country. It’s bad everywhere. It’s just whether or not people are willing to admit it. And that’s the scariest part, is that we can’t all be together and unified in this moment and be like, ‘Let’s stand up and fight it!’ It’s like, ‘No, let’s fight each other!’ It’s the worst, it’s just wrong. It’s so wrong that we’ve been taken advantage of while we’re vulnerable by our leaders.”
On that note, 2020 was a big year for you in terms of using your voice more politically, even if it meant you losing some fans. How did that pan out for you?
“I felt like it’s been just totally very, very positive. And it wasn’t like me going on Facebook or Twitter and just stating my opinions to save the world, everybody’s doing that. If you really want to make change, you have to make an impact and listen to people and inspire people and have private conversations with people that disagree with you. I think it starts from a level like that. With Use My Voice in general, writing a song like that, that’s what we do. That’s what people are going to listen to. Those are the words that have a chance of shining a light and breaking through and showing somebody something they didn’t think of, or a perspective that they didn’t see. Or maybe just empower them to feel strong enough to use the voice that they have that that was the biggest mission with that one. I believe in the good of people. I really do. And it’s not that the evil doesn’t exist, we are sooooo seeing it…”
Do you feel hopeful about the future?
“I do, I feel very hopeful. We just haven’t had a chance to celebrate yet. Our parade has been completely rained on by our president. It’s really unfair. And it’s hard to go, ‘Wooooo!’ It’s like, ‘Oh God, now what’s going to happen?’ I absolutely have hope, I believe in the good of people, I believe there are more people that want freedom and justice for all people.”
What a crazy notion…
“I know! I feel like there are more people that believe that than people who only want to have their way and are like, ‘I only care about me.’ It’s been really hard to see so much of that, but I don’t believe that’s the majority. Now we’re just in a moment of, ‘How much can these people in power get away with?’ And I am very concerned about that and what that’s going to mean for the future. I’m a parent, and when you start to see the whole system be burned down, it’s very scary for what could happen next. We’ve just been through so much. It’s hard not to be angry when people who should be helping don’t have compassion or a backbone. So I have hope, yes, of course, I have total hope. We’re totally going to get through this. But I think it’s important also to keep our guard up and be ready to fight when it’s time.”
Read this next:
- Evanescence: Why Amy Lee is done being silent
- The 20 greatest Evanescence songs – ranked
- Quiz: How well do you know Evanescence’s lyrics?
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