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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Evanescence’s Amy Lee talks about the band’s upheaval and continued success

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  • GateHouse News ServiceIt’s been a rough and rewarding road for singer-pianist Amy Lee. As co-founder and frontwoman of Evanescence, a pop band that’s as comfortable with hard rock as with ballads, she’s seen a balance of ups and downs. The band made a huge first album, “Fallen”; won a couple of Grammys; and developed a large and loyal fan base. But Lee’s cofounder, Ben Moody, walked out on the band almost a decade ago, and the remaining original members eventually quit or were fired.
    Yet Lee rocks on. She leads the current version of Evanescence.
    Calling from a tour stop in Atlanta, Lee spoke of life on the road, her early thoughts of a career in music, the responsibilities of heading up a band, and the origin of her name.
    “Pure Prairie League, ‘Amie,’ that’s my song,” she said, meaning that’s the song she’s named after.
    Lee comes from a musical family. She casually mentioned that her dad, John Lee, won “The Gong Show” in 1979 by singing “Desperado” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGzyXdqi8Tc), and that she’s loved music for as long as she can remember.
    “I knew that I wanted to be a musician from a really young age,” she said. “I saw the movie ‘Amadeus’ when I was a little girl, and Mozart became one of my inspirations. I thought I wanted to be a classical composer, but when I got a little older, I hit puberty and grunge happened kind of at the same time. All of a sudden it got more personal and a lot deeper, and I started writing lyrics and I started singing, just because I needed somewhere for the words to go.”
    She had already been studying classical piano, and her dad taught her to play guitar. The songwriting began when she was 13, around the time she was literally finding her voice singing in choirs, and not long before she met guitarist Ben Moody, and the two of them formed Evanescence.
    It took a little while to find an audience on their home turf of Little Rock, Ark., in the mid-1990s. But almost as soon as they did, the word about the sound started spreading. Their 2002 recording, “Fallen,” eventually went platinum — seven times.
    “The success has been a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t want to change it,” said Lee. “But I wasn’t really ready for it. The picture on the cover of ‘Fallen’ is actually my 21st birthday, and everything was going so fast and so crazy. It was hard to be 21 or 22 and just living life and learning things and making mistakes and knowing the pressure’s so much greater because you’re in the public eye. There’s a lot of responsibility there. We have a lot of young people that look up to us, and I don’t want to hurt them. I’m a big sister from a big family, and I want to be a good role model. So there was definitely a lot to adjust to right away.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Lee had to do a lot more adjusting while the band was still on tour promoting “Fallen.” That was when Moody opted to quit, and when Lee immediately had to make the leap from co-leader to leader.
    “You know, I can confidently say it’s never been easy,” she said candidly. “It’s something you really have to care about to keep it going, and I do love it. There has to be some point where somebody’s got to be able to say ‘OK, this is what we’re gonna do.’ And that covers all manner of things. It means the responsibility of when anybody screws up, when anybody leaves, when anybody does anything that looks bad.
    “It’s all on me,” she said, lightly laughing. “You have to take the high road, stand for the band, and be able to speak for us in a way that’s positive and good and gonna keep us motivated and going and keep our fans believing in us.”
    She was quiet for a moment, then added, “But the most important thing is the music. I always want the music to be the focus, and I always want the music to be growing and evolving. And the fans are the biggest motivator on the road because their happiness totally feeds us.”
    Asked if it’s difficult to jump back and forth between belting a rocker like “What You Want” and crooning a ballad like “Swimming Home,” Lee explained that it all comes out pretty naturally.
    “I’m a woman, I’m very complex, my emotions are kind of a roller coaster all the time,” she said, and this time her laugh was loud. “So anywhere from way hot to way low, I feel like I can get there pretty quickly with our music.”
    But Lee still finds that the biggest challenge is dealing with what happens after the music.
    “The most important thing for your voice is a good night’s sleep, so sometimes it can be rough on the road,” she said. “You play a show and you’re all amped up afterward, and it’s midnight, and you’ve gotta get yourself to wind down instead of hanging out for the next three hours like you sometimes want to. You have to be disciplined, but you’ve gotta have fun too, or you won’t be happy. So it’s just a matter of balancing. I’m pretty good at hanging, having one drink, and then saying, ‘OK, guys, love you. I’m going to bed.’ “EvanescenceWith Chevelle opening
    WHEN
    Saturday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m.
    WHERE Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood, Lenox
    TICKETS $22-$76
    INFO 1-888-266-1200,
    www.tanglewood.org
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