With 17 years under their belts since their debut album, Fallen, invaded prom nights and every rock radio station across America, Evanescence have homed in on creating a hybrid of rock ’n’ roll and symphony. With powerhouse vocalist Amy Lee at the helm, the group have amassed an enormously dedicated fanbase across their four full-lengths. But after nearly two decades together, Lee did something musically she had never done before. For the first time in 2020, she released a socially charged track.
Several years into the writing process of “Use My Voice,” Lee determined she’d finally had enough and dedicated the group’s latest single to provoke people to stand up and fight for what’s right. Despite the pandemic delaying the track, Evanescence teamed up with HeadCount on the release of “Use My Voice” to promote voter registration and turnout for the upcoming Nov. 3 presidential election. As the election approaches, you can confirm that you are registered to vote and find out information from HeadCount and Evanescence’s partnership website.
Lee spoke candidly to Alternative Press on writing a social awareness track for the first time in her life, why she was inspired to do it and the crucial importance of voting this year. She even made sure to vote early—that’s how much this means to her.
“Use My Voice” will be featured on Evanescence’s fifth album, The Bitter Truth. But this is the first track you’ve released that promotes social awareness. After all of these years being in Evanescence, why was it so crucial for you to release this track now and promote this message?
Much earlier this year, I finally got to a place where enough was enough. I have rules for myself that I follow. But then, when the time is right, you have to be able and willing to break your own rules when it’s the right thing to do. And never saying a word about anything political, it’s just always been my thing.
I want music to be a place where we can unify, which we always need. I think there’s something really beautiful about people, all kinds of people, all ages of people, all genders of people, to be able to come together in music and escape. Differences don’t matter when it has to do with something so core: Your heart [and] your spirit is moved enough by music that you want to be in a place listening to it full blast and experiencing it together live. I think that is sacred and beautiful, but I don’t think anything that we’ve done has to change that. It’s a beautiful thing, [and] music can still unify. I listen to artists with all sorts of different beliefs that I don’t agree with. That shouldn’t matter. But more importantly, I felt convicted this year.
This song had been building, and I actually had started writing it a couple of years back. And just as time went on and as we’ve watched the corruption and abuse of power in our world and in our country, more and more of the injustice, it just got to a boiling point with me where lines just kept coming out. There must be a new line like, “Well, I got the second verse now.” And I finally got to a point where the lyrics were written, and we were recording the song.
Listening back, I felt this weight on me that I wasn’t doing what I said in the song because the song is saying, “Use your voice. Don’t just stand there, don’t be silent, don’t let this go by.” And I still hadn’t said a word besides the lyrics in the song about how I felt that things are so messed up right now. So out of that conviction, I was like, “That’s it. We have to do something. We can’t just sit here.” And it’s not all about social media blasting [and] lighting things up.
Having a platform [and] having people that are willing to listen to you, I take it as a big responsibility. I feel like it’s really important to show people that we need to be respectful of all other humans, and we need to care for each other. And at the same time, we have to stand up for what’s right. I have been trying to do my best to do those things at the same time. And I absolutely love our music video. We were able to do it in the midst of everything, [and] we were able to do that safely, somehow.
The power of all the people that were a part of this with me, so many people stood up and were part of making the song video. So many of my girlfriends came together to sing on the track and even appear in the video for a minute. I hope that we can show people a spirit of unity, strength and fighting together for what we know can be better. We are better than this.
You mentioned that you had an original inspiration behind why you decided to write this. What was that inspiration? And what was your breaking point where you said enough is enough?
The first thing that made me put pen to paper was actually this impact statement by Chanel Miller, who was a sexual assault survivor, and she was in this long, grueling trial. I feel like there’s a lot of things about our system that are broken, and the legal system is a huge part of that. Just watching, there are so many ways you can take advantage of that system if you have the money and if you have the power. That was something I was watching happen with the story. But at the end of it all, she just stood up and had written out this amazingly powerful and raw impact statement, and she just read it straight to her attacker. I read it, and I just cried. I felt so moved. And what struck me the most about it, the central point that I took away, was her voice was more powerful than anything else in that room. Any of the lies, anything they could throw at her, the truth of her experience was way more powerful, just the strength. And it does take courage just to stand up and speak plainly and speak the truth. That was the first inspiration for me in that first verse when I wrote it. Then the song just grew over time.
