Amy Lee

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Amy Lee
Lee at The Wiltern theatre in Los Angeles, 2015
Amy Lynn Lee

(1981-12-13) December 13, 1981 (age 41)
Other namesAmy Hartzler
Alma materPulaski Academy
Middle Tennessee State University
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
Josh Hartzler (m. 2007)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • piano
Years active1995–present

Amy Lynn Hartzler[1] (née Lee; born December 13, 1981) professionally known as Amy Lee, is an American singer and songwriter. She is the lead vocalist and co-founder of the rock/metal band Evanescence.[2] She is also a classically trained pianist[3][4] and a multi-instrumentalist.[5]

Lee is musically influenced by musicians and artists of different genres, from classical artists such as Mozart[6] to modern artists like Björk,[2][7] Portishead,[6][8] Danny Elfman,[9] Korn and Tori Amos. Lee is the main lyricist and composer in the band[10] and won the National Music Publisher's Association's Songwriter Icon Award in 2008 for her achievements as a songwriter.[3][11] As of mid-2007, she is the only original band member who is still in the band.[10][12]

Lee is the spokesperson of the Epilepsy Foundation. She started a campaign called "Out of the Shadows".[13][14] She advocates for the "To Write Love on Her Arms" organization.[15] She was chosen as the 2012 recipient of the Luella Bennack award at United Cerebral Palsy's 11th annual Women Who Care luncheon for her community projects and social impact.[16][17]

Lee ranked at #69 in Hit Parader's list of "Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time". She was #49 in VH1's "100 Greatest Women in Music". She was listed by as one of the greatest female rock artists. She won the 2012 Revolver's Golden Gods award for best vocalist,[18] and was named the 2012 "Rock Goddess of the Year" in the Loudwire Music Awards.[19]

Biography[change | change source]

Lee was born in Riverside, California. Her parents were John Lee, a disc jockey, and Sara Lee (née Cargill).[20] She was named after the 1970s song "Amie" by Pure Prairie League. Her family moved to many places. They settled in Little Rock, Arkansas when she was 13 years old. She has two sisters, Carrie and Lori, and one brother, Robby. She had a third sister who died 1987.[20] Lee wrote the songs "Hello" and "Like You" for her late sister.[6] She is mostly of Scottish and English heritage. Lee recalls growing up around music and that she and her siblings, took music lessons.

It was strange to me and I kinda became obsessed with it because remembering who I was, I was like the quite girl in the corner and then I played the tape and everybody was freaking out. My teacher showed it to all the classes. It was a really cheesy song. [...] Seriously, it was so bad but for an eighth grader, they thought it was pretty impressive.

—Amy Lee on writing "A Single Tear, AOL

Lee first wanted to become a classical composer. She wrote "Eternity of the Remorse" on piano at the age of eleven. She describes it as a "depressing" and "dramatic" piece. Her first "real" song is "A Single Tear". It was written for an English assignment for eighth grade. She wrote the song and recorded it on a cassette with a friend who sang back-up vocals.

Lee studied at Pulaski Academy.[21][22] She identified herself as an "art nerd" or "choir nerd"[22][23] during her high school years and would listen to alternative and heavy metal music. She joined the school's mixed choir and sang as an alto. She became president of the choir council in her senior year.[22] At age 17, Lee wrote a choir arrangement called "Listen to the Rain". It impressed her choir teacher, who encouraged Lee to direct the choir's performance of the song. Her direction of the choir during her graduation ceremony received a positive reaction from the audience. This experience made her feel more accepted for her skills amongst her peers.[22] The song was also featured in Evanescence's EP Sound Asleep.

