Sun Sep 10th 2006 at 11:49 pm ET
By Tamara Conniff
NEW YORK (Billboard) – Amy Lee is sitting cross-legged in a lounge chair on the roof of New York’s Dream Hotel. She’s decked out in worn jeans and a Joan Jett T-shirt, and her pale-blue eyes are translucent — a sharp contrast to her long dark hair.
In the past three years, her band Evanescence has skyrocketed to fame thanks to its 2003 Wind-up debut, “Fallen,” which won two Grammy Awards and has sold 6.5 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But as quickly as the band hit the big time, the threads that held its members together began to fray. Co-founder Ben Moody abruptly left mid-tour in 2003; his replacement, former Cold guitarist Terry Balsamo, suffered a stroke last year; and bassist Will Boyd, whom Lee has known since middle school, opted out of the group in July.
Adding to the drama, Lee split from her boyfriend, Seether frontman Shawn Morgan, and changed managers. But the artist says the trials have made her stronger and more independent. “It took me awhile to figure out who I was,” she says. “I’m the youngest person in the band. I’m the leader of the band. I’m a chick. I learned how to say no and draw boundaries.”
Indeed, Evanescence’s new album “The Open Door,” due October 3, is an ode to a stronger Lee.
Q: “Fallen” was a multiplatinum smash. Were you under pressure to produce a follow-up that could stand up to it?
A: I think people sometimes lose the love of what they do and just try to put out another record. That’s a crime. If you don’t feel it, wait until you’re hungry for it. What’s the point of making a huge piece of music if it’s not for the love of the art.
It took longer than I thought. But, I am a perfectionist. We took all the time we needed and wrote and wrote and wrote. If it wasn’t good, I threw it away. I wanted every piece of it to be as good as it possibly could be. We accomplished what I wanted, which was to do something that I was more proud of than what I’d done before. I constantly have to top myself, it’s just the way I am.
Q: Is “The Open Door” thematically different from “Fallen?”
A: What music is for me and what Evanescence has been is me purging all of the negative and hard, difficult experiences that I’ve had in life. Naturally that’s still coming across; I’m still purging the trials. I feel like this album comes from a place that is not so hopeless. The first album, I was talking about the hard stuff, but I was also wallowing in it. I wasn’t strong enough to take a stand and say no in a lot of situations.
I listen back to “Fallen” now and definitely hear all the vulnerability and the fear and all the childish things in me that are just human. But I’ve grown so much now. The lyrics on the new album are looking for the answers, looking for the solutions, looking for happiness. It’s not, “I’m miserable, end of song.” It’s more, “I’m miserable, and what do I have to do to work this out and get out of this bad situation.”
Q: Have you matured?
A: Yes, I’ve learned how to say no. This is a bad situation. See the signs and say, “I’m out of here.” Especially in relationships. You have to be willing to jump off the cliff and know that when you get to the bottom that it’s going to be way better, and know it could also be crash and burn. Those are the times in my life that I’ve really broken through and had great joy, because I took those chances. At least when you’re at the bottom and all alone again and starting over, it’s a clean slate.
Q: What is it like having such a different configuration of the band?
A: The biggest difference is (the absence of) Ben (Moody). We formed the band together. We were the main writers. Without him, it wasn’t like I was thinking, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do?” It really had gotten to the point where it was so horrible and dramatic, it was a relief and I knew the band could continue. When it came to writing, I had so much by then to write about, it was spilling out of me. I didn’t know how to stop writing.
I have so much more freedom to do everything myself this time, for a lot of reasons. I wanted to prove that not only could I do it myself, but I could make a better album than before. I’ve never really tried to sit, say OK and just start writing and go for it and not have anyone to answer to, at all. I’m the boss. Here we go! If it sucks, I figure it out.
Q: Terry Balsamo replaced Moody and has become your songwriting partner. How do you guys write together?
A: It’s a completely different writing process (than with Moody). He’s completely laid-back. There’s no pressure of wanting to rule the world. It’s just about writing great music.
Terry and I will just sit in a room and jam. As simple as that is, it’s completely different for me. I was so insecure at the time, though I didn’t realize it then. I thought I was strong. It’s so hard to let yourself be vulnerable. In front of a huge audience, it’s not so bad, because it’s just a sea of people. But in front of two people you know, it’s impossible. It was a first for me to just make music as we go.
Q: You are prepping for a major tour. What are your expectations?
A: We just started rehearsals. I was really stressed. It’s been two years since I’ve been onstage.
More than that, Terry had a stroke. It’s been about nine months and he’s doing great. We had our first day of practice and he’s playing guitar on every song. That is such a big step. There was so much pressure, but I didn’t want to hire another guitar player. We wrote this record together. I knew he was going to get better. I knew he’d make it just in time. The doctor couldn’t believe he was still alive.
Our band has been through so much together by now, we couldn’t be more tight onstage. We love each other.
Q: Why are there so few female rockers today?
A: In the music industry today, there are a lot of holes. There are things I miss, like great female rockers like Joan Jett. She totally inspired me and inspired guys and everybody everywhere. Where did they go? It seems like if there were any women in music, it was either R&B or easy listening. No one was rocking. No one had the real power, not the sex appeal, the real power of rock ‘n’ roll. We need chicks in rock.
Q: “Fallen” was first released in the Christian market. Do you consider Evanescence a Christian band?
A: Can we please skip the Christian thing? I’m so over it. It’s the lamest thing. I fought that from the beginning; I never wanted to be associated with it. It was a Ben thing. It’s over. It’s a new day.