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Evanescence Is Back

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

In 2003, the rock group Evanescence released their debut album, "Fallen."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING ME TO LIFE")

PAUL MCCOY: (Singing) Wake me up.

AMY LEE: (Singing) Wake me up inside.

MCCOY: (Singing) I can't wake up.

LEE: (Singing) Wake me up inside.

MCCOY: (Singing) Save me.

LEE: (Singing) Call my name...

MCCAMMON: Hit singles such as "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal" became anthems for rock lovers and angsty teenagers. That record has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide and won two Grammys. Now, close to two decades since their debut, Evanescence is back with a new album of original songs. And the group's lead singer, Amy Lee, is again at the mic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BITTER TRUTH")

LEE: (Singing) I can't move on, feels like we're frozen in time. I'm wasted on you. Just pass me the bitter truth.

MCCAMMON: It's called "The Bitter Truth," and Amy Lee joins us now. Hi, Amy. Welcome to the program.

LEE: Hey, thanks for having me, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: I believe this is the first album of all-new material that Evanescence has released in about a decade or so.

LEE: That's right.

MCCAMMON: Of course, 2020 was not the year that anyone expected. How did that shape your album? Did it shape your album?

LEE: It pushed a lot of feelings to the surface. The band has experienced a lot of grief in our time away, especially in the past few years. I lost my brother. Our bass player, Tim - their family lost a child. And then when the pandemic hit, it was like the whole world all were experiencing loss. We were all feeling that end of the world kind of feeling. And suddenly I felt like the music was more important than ever, not just for me but for our fans. And it really drove us and built a lot of fire in us.

MCCAMMON: And Amy Lee, I'd like to listen, if we could, to one of the songs on your new album called "Use My Voice."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "USE MY VOICE")

LEE: (Singing) Cover my ears and close my eyes just long enough to stop the noise. Go and take everything and throw it away. But I will use my voice.

When I first started writing that song, it was after reading Chanel Miller's incredible impact statement - her testimony at the end of her trial. She's a sexual assault survivor.

MCCAMMON: We initially knew Chanel Miller, by the way, as Emily Doe, the victim of Brock Turner's assault outside a Stanford University frat party in January of 2015.

LEE: Yeah. And when she stood up and just read the words of her experience and what it felt like and what it meant to her as a human being, it just occurred to me that words have so much power, that over anything else they could have possibly thrown at her, her words were stronger. I've been through quite a few legal battles and more behind the scenes with this band, just having to fight for my right to use my own voice and not try to represent something that's going to benefit somebody else. My journey and my experience with this has been so layered and had so many chapters at this point. One thing that's really been consistent is having to fight constantly for being the songwriter. You know, that I - yes, I'm a girl standing up front, you know, with all these guys behind me, typically - that doesn't mean they're the ones with the brains, and I'm just the one singing. I made it. Like, I fought the fight, and I won the fight. But the fight was exhausting. It's, if I'm being honest, part of the reason that we haven't released an album every couple of years. But the feeling that it is now to have that burden lifted is incredible because I really have so much more energy to focus on the music itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "USE MY VOICE")

LEE: (Singing) Now, don't you speak for me. Don't you speak for me.

MCCAMMON: I'd like to talk about another song on your new album, and I think this one will feel really familiar for people who listened to earlier Evanescence. This one is called "Feeding The Dark."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEEDING THE DARK")

LEE: (Singing) Follow me under, low as we are. Swallow your hunger...

MCCAMMON: People credit your debut album back in 2003, "Fallen," for putting what they call symphonic gothic rock into the mainstream. You had sort of that iconic image with black eyeliner and ballgowns that you wore in your music videos. What was your inspiration for that look?

LEE: It's funny because (laughter) if you saw me in high school, you'd be like, that girl? I was, like, vintage T-shirts and cut up jeans and just, like, no makeup girl. But my first influences that I was really inspired by were classical ones. I remember my grandmother was a piano teacher and an artist, and I really wanted to play the piano when I was young - I was, like, 7. You know, we couldn't afford piano lessons, but my grandmother was going to buy me piano lessons. And she sat me down and showed me the film "Amadeus" when I was 8 years old, and I was so obsessed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LEE: I wanted to be Mozart. I wanted to be a composer. And then I got really hit and struck by the alternative music scene in the '90s.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIRVANA SONG, "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT")

LEE: From, like, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage - just all this incredible rock music - heavy - on the heavy side of rock music. And honestly, the more heavy that it was, the more I saw similarities between that and the classical music that I loved. So it became sort of this experiment to start mashing those things up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING ME TO LIFE")

LEE: (Singing) Leading you down into my core, where I've become so numb.

When it came to the look - the clothes I would wear and everything - it was about showing that as a visual. So distressed Victorian element mixed with something rock - you know, something edgy, you know, with the chains and the - oh, back then it was the Tripp pants from Hot Topic and stuff.

MCCAMMON: Right.

LEE: That was all about sort of trying to describe what the music sounded like to me.

MCCAMMON: And maybe a little bit surprisingly, given that edginess that you mentioned, your early work was also very popular on Christian music charts for a while. But you distanced yourself from that scene a bit. You told at least one interviewer that, although you identified as Christian, you were surprised at your popularity on those charts. How does your spirituality influence your music?

LEE: You know, I hate to bring this up again after it's been so long, but that was a label trick. The label had had great success with Creed, and they saw using religion as a marketing tool. And I found that incredibly offensive and told them, no, don't service this to those outlets. And they did it anyway. And we got in major trouble for that interview you're referencing, but it was an important fight to me because it felt false. That wasn't really what our music was. And I felt like they were selling somebody something that wasn't true. If there's anything, you know, in me that I want in my music, it's the truth.

MCCAMMON: How do you think that your music has evolved over your career? How do you think you're different now?

LEE: It's hard to sum that up. "Fallen" came out when I was 21, and it was all really new. I was still learning how to write a song. And each album has a slightly different lineup, and I always have wanted that to show. I want each person's personality to be able to shine on the album and to come through, and I really think it does. When I listen back, I have memories of the people that I was making it with. Fast forward to now, 10 years later, and we have an energy and we trust each other and we respect each other. I think that really comes through in the music because you have to let yourself be able to suck. You have to let yourself explore, knowing you don't - you know, you don't know what it's going to sound like when you try, and you're just honest and open with each other. And we push each other. We all push each other to be better because we all love this band and I feel like, at this point, get what it is on a really broad past, present, future kind of level. So I don't know - I'm very proud of the new record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BETTER WITHOUT YOU")

LEE: (Singing) Don't get caught up in pretend 'cause you're not in control. 'Cause this is my world, little girl, you'd be lost on your own.

MCCAMMON: Amy Lee and her band, Evanescence, are out with a new album. It's called "The Bitter Truth." Amy Lee, thank you so much.

LEE: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVANESCENCE SONG, "BETTER WITHOUT YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.