Recently HeadBangers LifeStyle was invited for an exclusive virtual press event with the US rock band Evanescence, as a warming up for the release of the excellent new 4th studio album `The Bitter Truth’ [out 26th March]. And who doesn’t remember that striking debut hit ,,Bring Me To Life’’ in 2003, that also introduced the debut album `Fallen’, putting this “never heard of before” group from Little Rock, Arkansas, straight into the charts.
Amy Lee, an outstanding singer, lyricist and musician, and her band mates obviously with their dark, emotional laden music and lyrics, offered a safe haven, a hand reaching out to those who maybe felt out of place, misunderstood or struggling and even fighting inner battles. A fast growing, loyal fan base clung to it to never let go and till this day Evanescence has a successful status. But, wasn’t it about time for a new studio album by now, the long awaited follow up of `Evanescance’ , since the last release `Synthesis’ ’ features re-worked and orchestral versions of old tracks? Well the wait is over and fans already got a sneak peak, the four [video] singles ,,Wasted On You’’, ,,The Game Is Over’’, ,,Use My Voice’’ and ,,Yeah Right’’, of what has yet to come.
Okay, back to the press event, which is moderated by the lovely Sophie K., known from Kerrang’s Radio Breakfast Show, BBC Radio1 and Absolute Radio [just to name a few] and who started off with a bunch of questions herself after welcoming front lady Amy Lee and introducing her as one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever heard in the world of rock and metal. Being a constant source of identification and inspiration for literally millions of people across the globe and I personally couldn’t agree more.
Actually an online press event is definitely a whole different experience and like the rest of us also Amy is sitting behind a computer in her home environment. Right from the start Amy appears as a kind, warm, smart, funny and creative spirit, who absolutely earned and deserve her status in rock ‘n roll history. After we first got a little preview of the making of `The Bitter Truth’ video, which definitely will please the fans [later on during this event we also got to see a home live performance video ,,Use My Voice’’], Amy has been a real trooper the entire time, answering the flood of questions as interesting, enthusiastic and honest as possible. Buckle up, because hereby I give you the truth, nothing but the truth….
We are just a couple of days away from the official release of `The Bitter Truth’ and Amy says she couldn’t be more excited for the fans to hear it.
,,We take a long time to make our music and ten years is a lot of time build up. It is really a big piece of my life, of the band and who we are and where we’ve been and in particular where we are now. So we were just ready for that. When we decided in which order to release those four singles, to us it was all about meaning, because when COVID-19 hit everything changed. The meaning of our initial first single ,,Use My Voice’’ didn’t fit for the moment but ,,Wasted On You’’ did because if the whole point is connecting with people than we wanted it to be something that we could all share in the sentiment together and feel alive right now, feeling the words. Honestly every day through 2020 felt like I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like? Anything could happen [laughing] so it made it hard to plan life, just choosing what you want to put out there and what you want to express. It’s going to be different obviously with where we are today in the world and the fact that we’re not touring right now, you know it’s a bummer. But thinking creatively about ways to continue and ways to connect with people despite the obstacles has been inspiring itself. We didn’t want to wait, I’m happy this is happening. Even now I think it is the right thing for us and I’m mostly just excited to be that weird little troll snooping on everybody on twitter and see what they all have to say [laughing]. I think the fans will be happy and it’s going to make me happy to see them happy for sure.’’
,,I feel somehow safe in my lyrics, it’s just got to be my sacred place where I can’t lie, it just has to be pure.''-Amy Lee
The album somehow feels like a battle cry, there are raw emotions in the tracks and it is very empowering and vulnerable at the same time. Amy confesses that it was hard to go to the places she had to go to write some of those songs.
,,So much has happened. There’s been so much to say and we were already on that path when the world turned absolutely upside-down. It was hard to go to some of those places, because I’m not always that person going to the most difficult, deepest and darkest places in my heart all the time. But it was healing for me and I don’t know what I would have done; I think I would have gone insane last year if we didn’t have this album to make. I’m not always waking up motivating and ready to take on the world but when you can overcome whatever it is and take the experience that has happen to you and turn it into something good, something that potentially feels good to someone else, there is life in that, there is healing in that. I’ve just found over the course of my career and my journey with this band that our music is a very special place not just for us, but also for other people that I personally don’t know. And knowing our music has been there for them in their stories and experiences, it just makes it better and more precious and I am just very grateful to have our fans after all this time.’’
Specifically the song ,,Far From Heaven’’ is very emotional and most likely Amy’s most personal song ever. No wonder she did hesitate, even before finishing it, sharing it with the world.
