Founder and lead singer of goth-inspired rock band Evanescence Amy Lee is not one to mince her words.
“Hell no,” said the straight-talking Lee on whether or not Ben Moody, the band’s now-departed co-founder, guitarist and writer of their hit song My Immortal, was ever missed.
“What this band is and has been is something I feel very strongly about,” she added, her tone making it clear she was not going to justify anything to anyone.
“It’s always been me and someone which created a sound. Now it’s me and others — a band. It sounds different, which comes across in the music. Each song carries a part of each person and I love that. In any song on the last album I can hear the personality of each person.”
Having reportedly axed a number of former members over the years, Lee picked up a control freak reputation when it came to the band she created aged just 17.
Speaking ahead of the group’s debut performance in Dubai on Friday, the transition from a duo to band was not an easy one according to Lee.
“It’s hard,” she reluctantly said. “It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone. We’d sit around and jam and all have an input and it wasn’t something I was used to. But I realised the end result was the music had such depth which meant vocally I could start to have more fun.”
Lee’s reluctance to cut the apron strings on a sound she still calls her “baby” is admirable.
The 30-year-old from Arkansas and Moody formed the band at the end of the ’90s after meeting in their early teens during a youth camp. Moody told a US newspaper he heard Lee playing Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything for Love on the piano and was “blown away” by her talent.
“So much has happened,” laughed Lee. “But it’s the beauty of what makes the show so appealing today. The gig in Dubai will be like watching the soundtrack of my life — the highs, the lows. But the best part is that we are still here today. It’s been a long road but it’s been a good one too. It’s part of my history and this is my victory moment. We made it, yeah we did.”
As a duo, Evanescence didn’t perform live, instead choosing to release EPs, short selections of songs, until they were discovered by producer Pete Matthews. He sold the songs to record companies in New York, and Evanescence — rounded out by bassist Will Boyd, guitarist John LeCompt, and drummer Rocky Gray, eventually landed a record contract.
Years of writing and recording followed until 2003 when the top of the charts beckoned and debut album Fallen earned the duo international acclaim followed by Grammy Awards just eight months later. The soundtrack to the 2003 Ben Affleck action movie Daredevil featured both Bring Me to Life and ballad My Immortal.
Ironically though, while 2003 was the group’s breakthrough year, it was also a year of extreme lows, particularly for Moody who walked away mid-way through a European tour away citing “musical differences” as the reason.
Currently on tour in Europe, Lee chats mostly openly from her hotel room in Antwerp, Belgium. “Amsterdam is next and we always have such a blast,” she said before launching into the pros and cons of the festival circuit.
“Obviously it’s great. You are talking numbers up to 85,000 people stretched out in front of you,” she said. “But it’s hard to compare something like that to the intimacy of a small venue. At a festival you sort of feel like you have to prove yourself a little because while some people know who you, are people came for the overall experience and not just for you. It’s a bit like when you first start out and you feel you have to prove yourself a little. Where as a small venue you know it’s your show. It’s easier to just be yourself and I believe that’s something which is very important.”
With Moody out of the picture, ex-Cold guitarist Terry Balsamo clicked with Lee and the two began a writing partnership which still stands firm today.
Touring, and live album, Anywhere But Home — recorded at a show in Paris in November 2004 — made it through before more drama ensued.
Balsamo suffered a stroke in 2005 and Boyd left soon after to be replaced by ex-the Revolution Smile guitarist Tim McCord.
Much of the media attention focused on Lee seems ironic, as attention-grabbing outfits she designed herself were supposed to do just the opposite.
“I started designing my own clothes because my fashion choices suddenly became something everyone had an opinion about,” she said, reluctant to talk clothes. “It’s just not my thing,” she explained. “I wore clothes which didn’t say anything,” she said referring to the many black options in her wardrobe. “It started in high school. I came from a small town where I looked like everybody else. So I made clothes by hand which I felt represented me more.”
Since finding fame Lee now has the luxury of working with designers from all over the world — Japan being her preferred — to produce up to six outfits for each show.
Through the ups and downs Lee has stood firm and continued to give the band she envisioned as a teenager a colourful and varied life.
She has stated on a number of occasions she would never resort to “flesh-flashing” or other publicity stunts in order to become successful, despite making several “hottest woman in rock” lists over the years.
“It was always about the music for me,” she said dismissing the sexiest woman claims. “This is real life. It’s not about being perfect — I’ve never claimed to be. I don’t think I’m awesome. At 13 years old I held this unrealistic belief I was going to make it. But by keeping my head in the right place I guess I have.”