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'Music is my therapy'

Writing, thinking and expressing keep Evanescence's Amy Lee, dare one use the word, happy.

By BRIAN ORLOFF
Published May 13, 2004

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[Publicity photo]
The essence of Amy Lee is more nerdy and goofy than spooky, she says.

Don't let Amy Lee fool you with that tormented artist image. Sure, the Evanescence singer looks dreary in her gothic getups. And yes, her band's tunes sound urgent and angst-ridden. Remember the boffo hit Bring Me to Life, the one in which Lee yelped, "Call my name and save me from the dark" over surging guitars?

But Lee doesn't walk around all troubled and sulky. Offstage, Lee says she's just a "big nerd," a Michael Jackson fan and an ardent fashion designer. She has a new boyfriend, Seether lead singer Shaun Morgan, who duets with her on Broken, featured on the soundtrack for The Punisher. And then there are those Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance awards that Evanescence picked up at the Grammys this year.

It hasn't all been sunshine and roses, though. Lee's co-writer, guitarist and friend of eight years, Ben Moody, abruptly quit the band in October, an event that had the rock press in a froth. The band, with Moody's replacement, Terry Balsamo, along with guitarist John LeCompt, bassist William Boyd and drummer Rocky Gray, performs in Coachman Park on Sunday before heading back to Europe.

Calling from her manager's home in Los Angeles, a warm and chatty Lee, 22, talked about everything from her take on feminism to how Little Rock, Ark., fueled Evanescence's sound.

Why is atmosphere so important to your band and your music?

It's a hard question because I think the worst thing you can do to music is analyze it. If I sit and think too much about why I want it to sound the way it does, it becomes very confusing and then I wonder myself.

As far as songwriting, obviously, a lot of the lyrics are very dark, just about things that I have been through on the inside, just through my life, and the things that I want to get out that I don't want to bottle up inside because it would kill me. Music is my therapy. So, there's definitely a lot of dark imagery and interesting vibe as far as the sound of the music to go along with the dark lyrics. So, that's probably the only logical reason why. Otherwise, I just really love that sound.

So you're not actively walking around brooding? You're not always troubled?

No, not at all (laughs). I definitely, I'm a loner. Even being in a relationship, I appreciate my alone time, and being able to just think. Well, that's what's cool about Shaun, because he does, too. Even when we're on tour away from each other, it's really important to not be talking to everybody, not doing an interview, not doing anything except maybe writing in my journal or just thinking about stuff. Even if you're just laying staring at the ceiling, it seems like you're doing nothing, but sometimes that's the most productive thing you can do.

So, yeah, I'm not a sad person. Not at all. I'm pretty outgoing. I'm a pretty happy, funny, goofy person, a nerd, not very funny, but I think I am. I laugh at my own jokes. Nobody else laughs except to laugh at my laughing. (Laughs.)

But the music provides a different portrait.

It's interesting. The part of me that is Evanescence was forever, and always has been, and still is a very personal thing, and it's something that I don't sit and share with a friend or even usually a significant other. It's just something all about me personally, in my head, or all by myself, when nobody's listening and I'm crying my eyes out about whatever's bothering me. That's not something that I've ever shared with anyone, so it's pretty funny now that there's lots of people that kind of know that side of me, which is, kind of, if you think about it, scary.

Did Little Rock have a musical community that supported you?

As far as the local bands that are actually there, there are very few. And of the few it's either the music that the kids never like, the really country crap, (or) the stuff that the kids are into . . ., just horrible death metal with no melodic tones whatsoever. . . . So, I just didn't pay attention to any of the music scene.

I was really more influenced by things from everywhere, like Bjork and Nine Inch Nails and, wow, Pearl Jam and Janis Joplin and Portishead, bands a lot of people my age didn't listen to. So, when we started to form, it was so different just because we weren't trying to react or be influenced by anything that was going on around us. It was from a completely different place. So we were popular, I think, mainly because there was nothing else like it.

Are there bands that you really love that would surprise fans?

I've always been a really big Stevie Wonder fan, and Michael Jackson, too. Even more Michael Jackson. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan, just that he could constantly be so creative and good for so many years, starting when he was a kid. He was just a musical genius.

In Rolling Stone you talked about warming up to Stripped by Christina Aguilera, but you said that you resent what she stands for. I think your quote was that she's "misrepresenting everything that feminism is supposed to be."

It's really simple. There are a lot of people in the industry right now that try to come off as, in a way, feminine, and that they're standing up for their rights as women by giving men exactly what they want. And that just doesn't make any sense to me. Like, "I'm a woman, so I can do whatever I want and take off all my clothes, which just happens to conveniently sell the most records." So, I don't think that's feminism at all. Feminism is being able to be yourself and not try to please everyone and not try to be what everybody wants you to (be). And not try to gear everything you are toward turning guys on so they buy your album. Not that sexuality is wrong, it's great. It's human. We're supposed to be that way. But there's a lot more to the human brain and the human body than just sex.

Do you feel pressure at all to alter your image?

I remember being told that it would be great if I could lose 10 or 15 pounds, and it hurt my feelings. I've had suggestions like that before.

Tell me about your look.

I think fashion design is really fun. . . . I love to paint and I love to sculpt. My favorite thing to draw and paint, for the center of a lot of my art is the human body.

I hate the word "fashion." It's so girly! It's so J-Lo. But as far as clothing design, it's taking the human form and putting a spin on it and making it creative somehow and making different, individual pictures in a way.

Your band has had a lot of success with songs on movie soundtracks, first Daredevil and now The Punisher. Can you tell me about the song Broken and how that collaboration came about?

It's actually not what you'd think about Broken. I think everybody has come to the conclusion that it's just a marketing ploy for me to help my boyfriend to sell more records, and I can understand how it would seem that way. It's just that I was originally supposed to sing on Broken two years ago, before our album ever came out. And I really wanted to do it because out of all the bands on Wind-Up (Records, her band's label), Seether was my favorite. I didn't know them at all.

I wrote the part . . . and then I just didn't get called. I forgot about it. And then I met Shaun and we started dating and I told him, "I was supposed to sing on your song." And he had no idea.

Everybody just liked Broken and Shaun was like, "We could just record it and put it out on the Internet and release it as a B-side." And of course the label gets their hooks in it and it becomes this huge thing.

The soundtrack thing has really worked for you. Especially after the success with Bring Me to Life.

Since we released (the song) on Daredevil it went all over the world, whether they wanted it to or not, so we had fans in countries we had never been to because they had the soundtrack and they heard it on the radio. So, it started blowing up all over the world and then we had a reason to tour all over the world. And that's how the whole international thing happened this early. Which is awesome.

PREVIEW: Evanescence, gates open at 3:30 p.m., concert at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Coachman Park, Clearwater. $25. (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100.

[Last modified May 12, 2004, 14:29:25]


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