Previous Evanescence Interviews
With the instant success of the band's debut album, Fallen, Evanescence has become one of this generations biggest rock sensations. The band later went on to release the multi-platinum The Open Door. After extensive touring on the album, front woman Amy Lee arranged and recorded the Danny Elfman song "Sally's Song" for the "Nightmare Revisited" soundtrack. The Gauntlet recently caught up with Amy Lee to discuss the album, music, and her thoughts.
The Gauntlet: What's new with you?
Amy Lee: Everything is good. I have been in New York for four days now since all the 'Nightmare' stuff in LA.
The Gauntlet: When you say 'nightmare' are you referring to the week in LA was a nightmare or you were here just promoting the Nightmare Revisited album?
Amy: [laughs] No, it was for the soundtrack.
The Gauntlet: So it all went well?
Amy: It was awesome. I think last week might have been the best week of my life if not one of the best of my life. There was a lot of stuff surrounding it. Leno went well but there were a lot of other things. I got to meet Danny Elfman and he is my hero. He was super gracious and awesome to me and invited me over to his house which was incredible. I also did the performance at the El Capitan which was a night in honor of Danny [Elfman]. As part of that, I got to play the song he had written many years ago. It was so awesome to see those worlds collide a little bit because of the movie and Danny Elfman having such an impact on my life. To do that homage and to not do it horribly was really, really great. Oh, and I went to Disneyland.
The Gauntlet: Was that your first time at Disneyland?
Amy: Yeah. I grew up in South Florida and went to Disney World as a kid but haven't been back in ages. I did Leno and the El Capitan and we had a day open in there. I had my husband and close friends with me; Will Hunt [not that Will Hunt from Evanescence] who produced "Sally's Song" and his wife. We had some time to kill and said "Let's go to Disneyland!"
The Gauntlet: I feel so jaded being from Southern California. On an average year, I go to Disneyland 15 times but there have been some years we've been over 50.
Amy: Where have I been!
The Gauntlet: I have two kids so it's not just for me.
Amy: That is so cool. That is more times than I go to the park down the street. I love Space Mountain. We had such a good time...actually we went twice. We were leaving, on our way to the airport in the car thinking about how it was the best week ever. I was thinking my only regret was not doing all the rides at Disneyland as we rode Space Mountain 3 times. I said 'What if we just go back to Disneyland right now?' We didn't really have anything going on the next day. Everyone was thinking about it saying it was crazy and we'd have to change flights. I called my manager and asked if it was possible to change the flights. He just laughed but made it happen. It was the coolest thing that has ever worked out perfectly. We were so lucky. We got to see the fireworks this time. It was so incredible. We spent the entire day on the rides. We had a blast. We went on Space Mountain three more times and rode all the kiddy rides.
The Gauntlet: Did you go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?
Amy: You know what, we didn't. We did everything else.
The Gauntlet: I can talk about Disneyland all day, but back to the music. Was Sally's Song selected for you?
Amy: I selected it actually. For a while I didn't think I'd be a part of "Nightmare Revisited." I talked to the music supervisor and he mentioned the album. I totally freaked out and he suggested I do a song. I just totally fan'd out. I told him that the movie was huge to me and he'd never find a bigger fan. He asked what song I'd want to do and I said "Sally's Song." There might have been one more that I might have done, but I really wanted "Sally's Song." They came back and said they had these three songs available but I didn't think they would really work for a female in general without really tripping them out. I decided not to do it as I just wanted to really do it great or not do it at all. I guess whoever was going to originally do Sally's Song backed out or couldn't do it and they called me. The coolest thing was there was no input or direction from anyone at Disney or the label. It was a very creative experience. I got to go home and think about it; all the things I loved about the songs and embrace and anything I could add 'me' to, the Amy flavor. I knew I wanted to play the harp on it so that was a cool thing for the first time. I texted Will Hunt, the producer and drummer, and we took a few days to do it. It was completely free and I think it is one of the best things I have done as it is untouched. Nobody thought about a mix and wanted some crazy mix or to make it pop or vocal it up.
The Gauntlet: Is it weird being a huge fan of Danny Elfman, who is a brilliant composer, and then having free reign to change his material around however you see fit?
Amy: I was a little conflicted and it was hard. This song was really short in the movie. I had to do something like add the chorus one more time or maybe put a bridge in there. It was something I was thinking about though. I was asking myself 'was it wrong for me to write a part to the song?' In the movie and the context of everything, it was a short thought of her thinking. Once I started working on it and that part came out, I loved the part a lot. I felt like I wanted this from the beginning. It was like a climax of the movie, watching her sing her part. In the movie, she is so restrained and she never sings the words all the way out. She is just meek. But for me when I would sing the song in my car on the way to high school, the teen angst came out and I just wanted to belt out my favorite part. I got to do that a little bit in the song. Where the bridge happens, that is the emotional peak. At the same time, the song is perfect how Danny Elfman wrote it. It has been with me for almost 14 years in my head. It doesn't feel like it, but I think I was like 12 years old.
