Pain, grief and social unrest are the common themes you'll find throughout Evanescence's latest studio album The Bitter Truth. Their first proper album in a decade, the collection of songs came from a place of both personal and societal turmoil.
And Amy Lee opened up about all of it to us.
In 2018, the frontwoman tragically lost her younger brother, Robby, who had been suffering from epilepsy since he was young. In early 2020, bassist Tim McCord's 16-year-old daughter died suddenly. Just weeks later, the entire world shut down due to the novel COVID-19 virus, and everyone was left in a state of uncertainty as the lockdowns were extended and the death toll rose.
These horrific occurrences may have been the end of any band, but not Evanescence.
"I think I've learned, yet again, that the biggest challenges and the biggest pains in my life are usually what lead me to music, and it's hard to admit this, but what tend to make the best work for me," Lee explained.
"And for me personally, music has always been my therapy, my catharsis, the place to pour it out and spin it into something good that I can love and reflect on."
But things were different this time around for Lee and the band — by the time they announced The Bitter Truth in April of 2020, they still didn't have all of the songs written. So, they released a new song and video every couple of months, and kept working.
Events that continued to occur throughout the year — like the murder of George Floyd and the removal of various Confederate statues around the country — seeped their way into Lee's mind and, thus, lyrics.
As a result, certain songs that sound personal on the surface actually have other layers to them. The verses in "Better Without You," for example, are each about a different aspect of Lee's life.
"Each verse is dedicated to a different person or entity in my life along the way. And they go in order," she told us. "I don't want to name-call, and I've carefully avoided doing that with this song and it's hard because they're about really specific things to me."
To learn more about the meanings behind the songs found on The Bitter Truth, continue reading the full interview below.
Congrats on the release of The Bitter Truth — how are you feeling?
Thank you, I'm feeling so happy that it's out. It's hard to really sum it up — awesome feelings of satisfaction. I'm really happy that it's out there and everybody's listening to it, it's cool to see the fans react to it and dig into it. We're going to be releasing our video for "Better Without You" (which came out on April 16), I'm so excited about the video!
So we're in a good, happy place right now. Looking forward to when we can be together again, for sure.
Obviously this wasn't your first record, but is the first new, original material you guys have put out in about a decade. Do you still find it nerve-wracking when you release new music, especially when fans have been waiting awhile for something new?
(Laughs) Well, I don't find it nerve-wracking as far as anticipating a reaction, I'm mostly just excited for that. It's just getting back into the groove of doing a lot of press and promo, and running around. And it's different nowadays with the pandemic because it's like, "Do your own lighting! Do your own audio! Do your own everything," and like, make it work from home most of the time.
So it's been a lot of work, but when you're working for something that you really love, it's worth it. I mean, it's fun. So I'm feeling good.
Have you seen any fan theories about any of the songs come up at all, and were any of them accurate?
That's a good question. I can't think of something off the top of my brain like that. I don't know, I feel like mostly they're just getting it. But you ask me whatever you want, and I will answer to the best of my comfort zone (laughs).
How did all of the personal tragedies that the band went through, and all of the events that have been happening in the world impact this album?
Those two things are literally the biggest lyrical catalyst for this time and for this album, particularly the grief. That's what started the whole thing. We started writing this album, focused on it, in 2019, at the beginning of the year. And I'm so glad we did, we had a bunch of writing sessions throughout 2019 in between touring, we'd just get together when we could and write. I was writing on my own, but just setting aside time as a band to write.
I lost my brother in 2018 at the beginning of the year, so that was just a really, impossibly hard life change. So I think I've learned, yet again, that the biggest challenges and the biggest pains in my life are usually what lead me to music, and it's hard to admit this, but what tend to make the best work for me. Not just grief, but challenges — things that are hard.
And the whole world has been going through incredible challenges over the last year, the last couple of years actually with everything going on, the pandemic and the fight for democracy in the world. All of that came at the right time, where I was coming out of grief. I'm still living in it, but processing it, and then this fire and this fight became a part of it. So the journey through all of that, that is the majority of what the album's about.
