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The awakening
Amy Lee on bringing Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me to Life’ to life

When Evanescence’s "Bring Me to Life" hit #1 on the alternative-radio charts, Amy Lee, the 21-year-old singer of the Little Rock group (who’ll be at Avalon this Sunday), became the first female vocalist to have achieved that status since Courtney Love in 1998. The song, which originally appeared in the film Daredevil, has remained in the Top 30 since its release, and it drove the group’s debut album, Fallen (Wind-Up), into the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart, where it’s remained for the past 26 weeks. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re already familiar with "Bring Me to Life," a dark, haunting, rapturous anthem buoyed by Lee’s heart-rending chorus, which she sings in a voice that sounds as if Tool’s Maynard James Keenan had been reincarnated as Sarah McLachlan, and punctuated with a rapped coda by Paul McCoy of the Christian-rock outfit 12 Stones. It gets its lift as much from Lee’s dramatic delivery as from guitarist Ben Moody’s power-ballad thrashing, and its lyrics, testifying to an emotional awakening, could be about finding God as easily as they could be about finding one’s way out from under His thumb.

Lee and Moody, who met at summer camp in their teens, spent a couple years writing most of Fallen in Los Angeles, and at the time, "Bring Me to Life" didn’t stand out. "I was inspired to write it when someone said something to me — I didn’t know him, and I thought he might be clairvoyant," says Lee from a tour stop in Tulsa. "I was in a relationship and I was completely unhappy. But I was hiding it. I was being completely abused and I was trying to cover it up; I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. So then I had spoken maybe 10 or 15 words to this guy, who was a friend of a friend. We were waiting for everyone else to show up, and we went into a restaurant and got a table. And he looked at me and said, ‘Are you happy?’ And I felt my heart leap, and I was like, he totally knows what I’m thinking. And I lied, I said I was fine. Anyway, he’s not really clairvoyant. But he is a sociology major."

The rest of Fallen is of a piece with the billowing, gothic melodrama of "Bring Me to Life," only more so: Lee’s piano playing comes to the fore, and several tracks make even more sweeping use of a string section arranged by Beck’s dad, David Campbell, and a full chorus directed by Lee, who took up classical piano at nine and had an illustrious choral career in her teens. ("Choral direction is kind of a hobby for me," she notes.) She admires singers like Keenan and Deftones’ Chito Moreno: "They’re incredible. It’s the same sort of vocal writing style: those long, drawn-out, almost slow-motion notes over fast riffs." And she shares with Tori Amos, another classically trained pianist, a penchant for wrenching, thorny imagery. "I love costumes. I try to make our live show like a piece of art. I hate to say acting, but it’s trying to get across to the audience what I meant when I wrote the song.

"I just got a costume back yesterday that I designed. It’s a doll’s dress, like Alice in Wonderland, but instead of plain and blue it’s white and pink, and written all over it are these horrible mean curses, like something innocent that was ruined — ‘whore’ and ‘bitch,’ dirty awful things, ‘I will make you suffer.’ It’s about domestic abuse. And sometimes I like to open the set with this ripped-up vintage-wedding-dress thing."

Lee’s classical training led her to a love of "serious, dramatic, visceral music" — "people don’t realize how similar death metal and classical are," she enthuses — from Nirvana and Soundgarden to pop and R&B. She wanted to attend Berklee College of Music but couldn’t afford it; she still hopes to go back to school to learn enough to allow her to score for the movies. "We’re in a really good place career-wise. I have no worries, and the main reason is that if this would all fall through, I’ve got other stuff I wanna do. But as long as this is working, I’ll ride it out and make more music."

Evanescence perform this Sunday, September 14, at Avalon, 15 Lansdowne Street; call (617) 423-NEXT.

Issue Date: September 12 - 18, 2003
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