When Amy Lee invited Rolling Stone to her Brooklyn home last month, she wasn’t sure which would come first: the War Story soundtrack she’d been working on for nearly a year, or the baby she was expecting with husband Josh Hartzler.
Turns out her son, Jack Lion Hartzler, won by a little more than a week.
Lee became a mom on July 28; on August 6, she announced Aftermath, an album of music she’d recorded for War Story with cellist Dave Eggar and a host of other musicians. It’s due August 25, and it’s not only Lee’s first release since Evanescence’s 2011 self-titled effort, it’s her first as an independent artist…the end result of a lawsuit she filed with the band’s former label, Wind-Up Records.
In this exclusive interview, the newly liberated Lee discusses motherhood, declares her independence and details the future of Evanescence.
You spent nearly a year working on War Story. How was the experience different from making an Evanescence record?
This process was unique even for the film industry because it was super indie. [Dave and I] had a relationship with the director Mark [Jackson], and he’d come over and listen to stuff and tell us if we were on the right track, and we’d jam and we’d feed off of each other’s work. It was a really cool starting-off point; it’s different than going “How do I want to express myself on my new album?” He’d provide this framework, a map, of “OK, I want you to make the listener feel these certain ranges of emotion, make the character feel broken or feel isolated.” You have these starting off points, and it’s cool because it forces you to write differently. I felt like I was exercising a different part of my brain.
How would you describe the film?
For me it’s very dark. We’re calling the album Aftermath in part because film itself is about the aftermath, it’s not about the war. It’s called War Story, but you never see any war. It’s about the aftermath of her dealing with the tragedy that she’s witnessed. And then the album is us playing with the aftermath of doing all that music. Probably half of the music isn’t in the film, we’re just working in this big, black open playing field. And I hope you can listen to it and feel that.
What was it about this project that appealed to you?
I’ve always wanted to do a score, it’s just hard to find the right opportunity when I have this baggage of already having this known persona. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining and I don’t view it as anything but positive, but when anybody wants to use me, they just think of me as either a rock singer or a goth singer, but I do a lot more than sing! It’s hard to go “I want less, I don’t want to be the center of attention, let me show you what I can do as a programmer and producer and arranger. ” You know, rather than me coming in and singing the title track. So it was hard to find the right gig, but this has been it.
Do you feel that you are defined by your past?
Personally? Not at all. I don’t feel like I’m two separate people. I never felt like I was playing a role, you just change. It’s funny, people still talk about “My Immortal,” and it’s wonderful, it’s so cool, but I was like 14 or 15 when that was happening. When I wrote “Bring Me to Life” I was 19 [laughs]. Imagine the things that you thought and the way that you spoke and things that you did when you were 19 years old. Even the way that you process relationships and everything, it grows from there. I’m a lot more mature and complex and I have a lot more to say.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there’s stuff on Fallen or the one we did before that, Origin, that makes me cringe. It’s embarrassing. Mainly the lyrical content, oh my God, it’s like my old diary. But I can embrace that innocence because I’ll never have that again, it’s special.
Earlier this year, you settled your lawsuit with Wind-Up Records. What can you tell us about the factors that led to legal action?
I can’t say anything negative; I had to sign a non-disclosure, so that’s the only way in any sense that I’m still bound. There’s always frustrations when you’re not in complete control of your project. Everything’s a collaboration, like, really it is, even this project, we had someone to please, something we needed to work towards, somebody who needed to like it before it worked. But, what’s been different about this project is how it was such a creative process…the director was a creative person, he wanted us to be as weird and creative as possible, let us do things our own way and respected and appreciated that. Instead of having a set plan that a million people have done before and try to force us down that path.
What were the ramifications of the settlement?
Everything’s still the same for me; it’s not like I no longer get paid any money when someone buys Fallen, but they sold it to somebody else. My back catalog is owned by this company Bicycle-Concord, and they’re great, so there’s nothing different there. But my future is mine, so anything I do from here forward is up to me, and it’s awesome.
So what does all of this mean for Evanescence?
The situation is we’re not doing it now. I don’t like to make predictions about the future, because I’m honestly open-minded, and I would never want to say I’m done with any of it, because it’s a huge part of me. I’ve loved my time with Evanescence, I wouldn’t want to just throw it away, but, for the foreseeable future, I don’t have any plans to do anything with the band. It’s really important to me to take some time to show some different sides of myself.
I’ve said this all the way through Evanescence, especially on the second and third record: “I have the freedom to express myself completely within the band, so why would I want to do anything else?” And that’s true only to an extent, because as much as I could go through a range of emotions, there’s a certain expectation there. With the fans, with myself, I know what Evanescence is; it’s an entity, it’s bigger than just myself, which is awesome, but I can write a song and go “That is or isn’t an Evanescence song,” and they both happen. So there does need to be other outlets for me to make music.
You’ve started a family in New York, did that impact the band?
That’s really nothing new; we’ve always lived all over the place. I wasn’t any nearer to them when I lived in L.A. I still talk to them and we listen to each other’s stuff; Troy [McLawhorn]’s working on something cool that I listened to the other day. I keep in the most touch with Tim [McCord] and Troy, but they’re not here, we’re all over the place, in different cities.
You seem firmly entrenched in New York City.
I love it here. I’ve lived in so many places, but this is the first place since I was a little girl in south Florida that feels like home, where I don’t feel like I’m different from everyone around me. We have a good community here, a lot of great musicians. Everything’s available here, nothing is too out of the ordinary and there’s music everywhere. I get inspired all the time just walking down the street. I feel like I live in such an artistic place, and that’s really cool. I take the subway all the time, and I don’t have a car. I can just zombie walk to the steps and get on the train.
How has the idea of motherhood changed your view on the world?
I don’t know where to begin. I’m mostly just excited because as you get older, it’s not that there’s not beautiful things around you, you’ve just seen a lot. You get to the point where you feel like you’ve had all of your first experiences, but I’m really looking forward to experiencing those things again like it’s my first time, through my kids mind.
Has it changed your view on what you do professionally?
Yeah. I’m an artist, I’m never going to stop being me and I don’t think I could ever stop making music. You don’t change that much; I’m still going to be me and life is just going to be enriched and fuller and busier. But I do think that the days of living on the road and an album cycle be this giant daunting thing of working in the studio for six months then going on the road for a year or two, they’re behind me. And it’s not just being a mother, I just don’t want to live on the road. I have the ability to just make something and put it out and it doesn’t have to be 12 songs. It doesn’t have to be a complete album, like the old-fashioned model. It’s cool to think about things in a new way. I just wrote a really cool thing, so how can I just give it to the fans right now? It doesn’t have to be a huge, daunting thing.
It seems like you’re willing to sacrifice commercial gain for happiness.
Oh, I have been for a long time. I guess like I’m not like everyone else. Even the music that I gravitate towards…I’m not listening to the most popular thing. I guess that’s always been me. I put a lot of value in great work, great music, things that really touch me. So much more than success or fame on a monetary level. Always have.
To that end, what do you hope to accomplish with Aftermath?
Honestly, it’s going to sound weird, but I’m just looking forward to sharing it with the world. It’s that simple. I don’t have huge expectations, because it’s an unusual project. Anytime I release something new, it feels really good, and I know I have supporters out there that will like something about it. I’m excited about “Lockdown.” I’m excited to hear what the fans think about that, and I’m excited about “Push the Button,” and I’m excited about all the score music, for my fans, and to show people something that they’ve never heard before.