When Amy Lee recorded Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as a one-minute trailer for the Gears 5 video game, she did it as a solo project. But she knew right away that she wanted to turn it into a full-band track with her group Evanescence.
“It’s something I [could] totally visualize as a band,” she says. “We all love Fleetwood Mac, so I asked if we could do a full song, and they were stoked about that. We took it and ran with it.”
Since its Nov. 22 release, “The Chain” has hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Digital Song Sales chart, selling 10,000 downloads and logging 963,000 streams, according to Nielsen Music. When recording the track, the band put a whole orchestra on it, whereas such effects heard in the trailer are synth-based.
“Being able to take it all the way by having real, full orchestra is something that I’ve always loved,” says Lee (who conversed with Billboard prior to the riot that occurred Nov. 30 at Knotfest Meets Forcefest in Mexico City, after Evanescence and Slipknot canceled their sets due to safety concerns). “I really feel like part of our sound is that living, breathing orchestra, that sort of cinematic score element. I am a little bit of a nerd and was influenced by classical music at an early age, so for me, that’s part of what takes it all the way from making something into an Evanescence song.”
When Lee has an idea or is approached about an endeavor such as the trailer, the “vibe and spirit” are what indicate to her if it would fit either as a solo project or an Evanescence song. Lee says “The Chain” won’t appear on the new album the group is now writing with the intent to record and release in 2020.
“I am the thing that has been the constant and I am the core writer for Evanescence since the beginning, so in a way it’s like, ‘Well, then we can do whatever I want,’” she says, while also recognizing that “there is something about our brand and our band that’s much bigger than myself, and it has been a collaborative effort by many people over the years.” She feels that part of it is “the heart, part of it is the production and the instrumentation that can always be added — but I think that from the core, for me, some songs feel like Evanescence songs, [and] some don’t.”
“The Chain” also is a stopgap for the band in regard to releasing a single. Evanescence’s last such release was& “Imperfection” from 2017’s Synthesis — where it recast previously recorded songs with complete orchestration — which reached No. 29 on Rock Digital Song Sales. The last brand-new song the act released was “The Other Side” from 2011’s Evanescence; it peaked at No. 36 on Mainstream Rock Songs.
Lee says “The Chain” won’t appear on the new album the group is now writing with the intent to record and release in 2020. “It’s just something that came up that we wanted to do,” she notes. “We’re in a cool state right now of awesome multitasking ’cuz we’re off and on tour, then we’re also writing for the new album and taking cool little opportunities like this one to make a piece of music for something else.”
The act carves out space to write during times like the beginning or end of a tour, and also works through online file sharing. Lee enjoys the energy of collaboration, but also likes to “reflect and create new music by myself without a ticking clock, you know — just when inspiration strikes, just to flush out ideas in my own time. But then that’s cool because we can share ideas with each other while we’re apart and think about ’em separately, then come to the table for our next sort of band camp with ideas about something that’s already started.”
Lee anticipates that instead of staying in one studio from start to finish, Evanescence will take a piece-by-piece approach to recording. “We’re going to get a few songs that we know we’re ready to record that we love and go into the studio with a producer,” she explains. “Then we’re going to keep working and maybe try out a different producer on those couple songs.” She’s also considering not releasing all of the songs at once — but Lee calls Evanescence “an album band,” meaning that “at the end of the project, there has to be a full album for us. I just feel like that’s who we are.”
Although writing is in the early stages, Lee feels like things are in a good place. “We have a nice collection of songs, and a vibe and a theme is starting to develop, and I’m really excited about where it’s headed,” she says. “I don’t want to give too much away because it has a long way to go, but we’re definitely in the mood to rock. It’s dark and heavy.” Given that it has been eight years since Evanescence’s release, Lee feels it’s important to show how the group has grown, as well as capture what it is now. “I’m excited to wrap all that up, but we’ve been enjoying kind of erring on the heavy side right now because we just came off of Synthesis. It feels like it’s time to get in there and go for it.”
Lee attributes part of that growth to the addition of Jen Majura, who joined in 2015 after guitarist Terry Balsamo left, and she’s quite happy to have her. “She has added a lot to our live shows because she’s the singer. It has been a really awesome thing to have live background vocals for the first time,” Lee enthuses. “I am such a fan of layered vocals, and to have that better represented at our show has been a cool breakthrough for me. And also, she’s just rad energy. She’s got a great attitude, fun personality, very engaging, killer onstage, so she has been a fun addition to our family. And of course, it’s awesome having another girl in the band for the first time.”
Speaking of having another woman present, Lee also is uniting with females on the road. During the 2017-2018 Synthesis Live tour, Evanescence split headlining slots with violinist Lindsey Stirling. Come next spring, the quintet will pair with Dutch symphonic metal act Within Temptation, which is fronted by vocalist Sharon den Adel, for the 2020 Worlds Collide Tour that launches in Europe in April. “It’s on a larger scale than we’ve done in a while,” says Lee of the production values, “so I’m excited to bring some really big production into the game we haven’t had in a minute.”
Given that fan demand sparked the tour — both sets of followers had suggested the lineup — will Lee and den Adel join forces onstage like Lee did with Stirling during the Synthesis Live era? “I don’t have an answer for that because we need to talk about it, but I would love to,” admits Lee. “We need to have that conversation to see what we’re going to do out there.”
She says she was fairly unfamiliar with Within Temptation until last year, and when Evanescence checked out one of the outfit’s live shows, she says they were all blown away.
“It makes me feel a special kind of pride to share the stage with another powerful female [like Sharon] and to watch her do what I do,” says Lee. “I feel proud and inspired when I watch other women do amazing things onstage, and I was very impressed by her performance — and excited for us to be able to go on tour together, so that we can be a part of that every night.”