Evanescence’s leading lady Amy Lee maybe basking in riches now, but it was a different story as a youngster.
The talented American pianist, who is touring Australia following the group’s second album release The Open Door, says she almost didn’t have piano lessons because her family couldn’t afford them.
“We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young and I wanted piano lessons really bad, but we couldn’t afford them,” the 25-year-old Californian said from Brisbane.
“I think most kids are forced into piano lessons, but I was begging for them I wanted them so bad I cried and eventually my parents called my grandparents who paid for me.
“I had piano lessons for nine years and it’s really paid off.”
It was this wise investment combined with the music of rocker Meatloaf, which contributed to the birth of Evanescence in 1994.
What started as Lee playing Meatloaf classic I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) on the piano at a youth camp developed into a unique musical prodigy.
Influenced by gothic metal, chamber pop and piano rock, the group’s first album Fallen featuring hits Bring Me To Life and Going Under, has sold more than 14 million copies worldwide.
Lee says she is surprised by the success of Evanescence, which began its Australian tour in Brisbane on Thursday and will play in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney before a concert in Auckland, New Zealand.
“You can’t expect it, it’s such an unpredictable industry,” she said.
“I remember the first time I got my passport to go to Romania to shoot our first video … that’s pretty cool. You never expect that.”
While she belts out hits about tragedy, loneliness and heartache, underneath her tough lyrical exterior is someone who, right now, is blissfully happy with her life.
Musically she feels challenged and personally she recently got engaged to her boyfriend of one year, Josh.
This happiness is reflected, at times, in The Open Door.
“It never has been all doom and gloom … but I am at a good place because when we wrote the music this time I listened to my own advice,” Lee said.
“I was being very direct with myself and I listened to the song for the 100th time and would hear my own voice telling me to get out of whatever situation I was in. I was unhappy and I never realised it.
“It caused me to make a lot of changes and do a lot of things that got me in a much better place. I am happier now then I have ever been.”
For Lee, writing and performing music is therapeutic and she hopes listeners find that too.
“It’s about something internal that everyone can relate to,” she said.
“It is about a lot of my experiences, my struggles and times I have been through that have been hard and how I deal with it.
“Lyrically, it’s getting stronger and I have become a stronger person over the years through the good and bad things I have been through.”
Recording The Open Door was an experimental process for Evanescence and Lee says while mixing metal with Mozart might sound risky, it was a risk they were willing to take.
“I think we made a lot of risky choices in terms of commerciality on the album and I think that is the smartest thing about it,” she said.
“You have to take risks. If you are always playing the safe side it’s just going to sound like everything else.”
Evanescence’s latest single, Call Me When You’re Sober, was a prime example of experimentation.
“Even our pop songs are kind of funny and sarcastic,” Lee admits.
“Call Me When You’re Sober is one of my favourite songs and it is very commercial.
“I was really pissed off and was just writing by myself at the piano and the words were just coming out of my mouth and I realised how funny they were because they were so blatant.
“I didn’t think the song was for the band, I was just joking around having a good time, making myself feel good. Now it’s a single.”
Lee’s voice is unique, although the constant strain of high notes and pitches do cause problems and her main priority is protecting her voice during long tours.
This means no wild parties.
“It can be quite annoying sometimes,” she said.
“I gotta be good, I can’t go out drinking the night before. It’s not so much about the drinking, but it’s like you go to a bar and everyone is talking loud over music, I can’t do that.
“The new music is more challenging then the old. It’s powerful and takes a lot of loud, hard singing. I have to push, but have to be careful not to push too hard.
“The notes are a lot higher and held out longer, using my range and ability, which is cool. I am proud of it because it’s challenging and I wanted to push myself as far as I could and make it more challenging.”
Sweet Sacrifice will be released as their next single.