,,Yeah, it was hard to write those words. It was hard to say some of the things in that song. It’s hard to admit the questioning and the real struggle that I have been facing, but it’s so worth it when you break through. The writing process has always been just like a therapy session for me and my songs usually start lyrically from some stream of consciousness but then it becomes almost like dream interpretation. And if you can create something good out of something bad it makes it have a purpose in your life and it feels like hope for the next step, for the next place. The only way we’re going to a better place is by first accepting where we are now. And that’s true on the inside and on the outside. And I feel somehow safe in my lyrics, it’s just got to be my sacred place where I can’t lie, it just has to be pure. If I hear myself correcting it because I don’t really want to share that piece of information, I don’t like the song anymore.’’
For a moment guitarist Troy McLawhorn mingles into the conversation to recall how the recording process was affected by COVID-19.
,,When we started out we recorded four songs before the pandemic had arrived and that were eventually released as singles. We had plans to go on a tour in Europe, we had one show in Japan and that all got stopped, it stopped our progress. We were stuck at home and after a few months we figured out a way to get together and it was really difficult. We all had to get tested and we had to figure out how to get Tim [McCord, bass player] from California to Nashville, which was a huge undertaking. He brought his whole family because we were staying there for a while to finish his part of the album. It was a big challenge in that way. It changed the way we do everything. We couldn’t just get together whenever we wanted and play out there. I drove back and forth a few times to do my parts but I’m really close and I was kind of in my own bubble and didn’t need to have contact with anyone in between. Jen [Majura, guitarist] wasn’t there for most of the recording, except for those first four songs. Not having her there it sucked because we had to sent her things to play her part to and she had to do it by herself basically, which I’m sure it was hard for her. But on the other hand it was pretty cool to have our families involved in this whole process as well, more than ever.’’
,,I think we all kind of wanted it to go in a more band driven direction.''-Amy Lee
A logical question is if it weren’t for the pandemic what direction would the album have taken? Would it have been any different? Amy isn’t sure about that as far as the vibe but she definitely felt a tangible fire lit in the band due to the pandemic and they really had some fire in this process.
,,It made it more important, it made it more passionate and it made it more intentional and it did push me go to some deep dark places that I just had to face through the isolation. So I think that some of the depths I can partially credit to the situation we’ve been in. Just before all this happened we just moved to our new home here in Tennessee after we lived in Brooklyn for 13 years. Part of the reason I wanted to move, besides being closer to family, is that this space that I am in right now is disconnected from the main house. It is my dedicated create space where I can scream as loud as I want, I can close all the curtains and feel like this is an isolated spot where I can go and really be alone. I am so grateful for that because I have so many friends who can’t escape the house for a while. When I go back in the main house I can be a cool mom and all those things. Actually having that has been really helpful for me.’’
When it comes to the greatest source of inspiration to write `The Bitter Truth’, well that’s too big according to Amy. She explains that this is a real big combination of perspective, time, experiences, feelings and thoughts and all the things that go along with it. There have been first life experiences in the past decade that needed to be on the album, being huge inspirations both tragic and beautiful. Like the fact that Amy became a mom for the first time, which doesn’t mean she wrote a song specifically about being a mom but it unlocked parts of her that were always there that she didn’t know before. As she continues…
,,A lot of those reflective challenges have been pushed to surface during this isolation because we don’t have all the regular distractions and interactions, even when you got input from others, it’s just kind a year alone with your thoughts a lot. Which is good for writing, I naturally isolate myself in that way when we’re going in making an album to a degree, but I can still escape it when I need to and that hasn’t been the case this time. In some ways I really feel like we made the best out of this time and put it to use. We took it and decided to use this as fire, as fuel to make something that goes deeper than maybe I really wanted to go comfortably because I have to, because that’s what’s happening. So we’re going lean into it instead of running away from it and that feels good too. We really like to go for things without a big plan, especially after it has been so long, just rediscovering who we are now, what we like, what our taste is, what is going satisfy our itch as creators? At the same time we just had done this orchestral project `The Synthesis’ and we all were ready to get back to rockin’ and to find ourselves again in the roots of what the band is. Our history and what we do and how we live in that now, because that was so long ago and with a different line-up back then. Find a real core of who we are and take that to the next place, whatever that is. I think we all kind of wanted it to go in a more band driven direction and I always want everybody’s personal taste and personality to come trough in the music that we make and it does. It felt so good to just get together and make loud noise after just feeling shut up and locked down and stuck and frustrated during last year. I remember just feeling a sweet release of just making loud sounds and being a musician [laughing]. It’s good!’’