Lee described her school years as a "weird fit for [her]" and was "a loner for while". She believes that this is what inspired her to get into writing, which became an "outlet for all the bad stuff [she] was feeling". Lee was voted to be on homecoming court, but missed the announcement because she didn't expect to get chosen.[22] She graduated from high school in 2000. She briefly attended Middle Tennessee State University to study music theory and composition. She dropped out to focus on her band.[24]

Evanescence[change | change source]

Lee and Moody performing in Barcelona in 2003

Founding[change | change source]

Ben Moody first met Lee at a Christian youth summer camp[23][25][26] in 1994[27] and was impressed by her performance of the Meat Loaf song "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Will not Do That)" on the piano.[28] The two started writing songs together and performing at bookstores and coffee houses. After two of their songs were played on local radio stations, they became more popular in their area and were asked to appear in local concerts. The band went on to make two EPs, Evanescence EP (1998) and Sound Asleep/Whisper EP (1999). The EPs were distributed and sold to concert audiences.

In 2001, the band went to Ardent Studios in Memphis to mix a number of demos. There they met producer Pete Matthews who was impressed by their work and invited the band to move to Memphis and work on more songs while he showcased their demos to a number of labels.[24][28] After playing the song "My Immortal" to Matthews' friend Diana Meltzer at Wind-Up Records, she became interested in signing the band a record deal. The band moved to Los Angeles[26] once they were signed; however, because they were "still young and needed to be developed", they were enrolled in an artist development program for two years before they were given a producer to work with.[24] During this time, Lee was given classes in stage presence and movement. She also applied to become a waitress before Fallen was released.

Controversies[change | change source]

Evanescence performing in Le Zenith, Paris in 2004. Lee is depicted with guitarist Terry Balsamo, who replaced Moody as the lead guitarist of the band.

Lee was involved in a number of controversial issues with the band. Moody left the band in 2003 because of "creative differences" with Lee.[20][25][27][29] Moody later explained his reason for leaving Evanescence in an interview with MTV "If I stayed, I think Amy and I would have destroyed [Evanescence] because we just weren't heading in the same direction; we were pulling it in two different directions. It was bad".[30] Moody also revealed in an interview with Spin Magazine that he had tried convincing her of leaving the band instead "I had tried before, out of ignorance, pride, and resentment, to convince Amy that she should leave. That we'd be better off and Evanescence didn't need her" and followed this statement with an apology to Lee.[31]

Lee has not spoken to Moody since his departure from the band.[27][32] She stated in an interview with Blender in 2006 that she doesn't hate Ben, but they "need to just live [their] separate lives".[27] In an interview with MTV, Moody hinted towards his advances for mending their relationship by inviting her for a movie along with David Hodges. Though Lee didn't respond, a representative told Moody that she was actually considering accepting the invitation.

In 2005, former Evanescence manager Dennis Rider filed a $10 million lawsuit against Lee for breach of contract, which she responded to with a counter-suit for "breach of fiduciary duty" among other claims.[20][33]

In 2007, she fired guitarist John LeCompt and soon after, drummer Rocky Gray quit the band, making Lee the only original member left in the band. In a blog post, LeCompt claimed that Lee fired him through a phone call[25] without "any warning or negotiations" and "for no good reason".[12] Lee defended her choice, claiming that LeCompt "didn't really care about Evanescence at all, and just stayed around for the money" and that she fired him to save the band from being "driven into the ground".[34] Later, in an interview with Spin Magazine, Lee noted that both LeCompt and Gray's writing "didn't work for Evanescence" and believes they "got bored or frustrated" because of this.[35]

Lee often addresses these issues in interviews. In an interview with MTV, Lee noted that "there's always freaking drama".[24] However, since the line-up change in 2010, Lee has stated that the band has become "stronger" and more cohesive.[2][10][36][37]

Artistry[change | change source]

"Amy [Lee]'s songs and sound, a nearly mystical marriage between rock and classical, was formed by a curious duality. [...] The inherent drama in Amy’s music – a kind of audio odyssey that can turn on a dime from piano-led introspection to hammering guitar – has resonated with listeners everywhere. The music’s core, which ranges from subtle to aggressive, finds a counterpart in Amy’s passionate vocals, lyrics that forge a connection with audiences searching for identity or struggling with feelings of desire, hope love and loss."

