Their fourth release Synthesis is the opposite of an unplugged effort — rather Lee has re-recorded the band’s old material an even more dramatic and bombastic manner, with a full orchestra and heavy electronics. That includes their breakthrough 2003 hit Bring Me To Life. And there’s something missing from the version you know — that rap, by guest vocalist Paul McCoy.
“God bless the rap, it’s part of what got us on the radio I guess,” Lee says. “At least according to all the rules of radio that I don’t agree with or understand. The rap wasn’t part of our original idea or sound, it was a compromise in many ways. So to be able to go back to the original vision for the song was great.”
It’s not uncommon for an artist to go back and record their songs — Lee embraced being to able to revisit the band’s signature hit after performing it live at every concert they’ve played since it was release. “The recording of a song that ends being the one you hear the most through history is usually when the song was just freshly written. You’re still learning it yourself and getting used to what the notes are and how the parts go. That’s true for Bring Me to Life for sure. After doing it live for so long there’s different vocal choices I’ve made and different things we got to use in this version.” And no rap. “I forget the rap’s there now to be honest,” Lee says. “At the time it was a big issue, it was our first single. I wanted people to understand who we were. That’s a struggle you always fight as an artist. If we only had the one hit, if no one ever heard from us again then nobody would understand who we were. We’ve made it past that point so the rap doesn’t make me angry any more. I’m so glad to put a new version out there without the rap though.”
Similarly there’s an adult version of another Evanescence anthem, My Immortal — like Bring Me To Life it’s been the subject of countless covers and soundtracked many moody memes. Lee admits My Immortal almost got cut from Synthesis. “People have heard it so many times, I’m pretty open about the fact it’s not one of my favourite songs, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to totally re-record it again.” Despite a “band” version being recorded for their 17 million-selling debut album Fallen, most fans and radio gravitated to the early version of My Immortal, which Lee recorded as a teenager sneaking into the studio her dad worked at after hours. “I hate that version. I totally hate it. It’s an old demo from before we were even signed. Every time I hear it gets under my skin, but that’s the version most people play. I love the album version we did. But I wanted to do a new version so people know where I am vocally as a 35-year-old with all of this experience I have now behind me. As opposed to when I was 17. It’s beautiful because it’s pure and innocent but I was definitely still finding my voice. [Source]
“I want this version to be at the top on Spotify, if someone googles My Immortal I hope this version comes up. At least for a few months!”
Synthesis is a passion project for Lee and David Campbell (aka Beck’s dad and one of America’s top arrangers) who has worked on each Evanescence album.
“It’s cool to create something people don’t expect,” Lee says. “I enjoy that probably a bit too much. I wanted to combine that classical, orchestral world and the electronic programming — both those sides have been in our music before, but this is making it all about those two extreme parts.”
By the time of self-titled third album in 2011, Lee had been through the wringer with the business side of the music business. Band members (including founders and songwriters Ben Moody and David Hodges) had left, there’d been legal wrangling with her record label who even rejected the first attempt at their self-titled release.
Lee had started saying in interviews Evanescence might be over, started doing solo work and in 2014 had her son Jack, to husband Josh Hartzler, the inspiration behind Bring Me To Life.
Last year Lee even released a children’s album with covers of everything from Sesame Street’s Rubber Duckie to the Beatles’ Hello Goodbye (with Jack on vocals) which shattered her intense goth image
“I wouldn’t say I hated the band, but I’ve more than once had to have that moment after the end of a tour or album cycle where I say ‘I think I’m done, I don’t think I want to do this any more, it’s too hard’,” Lee admits
“Between keeping everyone together and happy, all the politics, all the business, all the crap, all the people trying to take advantage of you — it felt a lot of the time I have to fight so hard just to do the thing I want to do which is make and perform music, That fight was a full time job in itself. I’ve gone over and down the mountain again a few times in my life where I was going to quit. But I’ve only said it to myself. I don’t like making big statements, I just like knowing I have the freedom that if I want to stop it’s up to me. Any time I start to feel those marketing thoughts like ‘This feels smart from a business sense’ I hate it, I can’t do it. It’s gross in my mouth.”
Lee is so excited about Synthesis she has formed a tour around the project, with Evanescence picking up orchestras in each state.
“There is a more expensive option which is touring around with 30 extra people but I am not on that level!,” Lee jokes.
The singer is also curating an opening set where the guest orchestral musicians will perform some of Lee’s favourite classical pieces that inspired Evanescence songs.
“What I want to do is what I want to hear from other artists and that’s something real. I don’t want to be sold anything. Left and right, all day on my phone, people are trying to sell me stuff. I don’t want to be part of that. I don’t want to sell something, I want to say something real.
“If that means I have to take off for three years and work out if that’s going to be another Evanescence record or some weird solo project or movie project, until it’s something real then I think that’s right. I don’t feel like that right now, I gave myself that space, I’m really passionate about this project. I’ve poured a tonne of work into it. I’m ready to show people to see what they think of it. And then trying my best to not care too much because if they don’t like it I still love it and I’m going to stand behind it.”
Indeed after being written off, next year marks 15 years since Evanescence’s break through.
“I’m very proud of who I am after all we’ve been through,” Lee says. “We’ve been through plenty of changes, plenty of horrible stuff. I feel like I trust my band. There’s a mutual respect going on, I didn’t have that in the early days. Things changed a lot of times — constant struggle and change. The dream wasn’t to be changing, it was to be set, have a family and a team. I feel like we’re at that place right now. That’s another reason I feel motivated to make more music and go out on tour. When the team isn’t strong and everyone’s fighting and it’s unhealthy it makes it seem to hard. If I’m not going to be supported I’ll just go and do something else. That’s not where we’re at, we’re in a good place.”