You kind of hit the nail on the head there because I was going to ask if you think that the best art seems like it comes out of a place of sadness and pain, since it is so cathartic for artists. And as you've called it — it's "writing to heal." So do you find yourself gravitating toward music that is more emotional?
You know, I don't even know if I can say it's "the best," but it's the deepest. It's the most meaningful. You have to go through something to have something to say that is going to touch somebody on a deep level. And for me personally, music has always been my therapy, my catharsis, the place to pour it out and spin it into something good that I can love and reflect on.
Instead of running away from all of the hard things in life, if I dive into them through music and really start pouring it out and processing there, it's like you're able to make it worth something. It wasn't just all a waste, because I have seen, over the last 17 years, with interacting with our fans how much that it can mean to them and help them connect and process and be something good in their lives.
Knowing that now, too, was something that pushed me forward in the times when I felt like it was too hard. Knowing that we were all going through something and our fans were down too and hoping for something, we promised we were gonna come out with a new album in 2020. We just all kind of made a pact at the beginning of the year when everything started getting shut down that we weren't gonna let anything stop us.
So how was your experience writing this album versus others in the past, and how do you think you've grown as a songwriter and a musician this time around?
We had to be brave. And you know, I have to say, it's weird to connect it to this, but Synthesis taught us something about being brave and trusting that something would work that we'd never tried before and just going for it.
I have always been the person who over prepares, practices for way too long before we get together, has everything totally run through when we're gonna play a concert that we've done before a lot of times. And I have broken from that routine so much in the past years.
Synthesis was important for us because we had to trust every day, the only way to do it was to work with a different orchestra every night. Having a different group of musicians onstage every single night was the only way to make that happen. You don't have time to have rehearsed the whole entire set with that group that day, and then play that whole concert that night, it's just not possible.
So we were literally playing the majority of our sets on that tour for the very first time with that group of musicians — without a click and everything else — just live in front of the audience. It was literally like a tightrope, like there's no way to know if something's gonna go horribly wrong, and we just had to trust that we were gonna be good enough musicians and performers to handle it and look at each other, and work through it and get to the next place.
Man, it was so satisfying, it was such a good experience, and it was so beautiful and rewarding. Part of the takeaway from that for me was to be confident and not to be afraid, and just to trust that we've got it in us to do what it is that we think we can do, that we dream of.
This year, going into it, we just started breaking rules. Before the pandemic even hit it was like, 'We don't have the whole album written. We just have a few songs and a whole bunch of pieces. We're not going on tour 'til March." That actually didn't happen, but we weren't planning to go on tour until last March (laughs).
Why don't we hit the studio for just a couple of songs and avoid burn out of having to have all of the songs before we go in, "Let's just go in for a couple of songs." It went really well, it turned into four and then we had to be apart for the rest of the album.
It was another one of those moments where it's like, "Okay, we can either have faith and just say 'Fuck it, I don't know what's gonna happen with the pandemic or when we're ever gonna be able to go back and get together again in person. But I have faith that we're gonna find a way to work it out no matter what. So let's go ahead and start putting singles out.'"
It was either that or just wait and go, "Sorry everybody, I know we said we were gonna release music, but we're not going to." I didn't want to be another disappointment. There was so much of it last year, I wanted to be something that was proof that life could go on.
So the decision was just like, "Okay, we're gonna go ahead. We're gonna put out 'Wasted On You' and make a video from home, and then release another one in a couple of months." And it wasn't just about not knowing when we were gonna get back together, it was that the songs weren't written, and for me, that's terrifying. Like, before the songs are written, we're already on a promo schedule and talking about the album, releasing songs already and like, the clock is ticking in a way.
That was a lot of pressure to put on ourselves, but it really was just like, "We're just gonna have to have faith in this. I know we can do it somehow. We always do. In the end it works out, it's gonna work out!" And thank god it did, we finally got to get together, most of us, last end-of-July. Jen [Majura, guitarist], we still haven't seen since those first four songs right before the pandemic lockdown.