—Legends and Lyrics on Amy Lee's songwriting[4]

Lee is the main lyricist and composer in the band, being credited as a songwriter in every song since the release of Fallen. She also maintains solo writing credits for songs such as Lithium and Lost in Paradise. Lee claims that during her years as a high school student, she would listen to music that was not necessarily popular at the time.[22] Her lyrics are often associated to themes ranging from hopelessness, introspection and loss to self-respect and empowerment.[3][4]

Lee is influenced by a variety of artists and genres. Her music is often described as a blend between rock and classical music,[38][39][40][41] possessing an emotional and dark character. During her early years, Lee wanted to be a classical composer after watching the movie Amadeus, which was based on the life of Mozart. She wrote her first classical composition on piano at the age of 11 and describes it as a "very dramatic" piece. She also named "Lacrymosa", a part of Mozart's Requiem, her favorite classical music piece.

She credits "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as her "number one biggest influence artistically in every way" and would often sing to "Sally’s Song" when she was younger. She cites Björk as a big influence. In an interviews with Revolver Magazine, Lee noted Björk's influence on her lyrics "The way [Björk] uses the English language, probably because it’s not her first language, she uses it for the way the words sound as much as what the words mean. That always inspired me. When I’m writing lyrics, I think that way, too. I want the meaning to matter, but the way they actually sound coming out your mouth matters, too". She also listed songs such as "Pagan Poetry", "Joga" and "Crystalline" as some of her favorite and most inspirational Björk songs.[42] Additionally, Michael Jackson was one of Lee's music idols as a teenager and considers him to be highly inspirational.[2] Other influences include: Portishead, Tori Amos, Nirvana, Korn, Marvin Gaye, Massive Attack, Depeche Mode and SoundGarden.

Lee's musical influences include singer Björk (left) and classical composer Mozart (right)

Lee has stated in several interviews that she likes to experiment with different musical elements and doesn't like "doing the same thing over and over again".[43] She has experimented with electronic music, most prominently in the first sessions of the pre-production phase of the bands' third album.[44] She has also expressed interest in folk music.[35]

Lee has been classically trained in piano for 9 years[4] and uses simple chords with left-hand backing in songs. She often includes the piano as a main or background instrument into the bands' music, most prominently in the album "The Open Door". Several music critics consider the piano accompaniment as a characteristic feature of Evanescence's music. Lee often plays the piano during live performances in selected songs, and has been known to cover songs on the piano as well, such the Korn song “Thoughtless”. She can play the acoustic guitar and has been training in harp,[5] lightly utilizing this instrument in the bands' third record, most prominently in the song "Secret Door".[45]

American recording artist Kelly Clarkson described Lee's concert performances as "intense" and thinks that she's "a beautiful vocalist, and has great taste in melodies and music". Clarkson also revealed through her Twitter that she would like to sing a duet with Lee.

Voice[change | change source]

Lee performing at the Maquinaria Festival in Brazil. Several critics praise Lee for her powerful and passionate vocal performances.

Lee's vocal range spans 3.6 octaves from a low A2 (2003 Fallen Vocal warm up)[46] to an E6 in full head voice (MTV Video Diary).[47] Her highest recorded note in full head voice is a C#6 in the song "Weight of the World"[48] and her lowest recorded note is a C3 in the cover of U2's song "With or Without You".[49] Lee's highest mixed note in studio recording is a G#5 in the collaboration with American rock band Halestorm's song "Break In".[50] Overall, her highest mixed note is a Bb5 in a cover of Michael Jackson's song "Dirty Diana".[51] Lee has also been known for her scream in the song "Tourniquet" also, in which is in the note of a D5.[52] In an MTV special, Lee managed to hit an E6 live during a vocal warm-up in full head voice, also showing that she is capable of reaching up to Bb7 through exclamation.[53] She is popularly classified as a full-lyric mezzo-soprano, though this has not been confirmed by Lee herself.

