Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life has joined Spotify’s Billions Club
Evanescence have thanked fans for “joining us on our journey” as their classic Fallen single Bring Me To Life has just surpassed one billion streams on Spotify.
You could never accuse Amy Lee of being unprepared for this interview.
“It’s old times right now!” Evanescence’s singer grins as she produces a binder bearing her band’s logo on its cover.
“I have all the old submissions that we ever sent to our label,” Amy says, opening it up to reveal a series of plastic sleeves containing numerous CDs and assorted artwork designs.
“My sweet friend – and the lady who discovered and signed me – Diana Meltzer made me an entire copy of her binder for fun.”
The binder in question even has Diana’s original notes in, featuring proclamations like, ‘This one’s a hit!’ and, ‘This one’s not!’ or even, ‘This one needs work!’
Presumably not many tracks bore the latter two critiques considering the end product was Fallen: Evanescence’s diamond-selling, GRAMMY-winning debut studio album. Supercharged by its ubiquitous lead single Bring Me To Life, it was a baptism of fire for Amy. A freshly-anointed global superstar, overnight she was adored by millions of young fans (who she wasn’t that much older than – “That’s why I was so angsty and dramatic!” she quips today) while also having everything from her personality, fashion sense and credibility put through the media mangle.
“There is no preparing for any of that,” is her assessment. “When Fallen came out and this all first started, we were trying to become a band in front of everybody. We were kids that had met each other and found common ground in film, music and counterculture. All the time that everybody else at school had spent at sleepovers, I spent doing music. And it just blew up. And then it was, like, the drama…”
Sitting at home, flanked by instruments and sporting a NEW YORK T-shirt, she cuts a relaxed figure – often spinning from side-to-side in her chair as she ponders questions. Before we’ve even started, Amy’s already filled us in on her love of hit TV show The Bear and the “preventative wine-stain situation” of her flooring, but it’s Fallen that has brought us here. It receives a brilliant 20th anniversary deluxe remastered and expanded reissue this month. Amy has been nothing if not meticulous about it, from the array of extras to the subtle changes in the artwork.
This in and of itself is telling. Until relatively recently, the notion of Amy Lee going all-out to celebrate Fallen to this degree seemed – how best to put it? – pretty fucking unlikely. While always having affection for it, often Amy spoke of Evanescence’s debut as encasing her public perception in cultural amber. For the masses – not the loyal Evanescence faithful – she was forever fixed as “the girl falling from the window” in the Bring Me To Life video. A prodigious pianist and vocalist adrift in a sea of alpha male nu-metal acts, from 2006’s The Open Door onward she enacted a series of deft artistic manoeuvres to edge away from Fallen. She proved that she alone could be the artistic driving force of the band after key members left. Their music got richer, deeper. She branched out into scoring film soundtracks. Hell, she even re-recorded some Fallen songs on 2018’s Synthesis to show what they could have sounded like after additional years of honing her skills.
For a long time, Amy seemed keen on doing anything but retracing old footsteps. In the past five years of our interviews, however, K! puts it to her that we’ve noticed a thawing occur. An incremental re-appreciation of Fallen…
“It’s really sweet to hear you put it into that number, because that has to do, a little bit, with losing Robby,” she says.
In 2020, Amy told K! about the devastating loss of her younger brother Robby – who had battled severe epilepsy throughout his life – in January 2018. A moment of loss, and also perspective.
“You think things in your life are so big, and everything feels so important,” she continues. “And then something really big happens and you realise how unimportant a lot of stupid things are.”
Amy learned to let go. And there was a lot to let go of. Fallen was a tough album to make, not least because Amy lost her beloved cat, Fizzgig – yes, that is a Dark Crystal reference – during its creation. “I was devastated,” she recalls. “He got eaten by a coyote, I’m sure.” There were also the well-documented creative tensions in the band that led to the departure of co-founder Ben Moody, and more members afterwards.
“There was just so much unnecessary drama behind the scenes within the band,” she explains. “Of course, there was some good about it – I never want to round it out like it was all bad. It was just hard. It felt unstable, like at any moment it was going to blow up for some dramatic reason that didn’t really have anything to do with me.”
There were, in fact, numerous frontlines to fight on. The band were not only at war within their own ranks, they were also in a struggle with their label just to be… themselves.
“Fighting on the business side to get what we wanted done was always so hard,” Amy sighs. “I always felt like it was my zone to fight for it. I was the one that was like, ‘If you make little changes, fine, but if this whole idea is changed, I don’t want it.’ The whole point, for me, was making something that I loved and believed in. They were like, ‘Well, I guess you can go home and get a job at some fast food place in Arkansas.’ I said, ‘Okay, we’ll go home.’ But if I hadn’t done that, then there would be a rap on, like, eight out of 11 songs on Fallen. Can you even imagine that? How wrong would that have been? It was terrible. Just that turmoil, that stress.”
Her tenacity paid off. Only one rapper appeared on one song: Paul McCoy of 12 Stones cropping up on Bring Me To Life.