The Gauntlet: Did Danny Elfman comment on your version of the song?
Amy: Yeah. I have only heard positive feedback which is cool. I didn't even realize when I did the song there would be a live performance. I heard later through the grapevine, who knows how reliable that is, that he liked it a lot. They said that he asked for me to be the act to perform at the El Capitan event also and that was flattering. It was really cool after I played the song. He gave me a 'you nailed it.' I was really nervous playing the harp parts as it was only my second time playing the harp in front of people and my hands were shaking so bad I thought I wouldn't hit the notes. The Tonight Show was the very first time playing the hard in front of an audience and I knew that was throwing a lot of extra pressure on myself. I didn't want to chicken out and not challenge myself. I have been working on the harp and love it. I have even been writing on it a little bit. I had the out to make it all piano, even though there is a little bit of harp on the song. I kept thinking about it more and more and didn't want to be stuck mastering the same talents I have had. I always want to improve and play harder thing. I want to play harder parts on the piano and challenge myself. I want to learn new instruments. I am proud of myself that I went the harder route. It was a really cool thing visually and it sounds beautiful. I definitely plan on playing the harp more.
The Gauntlet: Would that be a solo project or with Evanescence?
Amy: I don't know what is happening. I am at a point where I don't know what is next: a solo project or a film. I am really interested in film scoring. I always have been. I have just known that I needed to ride the Evanescence thing while that was going. I loved the Open Door and that was a big thing for me. I have always had a true love for writing music for film. I have my foot in the door enough and can meet people now. I just need to find the right project for me and one that I am passionate about. It could take a while. I am hoping for that and some people who have some faith in me and to write the music for it. Other than that, I am still writing songs. I don't know what they are going to be for though.
The Gauntlet: Did you pick Danny Elfman's brain a little?
Amy: A little bit. I didn't want to come off as a giant fan. We just talked about normal stuff though. I was going to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. I wanted to be a peer and not a kid.
The Gauntlet: Film scoring is a lot different though. Even though it is still music, the connection to the fans is gone. You score a song and there is no tour, just move to the next one.
Amy: Exactly. It is so emotional and dramatic. With our music, you can hear that. I am always picturing visuals and putting the biggest emotions next to each other. I love the big drums and big guitars next to each other, the fear and the anger and then drop it down to a vulnerable piano solo. You feel all these different things. I think I am making no sense, but I think that is what Evanescence always was. It is my life in a way but bigger and more dramatic. To score a film would be incredible for a lot of reasons but to capture the emotions of people and showing the audience how the characters feel is what makes the movie. I think the idea of being at home and writing music is wonderful. Writing a piece of music and saying ok, you are away, see you later, you are free. To not go on a crazy tour with that whole nutty life is a dream.
The Gauntlet: Is it a dream? You just described to me writing a beautiful and emotional song and then giving it away. It is now gone and no longer yours.
Amy: But it still is mine. My name is on it and I can watch it a million times. Instead of singing it over and over and over to the point where I no longer feel those feelings because they are verbatim will be refreshing. One of the main things that bothers me on tour is I can't say what I am feeling right then. I can't sing about what I am going through at that moment, I am singing about what I was going through three years ago. It becomes so monotonous. To be able to have that time to make something fresh and current... It has been so long since anything I have written has come out. So what people think of me or what they think I am feeling is where I was three or four years ago and that is always the case. It takes so long from writing the song to recording the song to touring. I am always singing about the past. It is fine as I am proud of my past and love the songs we have made. At the same time, it is not who am anymore or what I am feeling.
The Gauntlet: Was "Sally's Song" being credited to Amy Lee and not Evanescence a way for you to come out and launch a solo career?
Amy: It wasn't that. I don't know if I am going to do that. It is a possibility in my life that it might go that way. It is kind of natural with the way everything has gone with the band. It wasn't to make a statement though. It was all me. It is hard to say what Evanescence is per se. It is Terry and Tim now but the other guys have changed so recently. They knew it was a gig on the road and they knew they had to get another gig when it was over. Terry is having a blast playing in a band with the bass player from Limp Bizkit. In a lot of ways, it is the same as the last time. Between Fallen and The Open Door everybody went their separate ways. Then Terry and I wrote the record, pulled the band back together and made the record and toured. It isn't like we all live in a house together and write all the time and play video games. This song came to me and it was something I was passionate about. I did the arrangement and the instruments and it wasn't in anyway an Evanescence collaboration. I didn't want it to be false. I didn't want to call it Evanescence and capitalize on that because everyone knows that name.