Lee is not professionally trained in singing and applies what she learned from her years as a choir member in high school.[54] Her lower to mid-range belts are often supported, if not resonant, and she can sustain notes in the 5th octave in all vowels. She also uses several vocal dynamics in her singing, most notably crescendos.[55]

Critics often consider Lee's vocals to be one of the highlights of the bands' music, describing it as "ethereal",[40][44][56][57][58] "dramatic"[59][60] and "haunting",[20][61][62] while praising its "powerful",[58][63] "crystalline" and "operatic" qualities.

Songwriting and lyrical themes[change | change source]

I write by myself initially [...] That's the way I've always written, just working on pure thought by myself. Then I bring it to the table with whoever I'm collaborating with.

—Amy Lee, MTV[64]

A very notable theme in Lee's lyrics is relationship struggles.[27] She often identifies various events in life with a story between herself and a lover, evident in the song "What You Want" which is actually inspired by her love for her band and fans.[65] She also writes about her actual relationship struggles, examples include "Call Me When You’re Sober", referring to her ex-boyfriend Shaun Morgan.[27][66] Additionally, she often incorporates dark and mysterious themes into the bands' music, and has mentioned that she is particularly fascinated with the idea of death and beyond.[44][67] She also resorts to imaginative and picturesque themes as seen in songs such as "Imaginary" and "Lithium". The songs "Hello" and "Like You" were written in honor of Lee's deceased sister.[6] Furthermore, Lee's songs are generally inspired by her life struggles and personal experiences.[27] "Bring Me to Life" was written after meeting a psychiatrist who understood her hidden feelings,[26] while "Snow White Queen" was written after a turbulent experience with a stalker.[6] She described her writing process in the song "All That I’m Living For", explaining that she mostly writes at night time.[6]

I live for the rock songs. With the line-up changing, I think a lot of people thought it would be more of the "My Immortal" stuff. But "My Immortal" was Ben [Moody]'s song! I was always trying to pull [Evanescence] in a crazier direction.

—Amy Lee, VH1

After Moody's departure from the band, Lee dismissed the public assumption that Evanescence's music would be softer and that "all the sappy stuff comes from [her]", explaining that Moody was "more about the pop influence and being commercial" while she wanted to do "the more artistic, weird thing".[64]

Lee wrote most of the bands' self-titled album with the fans in mind, describing her relationship with them through different lyrical themes.[68] She also explored more into global issues such as sex trafficking and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami for this album in the songs "My Heart is Broken" and "Never Go Back", respectively.[44][69][70]

Lee was honored by the National Music Publisher's Association with their 2008 Songwriter Icon Award, which recognizes outstanding songwriters for personal achievement. Lee received the award during the annual NMPA meeting in New York City and performed a song to the attendance as well.[3][4]

Image and style[change | change source]

Lee attending the Billboard Awards in 2003 in a dress she designed

Lee has an eclectic clothing style mostly inspired by Victorian,[25] Gothic and Japanese[71] fashion. She is known to design many of her outfits, such as the outfits she wore for the video of "Going Under"[72] and the dress she wore to the Noble Peace Prize concert in 2011.[73] She occasionally makes her clothes herself.[20] In an interview with VEVO stylized, Lee showcased and explained her fashion style, commenting that she'd rather make her own clothes because it's hard to find what she exactly wants elsewhere.[74] Lee stated that her daily style is very different from when she performs; describing it as "funky, spooky, cute" in an interview.[71] She explained that her on-stage wardrobe was meant to preserve the atmosphere of the songs and complete the image.[71] In another interview, she stated that when the band first started performing, she used to heavily wear corsets in fear of diluting the bands' image, but has gradually become more comfortable with her own style.[74] Her current on-stage style is often characterized by boots, a simple black tank top, a skirt and various ornaments and accessories.

Furthermore, Lee dyes her hair jet black. During the Fallen era, she used to use blue contact lenses and had a distinct piercing on her left eyebrow.[25] She has not used them since.