“They wanted us to hold auditions for a rap rocker and I was just like, ‘Absolutely not, this isn’t happening, this is the line,’” Amy reflects. “Bring Me To Life was the compromise.”
Amy had other battles, too. Having lost her sister during her childhood, Fallen’s songs were freighted with residual grief, as well as teenage angst. To this day, there are things Amy doesn’t want to dwell on. As admirably open as she always is, some parts of her life remain private.
“It’s hard to explain what I was going through without telling you a bunch of stuff that I don’t want,” she says, a rare wince replacing her normal smile. “The true point is it was a rollercoaster.”
What Amy does reveal is that for a long time she was incredibly hard on herself. This she explores when K! asks why, 20 years on, Fallen’s signature song Bring Me To Life has never gone away…
“Why has it lasted all these years? It’s hard to answer that because it’s gonna read like I’m tooting my own horn,” she laughs. “Part of my growth as a person involves looking back and realising how low my self-esteem was. It was just such a constant for me always to be my biggest critic. You think you’re ahead of everybody else’s criticism – you already hated yourself first. That is so unhealthy.”
The ‘mean’ voices in her head were always there, gnawing away. She recites a few.
“No, don’t ever think a positive thought about yourself!”
“You’re just the singer! That doesn’t mean anything; anybody can sing!”
“You’re not skilled – you just open your mouth.”
These are the echoes of her “old head”.
“It’s taken a long time to make that go away,” she says. “Anyway, all that said, you asked me that question and it’s very difficult to answer, I think some things to myself, but…”
A moment of hesitation.
“Whatever, I’m just going to tell you,” she laughs. “I think that it actually does matter my being a singer, and having a unique voice. And so maybe hearing my voice for the first time has something to do with it. I recognise that when you hear my voice, you know that it’s mine. Whatever that means. And also just the fact that at the time it didn’t blend in.”
For all the talk of the past, however, Amy is keen to stress that Fallen isn't only something that transpired decades ago. It’s been a living, breathing thing that's been unfolding for 20 years.
“It also hits me what we’ve been doing with our band ever since then,” she adds. “And how it’s not all about just the people that were there in that moment making the album. Credit is due to the band now and all the work and love we’ve put into Fallen all these years onstage. We’ve kept it going all these years: playing shows around the world, making new music, living it with our fans. I know when somebody comes to our show that only knows Bring Me To Life, they’re walking away with a new impression that’s a lot more than what they thought. And that drives them to our music, old and new.”
So join us now as Amy sits back and gives K! an oral history of Fallen’s 11 tracks.
“It’s mixed emotions,” she grins. “It’s a ride!”
Time to press play…
“A debut single really matters because that’s your first impression. I wanted Going Under to be our first single because it was strong, empowered and one of the most recent songs we had written. I was like, ‘This is my best work, this is the most honest I’ve been!’ I wanted people to hear me stand up and not be a victim. The lyrics don’t start off saying I’m drowning, they’re saying, ‘I don’t want your hand this time, I’ll save myself,’ and that was the statement I wanted. I don’t want to be the girl who needs to be saved by a guy. But of course, there’s still a struggle there, it’s a story with an arc. It’s not an interesting story if I have no problem (laughs).”
“Do I still like the song? I truly do. It’s beautiful. The progression in the beginning, the way the chord goes back and forth with just the middle note moving, that is so me. I always find myself coming back to that vibe. So, yes, I still love that song, the lyrics, all of it. The energy that the post-bridge rap brings is really special. I don’t so much love the ‘Wake me up!’ part on the chorus, but it doesn’t bug me anymore. I guess it did once because it was like, ‘That’s not who we are!’ but I don’t feel, 20 years later, that I have to say that anymore. If there had actually been eight rap songs on Fallen, I don’t think I would have survived. I would have had to run away and rebrand!”
“I don’t have any song that I’ve put out that I hate, but have I grown out of this? A little bit. It’s just the way it sounds when you read the lyrics. I was talking about high school and talking to, more than anything, my little sisters. I was a teenager and my siblings were younger, and the sweet little kids that I loved so much were into their boyband and pop girl phase. I was like, ‘Guys, that is not what’s cool, it’s not about what’s on the surface – that’s superficial, it’s about what’s in your heart.’ Everybody’s Fool started off from watching them and me being like, ‘Why are you idolising something that’s fake?’ Blah, blah, blah. I don’t like the way that it’s phrased. When we did the video, I made it like it was about me, because by that point I could relate to the way people see you on the big stage being very different to who you really are, and that's not necessarily being what you wanted to be.”
