Underneath her oversize beige sweater, Amy Lee is all glammed up: pinkish-red eye shadow, a black dress with a bondage-inspired bustier and her trademark gauzy wristbands. She’s just come from Late Show With David Letterman, where her band, Evanescence, performed its latest chart-topper, “My Immortal.” Even curled in a ball on the couch of her New York hotel room, compulsively tugging at the edges of her sleeves, Lee exudes a warm, easy confidence. She is, after all, a recent Grammy winner (Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance), and Evanescence’s year-old debut album, Fallen, has buoyed to the top of the charts and racked up 4 million in sales. In coming weeks, she’s likely to have yet another hit song: “Broken,” a duet with her boyfriend, Shaun Morgan, from the hard-rock band Seether, that will appear on the upcoming soundtrack to The Punisher.
What posters did you have on your wall when you were a kid?
When I was about ten, it was Paula Abdul and Mariah Carey. But when I was eleven I took all those posters down and up went Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Janis Joplin and Nirvana. I started sneaking over to my friend’s house to watch MTV. That’s how I discovered grunge. My family moved all the time, and I really related to the lyrics, because I felt isolated and alone.
What albums got you through the hard times?
Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral. It’s very self-destructive and “there’s no way out.” Which I don’t believe, but sometimes it feels really good to hear someone say that instead of listening to people be like, “Oh, c’mon, it’ll be fine!”
What was your first concert?
The first real concert, other than going with my dad to see Three Dog Night, was Smashing Pumpkins and Garbage. I was fourteen or fifteen. I liked Shirley Manson because she reminded me of Annie Lennox. They both have these deep, sexy, powerful alto voices. And — I’m such a nerd — but I was an alto in choir, so that appealed to me.
Did you go in the pit at shows?
Definitely. I’d go to this club called Vino’s in Little Rock [Arkansas] that didn’t have a barricade, and it would be these heavy death-metal bands. I totally got pushed around. Somebody stepped on my neck one time.
When you started writing music, were your lyrics really melodramatic?
Here’s one: “A single tear will linger here…inside me…forever.” I sang it for my English class as part of a school project in eighth grade. I came in with my guitar, and a girl from choir sang background vocals. It was an assignment to write a poem, but I did mine in the form of a song, so, you know, bonus points.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Christina Aguilera’s Stripped had a lot of good songs. It’s my range, so I use it to warm up a lot. That I definitely feel guilty about. Everything she stands for is the opposite of me. I see her videos and I get pissed off. I feel like she’s misrepresenting everything feminism is supposed to be.
What contemporary female artists do you admire?
Tori Amos. Her lyrics are fearless, and she’s just an incredible pianist. But Björk has always been my idol — musically, lyrically, artistically, stylistically, everything. Like that swan dress? Whatever! She liked it. People couldn’t stop making fun of her, but she didn’t care. I want to be more like that.
Do you and your boyfriend have, like, a song?
That’s so cheesy. But there is one song. It’s Staind, “Epiphany.” This is so corny! He’s going to be mad I’m telling you. When we first started to realize we were into each other, both our bands were opening for Staind last summer. We hung out a lot. One day we put on disguises and went out into the audience to watch Staind. It was getting dark and we went to the merch booth and bought each other’s merch. I got a Seether T-shirt and he got an Evanescence beanie.
Then we sat on the grass and watched Staind. During that song, there was just this moment — it was us being together, in the crowd, with all of these fans of Staind and us and everybody and they didn’t know it was us. It was so amazing to be anonymous and remember what it’s like to be a kid and love music.