By Mark Guarino
In 2003, Evanescence won a Best New Artist Grammy for “Fallen” (Wind-Up), a debut album that delivered drama in spades. The band’s pop-ready mix of classical and rock struck a chord with goth-minded fans and Evanescence became international stars.
The drama was not confined to the music. Soon after founding member Ben Moody quit, his replacement, Terry Balsamo of Cold, suffered a stroke and bassist Will Boyd departed. To top things off, last year lead singer Amy Lee filed a lawsuit against the band’s former manager, charging sexual harassment and fraud.
This week, the revamped band released “The Open Door” (Wind-Up), a survivor’s statement and an album that puts Lee front and center. Last week she talked about the changes and the new album. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Q: Did you feel pressure to build on the success of the last album in making this one?
A: It’s funny. That’s one of the most frequent questions I get and I really felt like it was sort of the opposite effect for me. “Fallen” did really, really well, better than we expected and a lot has changed for our band in the line-up and everything else. More than anything, it gave us a lot of freedom this time around. I felt like since we’d already established our sound and established ourselves with “Fallen” and how well it did, we could do whatever we wanted this time around and actually expand the box and do something even more. We toured for a year and a half and we were all really exhausted because it was just crazy. We didn’t know what we were doing and I didn’t know how to say no back then, so the train just wouldn’t stop. When we finally got off tour, I think we all slept for two months straight. After maybe two months, the writing really began. We were pretty fried. We’re finally to the point where a tour sounds fun. I think I want to do this again.
Q: You’ve had no qualms about writing deeply personal songs, but has there been a time during the recording of this album when you’ve written songs you think reveal too much?
A: I don’t feel like it’s too personal to write. Making art out of it is the best feeling in the world for me. I feel like the more I express and the more I share and the more personal it is, the better I feel. It’s a bigger weight I’ve lifted off of myself. But then again …when you’re writing the songs, you don’t think about how you’re going have to talk about it and explain yourself afterwards. I guess the times that I think I have no secrets is when I’m either reading interviews or just write ups about us because it is really personal and my life in a way really is an open book to the world and sometimes that can be a little scary. But I definitely never pull back from the music because I think I should probably just shut my big mouth sometimes.
Q: It is strange that people know things about you that you might not even know is out there?
A. When I’m writing music, that’s never crossing my mind. I feel like I have so many things that are making me feel trapped or angry and I have to get them out of my system, so I write them and I have written even more personal lyrics this time around. I wasn’t thinking about it at all when I was writing. But then now I guess I’m starting to feel, not the consequences, but the byproducts of those things, it is a little bit crazy. It’s hard because I just have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about me because they don’t know me. It’s hard when you open yourself up. You have to know that you’re making yourself completely vulnerable to judgment. I am putting my heart on the line and I don’t expect everyone to think, “that’s really great, I’m proud of her.” I think there are probably tons of people out there that think I’m a total bitch. I’m just getting to the place now where I’m aware of that and starting to be okay with that because I’m the kind of person who just wants everyone to love me. It’s kind of an adjustment to be okay with knowing that there are a lot of people out there that … but they don’t know me.
Q; You and the band have dealt with so many changes over the past year: health issues, legal issues, a lot of difficult stuff. How did that impact making this record?
A:I definitely feel like the challenges we’ve been through as a band have made us stronger. It’s weird, bands break up all the time over things and instead of letting the things that happen to us hurt us and let us get separated, we became a lot closer. There’s a lot of sensationalism right now about my whole story, that everything’s been really tough and dramatic and hard and yes, there have been challenges, but this has been one of the best experiences in my entire life. The band really had to lean on each other when Ben (Moody) left. I felt like in a weird way, we really became a band that day because we knew that we’d be able to survive and continue after the struggle and the negativity was gone. In one day off, John (LeCompt) relearned all the guitar parts to cover the band as a four piece for the rest of the tour without canceling a single show. We all really depended on each other and leaned on each other. We’ve been close ever since. I don’t feel like we were really close before that. With everything else, after (Terry Balsamo’s) stroke, that brought us even closer together and that’s a struggle we’ve all had to overcome and once again, lean on each other and support each other and everybody is helping out. I think those things that have happened to us have made us a better and a stronger band.
Q: How did writing songs with Terry differ from Ben?
A: Totally different experience. Terry and I had gotten to be close on tour and we were good friends and we hung out a lot together, so we could trust each other. I actually do feel very vulnerable when I’m writing and in the past, I’ve never been able to sit and write music with someone, like in the same room, just sit there and make music. This is a first for me. We actually got in the studio and learned Pro Tools, had an engineer friend help us learn Pro Tools. We’d open a session and just start playing. I’d sit at the piano and Terry would be at the guitar or at the computer doing drum … and stuff and we’d just start building off of each other. I think a big difference other than that about Terry is he’s a real innovator. He’s really creative and he’s constantly wanting to try something that he’s never done before or that he’s never even heard before, instead of relying on the same basic structures to get the point … He actually uses it like a real instrument, which is so fun for me because I really wanted to take the music in a more creative direction. And we got to do that and the sound definitely came to the table and I think he’s a big part of this record.
Q: Since you had such a big part in actually creating the songs more, did you feel nervous at all about showing off more of your song writing skills?
A: I felt like I’d finally been given the freedom to do what I’d always wanted to do. So once my ideas weren’t being shot down a lot of the time, it wasn’t like I had to fight for everything that was mine that came through. It was just free. I was allowed to do whatever and that’s where the title of the “Open Door” really came from. When Terry and I were in the studio, in the house studio, early on in the writing process, I thought, all the doors are open. We’re free to do whatever we want and not have to worry about breaking into the industry or impressing somebody or trying to establish a sound or anything. We could just do whatever and really be creative and make the best music we can.
Q: Did the success of the first album and the Grammy win create pressure?
A: I really didn’t feel this weird sophomore record pressure. I felt like I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to make the first record again. I wanted to start from scratch and a lot of people feel like they need to hurry up and release their next record as fast as they can because they want to strike while the iron is hot. I honestly feel like that’s a real crime because if you rush music and you rush inspiration, you’re not going to come out with something that’s as good as you could have, naturally. I think that … not to be able to stand on its own and you should be able to break again even if it took three, five years, whatever. Bearing that in mind, we just started writing and I didn’t put a time limit on it. I didn’t say I want to be done by December or January or March or June or anything. I just started writing and we really didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. I’d never written with Terry before. I had a lot of writing I wanted to do on my own and a lot of things I wanted to say. I think it came out pretty quickly considering all the changes and everything and I’m really proud of it and I’m not scared. Bring it on. I feel like “Fallen” did amazingly well and I can’t expect that the second record will sell the same number of records or more. That really isn’t the goal for me. I just really wanted to make a record that I thought was even better that the first one and showed the growth in the band and I think it has. So to me, I’ve succeeded already.