The role of producer Nick Raskulinecz [Foo Fighters, Stone Sour, Rush, Deftones, Ghost a.o.] has been crucial during the recording process and Amy is over the moon working with him.
,,He’s such an incredible, good producer with every band that he’s worked with and he did something really special for us with our self-titled album, which was a big part of the reason it is a self-titled album. Nick just stripped us of all of our comforts and pushed each of us, to our full potential of having to really sit in a room, face each other and suck. Just play, be yourself and get over it. Strip away anything about you that’s protecting because in this one place we have to have complete trust. That was huge for me back then in 2011 but this time I already knew that’s the producer he is and what he brings to the table and on top of that he also really spent time with each one of us. Seeing your true potential and getting the best out of you is part of what makes it not only an evolution for our band but also like a homecoming, a return to something. As a vocalist, I’m a person who will do a lot of takes, I really have specific visions a lot of times about when it’s good enough. There is nothing I hate more than working with a producer who tells me “great, you’re done, perfect”, because it’s not perfect. I know what I can do and you’re not listening! I want that support of a producer who pushes me to be as good as I know I can be and Nick is like that. He is the one guy who will make me go back in that singing booth, even when I am satisfied, and give the right guidance to take me to the next place in performance. I love working with Nick, we all do so much. He is hilarious too, like a nonstop comedy.’’
,,We want to say to people that every voice matters and deserves to be heard.''-Amy Lee
One of the songs that stand out is ,,Use My Voice’’, featuring Lzzy Hale, Sharon den Adel, Taylor Momsen, Lindsey Stirling, a.o, on backing vocals. Amy specifically points out that doing this song was about calling all her sisters, her girlfriends, to feel the reality of what sisterhood means and that support of having not only a bunch of really cool strong women in her life, but also some world renewed amazing singers too. And it just felt right to call them.
,,It feels really, really good to listen to it and also when we do little performances like we just did, to hear them with me and feel that big thing that love is. I love women, I need the women in my life. What I do in this song is just screaming out the news and we want to say to people that every voice matters and deserves to be heard. When something is in your heart, when you believe in something strong enough, if it’s truth and it is for good, then you just got to speak that truth, especially when you’ve got a microphone and people that will listen and could possibly help make a positive change in the world. Although that wasn’t the original inspiration for the song but it became that because it was sort of half written a long time ago, inspired by the story of a survivor using her voice. People that overcome obstacles of all kinds but also “real people” in my life, like my grandmother, inspire me. But for a long time I was stuck and even with the band we couldn’t get that chorus, until I showed it to my friend Deena Jakoub who plays in the band Verida. She helped me write it. Having a friend like that and being open enough to somebody and letting them be that close to me in that sister way that I can trust in a different way, it meant a lot to me. It actually snowballed the whole idea of having a whole bunch of more of my friends on the song. Actually, when I met Sharon after one of our shows we just had this instant connection. It was the year my brother passed away and we had this long, deep, real friends conversation and there were tears and laughter and I just felt we have so much in common.’’
Along the conversation Amy mentions her 6-year-old son Jack and when she does, she absolutely radiates.
,,Jack … he is the joy in my life. Having that redirection that centre of “o yeah….”. If everything in the world falls apart you are the best part anyway. Having that kind of a centre is awesome, super grounding. I’ve never fallen so low that I can’t get out of it for days at the time or anything, because Jack is there. That is huge! I am reconnection with my own youth through him too. When I was a teenager, and I don’t know why, but I was in such a hurry to grow up and runaway to get to the next place all the time but all of a sudden you realize: crap I should have lingered a little maybe because now I can’t go back there. Jack is this link to times, to memories that I’ve forgotten and to a little bit of a person that I used to be. Being the oldest sibling of a bunch and being the fun cool big sister with all the creative ideas, like burying treasures in the backyard and making a map, being able to really live in that role again with my son has been really good for me too.’’
It is obvious the last decade has been a real ride for Amy and the band and also there is a lesson into that, because the bitter truth for Evanescence is according to Amy that life is short, like it or not.
,,The choice for me is not wasting any more time. So that’s part of the reason why we are here doing what we are doing even though as far as promotion and marketing and everything else it would have been smarter to wait but there is no time for that. Who knows if we have tomorrow? It is more important to us to have it out there now. Time is precious and we are not here forever. On a bigger level I think in order for things to get better we first have to accept the truth about what’s happening now and all the things that are messed up around us, they won’t fix if we just like hit the snooze button and wait for it to pass we got to face the truth to get to a better place.’’