If you thought you’ve heard everything Amy Lee has to say, you probably haven’t been paying attention. During her decade-plus run as the frontwoman (and focal point) of Evanescence, she’s proven time and time again that she’s got plenty of opinions – all you’ve got to do is ask.
So we did. In the first part of Rolling Stone‘s interview with Lee, she weighed in on the future of her band, becoming a mother and releasing her first independent album, Aftermath, due August 25. Now, in part two, she talks about putting the past to rest, creating new songs and hitting the road as a solo artist.
“I’ve got a lot to say, I guess,” she laughs. “I haven’t done an interview in a while.”
The music on Aftermath is a definite departure from Evanescence. Was that intentional, or just the result of working on a film like War Story?
I wanted it to be completely different. I didn’t want it to be like Evanescence just because I’ve flexed that muscle so much, I wanted people to see different sides of me. I’ve written music all along the way that’s just been mine that nobody hears but my friends, and I still want to do something with that at some point. But it’s one of my first chances to show another side and this definitely plays with a lot of the same emotions I played with in Evanescence, but instrumentally. It’s not trying to be mainstream; I feel like I’ve always made a point to make sure that Evanescence was true to my spirit and my heart and I wasn’t just trying to make hits. But at the same time we were on a label, there needed to be a single, radio play, all those sort of things. It was cool to be free from all those things and make a piece of art, because the songs that are on this, I’d call three of them like song songs, most of them are scores. It’s a lot more like music I listen to now. One’s like an Arabic, weird thing, one’s a sexy dance song and the other is – I don’t even know what it is, it’s electronic.
Wait, there’s a song in Arabic on the album?
I don’t sing in Arabic. They were like “We need a song with a little bit of a world-music type thing,” but ultimately, it didn’t get used in the film. It’s me and Dave Eggar and the other collaborator, his name’s Chuck Palmer he did a lot of the percussion, engineering and producing a lot of the stuff. Anyway, he made this drum loop beneath this whole thing and we had a guy play an instrument called an oud, kind of like an old-fashioned lute or mandolin or something. And Dave, he was the leader of the whole thing, he’s like “OK, we’ve got this world singer Malika Zarra, she’s really cool and I’m going to go in the other room and you just get something cool out of her.”
So I’m with this girl who has no idea who I am, and I’m like “I wrote some lyrics in English, and I know you speak Arabic, can you use these as a basis, just go in there and change the order, scat for as long as you can, just sing.” So she goes in there, she’s got a beautiful voice and she sang for like 20 minutes. We did it two times and I coached her on a few parts, to get more material, and then I took it home and let it live in my studio. I never saw her again, but as I just listened to her voice, I heard these really amazing moments, so I’d clip them out and move it down to the track. It was like cherry picking. It probably makes zero sense, it might as well be Sigur Rós. But to work with an artist in a capacity like that was really, really amazing.
Did you take inspiration from any producers you had worked with previously?
Just myself. I’m so used to mixing my own vocals and producing and picking the takes, so it was very natural. It was fun, it was just such a weird process to create this melody out of a bunch of pieces of her voice and build a song around it. The whole experience was just thinking outside the box and that’s why I love working with Dave, because he’s always like “I know a guy who plays…” and he’ll just name some instrument I’ve never heard of.
So when you were creating something like this, did you think about the past at all?
It comes to mind in a positive way, like when I was writing “Lockdown.” At the end I was like “You know what this needs? Drums and guitars.” So I thought of my past in the creative stages, because I was solely focused on pleasing myself and doing the right thing for the film. That’s always got to be the root. My mantra is “If I make something that I love, other people will love it.” I can’t think about what everybody wants because there’s always going to be people that criticize whatever you do. And you just have to be OK with that because if you’re trying to please everybody you’ll end up pleasing somebody, but if you don’t please yourself then you’ll be mad about it later. I’m proud to say I can listen to all the music I’ve made from the beginning and enjoy it. I always enjoyed it.
Do you have any plans to play these new songs live?
I haven’t thought about it. I totally would and I probably will. There’s a lot of little songs that I’ve done for different reasons and played live, like “Find a Way,” that was really fun to do. I can do things from my entire career, from all along the way, because it’s all part of me. I’ve played to my own fans a lot; I really enjoy the opportunity to win people over for the first time. It’s the coolest thing in the world.
To that end, do you care what people think of your music?
Do I care? Well, it’s always nice when they like it. But I never make music to that end. I think that our industry’s flooded with that, and it always leads to something that comes off as less-than-genuine. The one thing I always want to be is real, and so if I make something that I love, I know there are people like me who will love it too.
Did you realize that early in you life or later?
It’s funny, because I was kind of thrown into all of this. When Fallen happened, it was so fast and I was 21 years old, so I got super-nauseous being the center of attention; it’s so boring and empty. My life’s not that interesting, I don’t have super powers. I love music, I love painting, there’s some other cool things about me [laughs]. But after an hour of talking I don’t have anything else to say and I want to talk about something else!
How about this: What’s the secret to getting a seat on the subway when you’re pregnant?
Oh, you learn. When you’re really pregnant, you need to sit down. You don’t want to ask “Can you please get out of your seat?” So I never ask. The protocol is you get on, stick it out as long as you can, rub your belly a little bit, start looking desperate and someone will give you their seat. Generally speaking, New Yorkers aren’t assholes.