Many fans admire Lee for not using sex appeal in her music.[20][75][76] Lee frequently criticized women who are involved in show-business for abusing their positions as idols by sexualizing their image.[76][77] The song "Everybody’s Fool" was written by Lee to mock such celebrities after seeing how her sister was infatuated by this trend. The video to this song emphasizes how celebrities peddle lies through projecting an image opposite to who they are.[78][79]

In 2005, Lee came in 4th in Kerrang!'s 50 Sexiest People in Rock list. She was listed in Blender as one of the hottest women in rock in 2006, alongside other singers such as Joan Jett and Liz Phair. Revolver Magazine named Lee the #1 Hottest Chick in Hard Rock for their 2011 annual issue and she appeared on the front cover.[80] When asked about this in an interview, Lee responded "You have to look at all of that as just press. I'm not the hottest chick in whatever. I'm a normal girl and it takes a lot of makeup and retouching to make that cover look good".[81] She also came in at #9 in KROQ's 2011 list of "The Twenty Sexiest Singers of Female-Fronted Rock Bands".[82]

Personal life[change | change source]

Lee attending the 2007 Scream Awards.

Lee is married to therapist and long time friend Josh Hartzler. They were engaged on January 8, 2007, with Lee making the first official announcement on January 9. They were married on May 6, 2007 and through a post to the bands' fan club message boards, she announced that she was "officially Mrs. Amy Hartzler". Hartzler was the inspiration behind the songs "Bring Me to Life" and "Good Enough".

Lee was involved in a romantic relationship with Seether frontman Shaun Morgan from 2003 till 2005. Their breakup inspired Lee to write the song "Call When Me You're Sober" which she said was about "the big relationship [she] was in, and the whole breakup, which was really long".[66] Morgan responded to the song, saying that he was "really upset that she would say and do those things" yet "didn't feel the need to write back and be mean".[83]

When she was younger, Lee wanted to become a veterinarian, but lost her interest after seeing a dog surgery on the television. Lee mentioned that if she wasn't pursuing a career in music, she would have entered a field in which she could help people, especially abused kids. During the bands' hiatus, Lee was considering taking a job as a music teacher for children.[24]

Lee's hobbies include painting[22][32] and cooking. She sketched the design of the cover art for "The Open Door" and painted the cover art of the charity single "Together Again". She also hinted during a Q&A with fans that she wanted to start a cooking show.[84] Lee owns two cats named Stella and Shermie.[27]

In 2011, Lee explained that one of the reasons behind Evanescence's lengthy hiatus after the conclusion of "The Open Door Tour" was because she was feeling pressurized by her band duties, mostly due to the hectic schedule and quick rise to fame. According to Lee, she "just needed to get away from it" and "wanted to be a normal person for a minute" because her "entire adult life [...] was all about [Evanescence]".[24][85]

Social efforts[change | change source]

Lee became the American chairperson of the Epilepsy foundation in 2005, and started a campaign called "Out of the Shadows" to raise awareness about epilepsy. She gained interest about this medical condition because her brother suffers from epilepsy.

Lee supports and advocates To Write Love on Her Arm, a non-profit organization aiming to help people struggling with depression, addiction and self-harm. In 2010, she supported Restore Freedom, a campaign against sex trafficking, where she helped and advocated towards building a safehouse in New York that shelters and helps survivors of sex trafficking. She currently has page in the Restore NYC website in which she urges people to donate and help the cause.[86] Lee later revealed that being involved in this cause inspired her to write the song "My Heart is Broken".

Lee was chosen as the 2012 recipient of the Luella Bennack award at United Cerebral Palsy's 11th annual Women Who Care luncheon, which celebrates women who dedicate time for community projects and charities. In a statement released by the UCP of New York City, Lee was selected "because of her personal pledge to making life more accessible and understood by everyone", as well as for the "integrity" of her music that "inspired and transformed millions of women worldwide".[16][17]

Other projects[change | change source]

Lee collaborated with a number of artists and bands, including Korn (left) and Seether (right)

In 2000, Lee was featured in two songs by former Evanescence member David Hodges, "Breathe" and "Fall into You". In 2003, Lee joined artists such as Milla Jovovich and Maynard James Keenan in a discrete musical project for supergroup The Damning Well. She provided vocals on two tracks, one of which was a duet with former Filter vocalist Richard patrick,[87] but her vocals were eventually taken off the final release because of record label issues.[88][89] She also sang backup vocals on Big Dismal's song "Believe" from their first album.

