Evanescence’s Amy Lee: “We’re in a crisis and there’s more at stake than ever”

Amy Lee of Evanescence
(Image credit: P.R. Brown)

In 2020, Evanescence began drip-feeding us some new songs they’d written for forthcoming album The Bitter Truth. The impassioned Use My Voice really stood out, and marked a change of direction for the band. Released on August 14, the video showed The White House and featured Amy Lee raising a torch before amassing a group of followers. At the end, a message appeared onscreen: ‘Use your voice. Register. Vote’, along with a link to Headcount.org, a non-partisan organisation that encourages young people and music fans to vote. Catching up with Amy at her home in Nashville, via Zoom, just before the US election, we asked why she felt the need to speak up.

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Why did you decide to get political on Use My Voice

“I don’t know how to answer that completely simply. There’s a million reasons to get political right now. We’re in a crisis and there’s more at stake than I have ever felt or seen in my country, in my life, with this election and this time. So that is the short answer. The longer answer is that this song, and a lot of the themes in our music that exist right now and actually have existed forever, are about fighting against injustices and about the struggle to be strong when you are human and feel vulnerable.”

When did you write it?

“I started writing Use My Voice two years ago, after being really inspired by an impact statement from a sexual assault survivor [Chanel Miller, during the high-profile trial of her attacker, Brock Turner]. It was so strong what she said, and so moving to me that after all she’d been through with this case, she stood up and read aloud her truth and story. It impacted me and gave me the idea for the beginning of the song. As things got crazier and darker, with the pandemic and everything else, a line would come out, until the song was fully grown. We finished recording it right at the onset of the lockdown.”

The song features other female vocalists such as Taylor Momsen, Sharon den Adel and Lzzy Hale, who’s also in the video. How important was it for you to have that female representation? 

“From the get-go, it was like women supporting women, in a way that’s not typical for me. I don’t like to go for outside help on Evanescence music; it’s always been a source of pride to say that we write our own songs. It was just a moment where I was like, ‘Well, rules are dumb sometimes.’ It had a part where it felt like it needed to be a group of women, making a call for strength, empowerment and unity. I have so many badass, strong women in my life. I just got my real girlfriends together and it was so beautiful and humbling to see them all eagerly say yes and throw their voice down however they could. Most of them recorded themselves and sent it to me. Lzzy and Deena [Jakoub, of rock band Veridia] live in Nashville too, so they were able to come to the studio. Every time I sing the song, I see them and think about what it means for women to support each other and how much we need each other.”

It’s been nine years since Evanescence released an album of new songs. When will The Bitter Truth be finished?

“I write slowly. I’ve painted myself into a corner with trying to finish the album while simultaneously releasing songs. The burning question is: when does the album come out? And I’ve been looking at it like it’s happening this whole time. With [the tour] on hold, we made a decision to just go [for it], because who knows if we have tomorrow? And to start releasing our music, even though the record wasn’t done, and focus on writing at the same time, and make use of this time that we’re forced to have on our hands now. I’ve needed something to pour myself into and focus on.”

What was the biggest high for you in 2020?

“Wow. This has been a big year for everybody. I’m struggling with feeling guilty for not feeling good sometimes, because I know so many people have it worse than me. I’m grateful for all we have, my family’s overall health, and am grateful to be alive. The high moments have been the times that we’ve been able to get together and create music, and the personal victories I’ve had in working alone in my studio at home, when I finally get the lyrics out that have been stuck inside of me for weeks and weeks.”

And the biggest low?

“We’ve had some lows that weren’t due to the pandemic. We had a loss in our greater band family, a tragic one [a bandmember’s close relative]. The hardest part of this year has been the anxiety of knowing what’s next. It’s not so much micro as with my job, or with when we can go back on tour. It’s bigger: ‘What’s going to happen for my son? What’s going to happen for our country? What’s happening in the world?’ People are dying. That’s the low point – the reality that we’re living in and that we have to face.”

Your tour with Within Temptation has been rescheduled for September 2021. What can we expect from it?

“Our plan is to pick it back up next fall, so hopefully all goes well. We had developed a whole new production for our set, and we were building out the setlist. But now, by the time we go out, we’re going to have a whole new album out, so we’re going to have to change that all up. We’ll be so excited to finally play these songs live.” 

Published in Metal Hammer #343