Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Amy Lee: Surviving the spotlight

Evanescence singer Amy Lee tells Lydia Jenkin how her focus has helped get the band through rocky times.

Amy Lee has been the only constant of Evanescence through multiple line-up changes. Photo / Supplied
Amy Lee has been the only constant of Evanescence through multiple line-up changes. Photo / Supplied

The voice of American goth-pop rock band Evanescence, Amy Lee, knew she wanted to be a rock star from a young age.

"It was all I thought about. I was 100 per cent determined, and belligerently sure of it in a lot of ways when I was a 13 or 14-year-old."

Her father had experienced the tough life of a musician and DJ, so though they were supportive, her parents also wanted her to keep studying and keep her options open.

"I think in the back of my head there was always a little voice going 'I'm going to show them, I'm going to prove to them that they're wrong. There's something magic happening here'."

Indeed, that little spark of magic has sold 25 million albums, seen the band top charts and win Grammy Awards.

They've carved out a niche for themselves as a female-fronted, melodic hard rock band, often with symphonic leanings - a style influenced by Lee's classical piano training.

"I was one of those nerdy kids who really got into it when my piano teacher would assign me a Beethoven piece. I'd take it super-seriously, and work really hard. I always wanted to master Moonlight Sonata in the right way, to work on it for a year and have it perfect and be so proud of myself. And it's not like any of my friends thought that was cool, it was just me."

That single-minded focus has been instrumental in the success of Evanescence, particularly when the road has been rocky, which seems to have been the majority of the time. There have been multiple line-up changes (Lee, 30, being the only consistent member) due to creative and personal differences.

When they stopped touring at the end of 2007, Lee wasn't sure there would ever be another Evanescence record. Even though the line-up was fairly well settled, it was more about the need for a real break on her part.

"It'd been 10 years of focusing solely on Evanescence, for my whole adult life, so after getting married in the middle of touring in 2007, I just wanted to stop for a while and be normal, just be me, not the girl from Evanescence all the time. I needed that."

The hiatus didn't last long though, as Lee naturally gravitated back to songwriting again, and new ideas for the latest self-titled album began to take shape.

"I started playing the harp and I'm always just sitting at my piano for no reason, playing around. And the first songs that started coming out were pretty folky actually, kind of Neil Young-inspired."

But despite some small sidetracks into folk and electronica, the resulting album still sounds very much like Evanescence, though the major difference this time was that the entire band collaborated on the writing process, rather than Lee working by herself.

The album runs a gamut of emotions and reflects a variety of time periods in Lee's life.

Despite being in a very satisfied place, both personally and professionally, she doesn't find it hard to draw out the bleaker, angrier emotions in her songwriting and performance. It's still a form of catharsis.

"I think you're always going to have days that are really hard and days that are awesome. For me it's never been hard to find something frustrating or difficult to write about, because that's just a part of this world.

"One of the songs is about the tsunamis in Japan, and imagining losing everything, and being in that moment and, of course, it ends with Swimming Home, which is a very peaceful ending song - it's the calm after the storm."

Evanescence may have matured and found a smooth road to ride along behind the scenes, but fans can rest assured there will still be plenty of drama and angst on stage when they perform here next week.

Who: Amy Lee, frontwoman for Evanescence
Where and when: Performing live at Vector Arena on Saturday, March 31

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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