Lee appeared in the Seether song "Broken" in 2004, where she performed a duet with Shaun Morgan. The song was featured in Seether's 2004 album, Disclaimer II, and soundtrack for the 2004 movie The Punisher. Broken was released as a single and Lee appeared in the music video wearing black wings.[90]

In February 2007, during an MTV: Unplugged session featuring the band Korn, Lee performed a duet with vocalist Jonathan Davis in an acoustic version of the song "Freak on a Leash".[91] MTV later released the song as part of MTV: Unplugged Korn, and became the first single off the album.

During Finger Eleven's opening act for an Evanescence concert in Providence, Rhode Island in 2007, Lee came on stage to perform the song "One Thing" with the band.[92] Additionally, Lee performed the song "Epiphany" with Staind's lead singer Aaron Lewis during the 2007 "My Coke Fest" held in Johannesburg, South Africa.[93]

When asked who she was interested in collaborating with, Lee chose Depeche Mode, Danny Elfman and Daft Punk. She further described a collaboration in which Elfman would write music similar to movie scores, while Lee would write the vocal parts and lyrics.[94]

Solo album[change | change source]

Lee hinted towards releasing a solo album since 2008. Lee told Spin Magazine that she wanted to prove she's "more than a one trick pony" and would like to do something different. She also mentioned that the music she was writing at the time was "nothing [she] would categorize as Evanescence".[35]

Lee performing in concert in 2011 during the "Evanescence" tour.

After writing much of the material for Evanescence's third album, Lee decided to scrap the songs and start over with the writing process because the songs were "not right for Evanescence" and had little involvement from the rest of the band members. However, in an interview with Pulse of Radio, Lee noted the possibility of using the discarded tracks in future projects "I think it’s totally possible that some of those songs will end up in a different project someday – maybe solo, maybe something else".[95]

Other appearances[change | change source]

Lee made an appearance on Cartoon Network in 2004, where she "did an interview with a puppet" and performed a "cheesy song on the guitar about Cartoon Network". She made this appearance for her brother, Robby, who was 10 at the time.[79]

She appeared briefly in the music video for Johnny Cash's "God’s Gonna Cut You Down" in late 2006. Each celebrity was allowed to choose what they would be doing for the video, so Lee chose to appear laying flowers on a grave. Her scene was recorded at Trinity Church and she was wearing a black velvet coat that previously belonged to Tim Burton.[27] In November 2007, Lee was one of the celebrity cameos in the VH1 mockumentary Rock Band Cometh: The Rock Band Band Story that was released to promote the game Rock Band.

Lee was featured in an episode of "Legends & Lyrics" alongside artists Gaven DeGraw and Dwight Yoakam, where she performed an acoustic set of songs, including "Bring Me to Life", "Lithium" and a previously unheard song titled "Your Love", and explained her musical style and songwriting process.[96]

Discography[change | change source]

Studio Albums[change | change source]

Live Albums[change | change source]

EPs and Demos[change | change source]

Collaborations and other songs[change | change source]

Year Artist Song Release
2000 David Hodges feat. Amy Lee "Breathe" The Summit Church: Summit Worship
"Fall Into You" Unreleased
2003 Big Dismal feat. Amy Lee "Missing You" Believe
2004 Seether feat. Amy Lee "Broken" Disclaimer II
The Punisher: The Album
2007 Korn feat. Amy Lee "Freak on a Leash" MTV Unplugged: Korn
2008 Amy Lee "Sally's Song" Nightmare Revisited
2011 "Halfway Down the Stairs" Muppets: The Green Album

References[change | change source]

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