Evanescence's Amy Lee on Her Wild Irish-Dance-Infused Sci-Fi Soundtrack

New collaboration fulfills singer-keyboardist's adolescent film-scoring dreams

Evanescence singer-keyboardist Amy Lee realizes her long-term goal of film scoring with the soundtrack to sci-fi short "Indigo Grey: The Passage." Credit: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage

While Evanescence's post-Ozzfest future is still up in the air, Amy Lee is keeping herself busy by diving deeper into the world of film scores. Following a successful collaboration with Dave Eggar on the original score and soundtrack for 2014's Mark Jackson–directed War Story, the pair have reunited and joined with Chuck Palmer to create the dystopian soundtrack for the short film Indigo Grey: The Passage. The award-winning short, directed by Sean Robinson and out now, is a sci-fi adventure following a young boy played by Aidan Lok and featuring cutting-edge neo-Irish dance troupe Hammerstep. Lee spoke with Rolling Stone about scoring the film, idolizing Danny Elfman and why choreography is "anti-rock."

How did you and Dave Eggar start working together?
Dave and I have been working together 11 years now, actually. I think it all started a long time ago when we were going to make some cool acoustic versions of Evanescence songs for me, and we started working with that and we had such a good creative connection beyond just playing the songs that we've worked together a bunch ever since. We worked together on acoustic performances and stuff, and it's gone beyond that in the past five years or so. Dave is just super connected, does a million sessions a day — insane — and plays with a huge variety of artists all over the world, so I feel really fortunate to know him and to have his friendship and respect because he calls on me with these really cool, out-of-the box opportunities sometimes, and I don't think I would ever heard about if it wasn't for Dave. 

How did the two of you get involved with Indigo Grey?
[Dave] had worked with them and was friends with them. Actually, it started in 2013 when one of the pieces of music inside in this Indigo Grey film was written. He had me come to the studio because Hammerstep was working on a new dance and they wanted an original piece of music. Dave was like, "Hey, Amy, come to the studio, hear what this is like and see if you can help do something. It could be rad."

So I went to the studio, and honestly, it started with the dance. I had them show me what the dance is like. They showed me, and the way that they dance is very rhythmic and percussive, and it's actually musical — it makes sound when they do their thing with their feet and their hands and their body. So I was like, "I feel like the best way to do this is if you, Garrett [Coleman, a co-founder of Hammerstep], step into the vocal booth and we just put the mic on and recorded you doing the dance." That's what I built the song around. The song is called "Resurrection," and it's in the middle of the film. It's built off the sound of their body. We call it like a body beat. The recording of that is still in there, and it's sort of the core of the piece, which I think is really cool. It's fun to watch the dance at home, and as their feet are hitting the ground, I'm like, "Put a bass drum there." It's a fun way to build a song [and] definitely very unusual.

Was the studio session your first encounter with Hammerstep and neo-Irish dance?
I've seen Riverdance, but I know that's not what they do but is to some degree where they came from. I'm familiar with that part of their style, and of course I've seen hip-hop dance before. What they do is very cool, and I don't think the thing is to pull away from it; I think the thing to do is boost what they're doing and make it more impactful. I hope that's what we accomplished.

Do you have any specific film scores you love?
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one. Actually, on a less musical level, Edward Scissorhands was a big one for me. There are a lot of really beautiful Hans Zimmer ones, of course. I really love the score to Inception. I thought was really incredible.

What drew you to the world of film scores?
I have been into that since before I put out my first record. Actually, when I was in junior high, my first big dream for myself was I wanted to be a film-score composer. My biggest idol was Danny Elfman, and I wanted to do that. I feel like writing music is a whole world in itself, and I've obviously gotten completely sucked into that world. But when you get into a situation where you can be a part of something even bigger that stimulates audio and visual, it's just giving you the potential to make something bigger than you could do all by yourself, you know? I enjoy making music and just focusing on sound, but when I have the opportunity to work with somebody where there's another platform to it, whether it's film or dance or something else that's visual, it's awesome.

I have always really enjoyed making our music videos for the same reason. You're kind of creating a whole world that stimulates more of the senses, and that's definitely something that I've always wanted to do, and I feel like I'm in a great place right now because I'm having more opportunities to be involved in film scoring and soundtrack work.

Your music-video mention reminds me of how I feel whenever I think of Evanescence's "Call Me When You're Sober" video and the choreography during the last half of it.
Yeah!

Is choreography something that you've thought about when writing music?
Not usually. When you spend the bulk of [your] career in a rock band, you don’t think about how to choreograph dance moves. That is sort of anti-rock. So no, not usually, but this is cool for me because it's definitely something I haven't done. When we did the "Call Me When You're Sober" thing, I remember talking to the director; the director was Marc Webb, actually. He's awesome. I remember when we did it, and he was like, "Okay, I have this idea about the choreography. Would you be cool with that? You're not going to be, like, dancing. You're just going to walk down the stairs in time, and there will be girls dancing around." He really drew it out for me, and I was like, "Yeah, that is awesome — that is really cool!" You kind of get to a place where you get comfortable in what you do; you get comfortable with the same formula to some degree and that gets boring. And I get bored kind of quickly, and I need to be constantly feeling like I'm doing something that I haven't done before.