“Ben played a droning note thing on the piano and it was really beautiful. It wasn’t completely finished, but it was the song. I was like, ‘Let me take this, think about it, and make a real piano part.’ When I was 15, I lived in a house with my parents and there was my grandparents’ old piano in the garage. I worked really hard, arranged the part, and then realised later it was in the wrong key. The piano was way out of tune, but we liked it. Still to this day, when we play it live, I do it the way that I wrote it in the garage. I wasn’t crazy about the label putting the demo version on Fallen. The official version in my head is the band version we did in the studio at that time, the one David Campbell wrote strings to. Whether the band comes in or not, that’s the version. I only realised a few years ago that we didn’t have a version out in the world where the band just doesn’t come in where it’s the studio version, so I made it and we put that on the deluxe!”
“[After the song came out] I was approached, like, ‘Do you need therapy? Do you need help?’ But the lyrics were more like storytelling. We were really inspired by films. I wasn’t writing from experience, the idea was we’d go into a horror movie zone, it’s like a ‘From the eyes of the killer’ vibe. That’s something I haven’t done that much since – a song that’s an idea of a story that isn’t my life, that’s more about a character. It could be fun to maybe get into a little bit again – it gives you the ability to go down different roads. But yeah, that wasn’t about me!”
“Rocky [Gray, ex-Evanescence drummer] was in a metal band called Soul Embraced and Tourniquet was presented to me, like, ‘Could you sing this?’ It had no melody, it was just metal. I was like, ‘I don’t know, let me try,’ and it worked. It started as a cover, but then if you’re getting somewhere, you need words. I remember changing some things to make it fit me. The ‘I long to die’ sample is from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. I was obsessed with that movie. I’m pretty sure we’ve not played it since 2007. I see fans that want it played and I’m always sceptical, like, ‘Do you just want it because you want to be the coolest old-school fan who wants the one thing that we’re not doing? Because what are we going to cut out?’ It’s hard!”
“Imaginary is one of my favourite songs. To me that was the core of our sound. I was writing poems as a seventh or eighth grader, and the part that’s like, ‘Swallowed up in the sound of my screaming’ was something I submitted to English class. It’s totally innocent, sweet, young, and dumb. I just felt like that song was a centre for the band in that it combined the orchestral and classical choir element so well with hard rock. It wasn’t classical in a cheesy way. It wasn’t melodramatic the way that Whisper is – when you get to that song, oh my God, it’s so over-the-top, it’s hard to keep a straight face! I still love it, but it’s just really super-dramatic. Imaginary is more straightforward.”
“As with Bring Me To Life, I was writing that one about [Amy’s future husband] Josh kinda too, secretly. A lot of my lyrics have double meanings. There is the main meaning and then there’s the secret, sub-meaning for me. The main meaning was storytelling from the eyes of the stalker – with the line, ‘You don’t remember me, but I remember you.’ It was sort of the prequel to Snow White Queen [from 2006’s The Open Door]. But the underneath meaning was that I was having all these feelings for this guy that I couldn’t tell him about. Why tell one story when you can two? I do that so often!”
“I found it healing for me to talk about losing my sister. It’s just about a day from that time, which was very impactful on my life. I lost my sister when I was six, and she was three. It changed my perspective forever. The challenge when you lose someone is not to focus on the sad and the scary things, but remember the good things. Even if it hurt, I would rather have known her than to not have known her and not have felt the pain. It’s interesting how things resurface at different times in your life. That was obviously the biggest thing in my life when it happened, but then it had this resurfacing when I was a teenager, because you’re growing up and learning about who you are, and how your heart and brain work. Emotions are huge, hormones are big. I just remember reliving it in a really big way at that time. I was really proud of that song. After it came out, I could see that it spoke to people who had been through great loss. It was so rewarding, because it was painful to do. I don’t think we’ve played it live. It’s not that I couldn’t, I’ve sung songs that go there. I guess in the beginning, it would have been too hard – I definitely felt overexposed and scared as a new artist. By the time I was ready to share like that, we were on to new music. But I’m sure I’ll play that live some day.”
“It was inspired by 9/11. Our label was in New York, and I remember being woken up because it was super-early there when the first plane flew in. We were all watching the news and calling people in New York. As we were talking to our parents, we saw the next plane hit, and were like, ‘Was that a replay? There’s no way this is real.’ When a really big thing happens, your idea of what is important becomes so ridiculously small and meaningless. It was written from a feeling of total compassion for the loss that people felt, but also imagining how scary it must have been to be in the building at the time.”
“I love how dramatic it is! And there’s a place for that. That was what we thought was our hit when I was graduating high school. When we did have a few gigs, that was our opener. We were playing shows, and I was like, ‘This is us!’ It’s very epic, very dramatic. No wonder I was so nervous getting onstage – I was like, ‘How do I live up to this ridiculousness!?’ (Laughs) So, when I get to the end of Fallen, my overwhelming final thesis is I’m so grateful. It is something bigger than me. I wouldn’t change anything about it. I had to go through that pain. We all have different lives that we have lived with this soundtrack being part of it. I’m just grateful to be part of that and I think I’m able to fully appreciate Fallen now in a way that I wasn’t previously able to. This is a huge gift.”
The 20th anniversary expanded edition of Fallen is released November 17.
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