I don’t know if there was one specific thing, but when we were finishing up the song in the studio was when the impeachment trial was going on. We were all watching it, really caring. That whole thing has gotten wildly out of control. We were all getting so frustrated and feeling like we were in the Twilight Zone like, “Are we really watching this go down?” It just feels wrong. There’s so much about it that feels like things aren’t going the way that they should go. Justice isn’t being served. The facts seem clear. But it’s not enough.
Then the title of our album being The Bitter Truth. What I crave more than anything is just the truth. The truth can be ugly, but it’s better than a beautiful lie. We need to be able to know what is real. We didn’t know what we’re up against if we’re ever going to defeat it. So that moment for me was when it was like, “OK, we need to do something. We need to make this about voting.” To partner with HeadCount, that’s been amazing. I really do feel like we have been able to be a small part of helping get the word out and encourage people about how important it is to vote this year.
You mentioned earlier that you’ve got some prominent, rock ’n’ roll women on this track. Lzzy Hale, Taylor Momsen, just to name a couple. What did it feel like getting to collaborate with these women on something that not only has such a social and political message but is also such an anthem for women?
It feels humbling, honestly. Especially to hear and see it all back and have it all summed up in a few minutes and just feel that love from the women in my life. It just happens to be that I have a lot of friends that are amazing female singers. But along with those rock stars like Lzzy Hale and Taylor, there’s also my sisters and my guitar player, Troy [McLawhorn]’s wife, Amy, and Lindsey Stirling. People from all over my life. I have to mention Deena [Jakoub] because this has been such a girlfriend thing. This whole project has been about the strength of relying on each other and standing together and supporting each other. Deena is from a rock band named VERIDIA, and we’ve toured together. She came over in a moment when I was stuck writing at the end of last year, and I was just showing her some ideas that were unfinished. We were swapping stories and listening, and we landed on “Use My Voice,” which wasn’t finished. I was like, “I don’t know about this chord progression, I might throw it away,” and she was like, “No, wait. I love that progression. But the melody needs to go like this.” And she just started riffing, and I was like, “Oh.”
Then I got the idea [that] we should get a whole bunch of girls to sing on this and do this gang vocal. And it just broke the whole thing open and made it more of a women’s anthem. Everyone should be standing up right now and fighting together. But I am from a woman’s perspective, [and] that’s who I am. And that’s the road I’ve walked on. And the battles I fought have been from that place. When it comes to women and rock, we’ve all had to fight a lot of those same fights and just exist in a world where we’re different, and we have to prove ourselves more. All we want to do is lift each other up, work together, support each other, get the word out on each other’s work, whatever we can do to cling together and help us all, just exist and prove that women need women. Women love women, women support women. That’s really powerful. And I feel, even though it’s our song, I stand there singing it, and I hear that wall of sound, those voices with me, behind me, next to me, and just feel that power of their support. And I feel loved and touched by it and really grateful for anything.
Absolutely. How do you hope “Use My Voice” will inspire the rest of the music industry? Obviously, “Use My Voice” has been the anthem for HeadCount and for voting this year, which has been incredible. Once the election is over, at least from my perspective, I’m hopeful that this song will continue to act as an anthem beyond our political system.
Yes, I hope so, too. To me, there is a spirit that exists for women in rock and in myself. That is about going against the grain being a good thing. I came out of the ’90s when being different was cool. And it’s not that it isn’t still, but [with] the alternative scene, the grunge scene, everybody [was] just doing weird things. That was the best. And there were tons of women in that world and tons of women in the rock world. I don’t know exactly what happened. But somewhere, right at the beginning of the aughts, rock went in a more masculine direction. Suddenly, being a woman was being a rebel. I just have never looked at that as a downside, ever. I’ve always looked at it as a strength. Something that makes you unique, something that makes you different, something that makes you stand out. That’s a good thing.
As far as rock’s concerned, I recognized that whole goth thing can’t be denied. And I love it, honestly. That’s just the music that I like. And I’m not going to change to please somebody else. And to me, that heart, that spirit—that’s what I grew up believing. Rock was not doing what you’re told, not doing what you’re supposed to do to fit into the box, [but] doing the things that are you. And having no shame or apologies about that. Because that’s rock ’n’ roll. I think that women in this moment are carrying that torch to a degree in our genre. At this moment, with this song and other ones like it, to be able to stand up and make a statement, I’m proud to be one of the voices that is saying that with their art right now.
For people who haven’t gone out to vote yet, do you have a message to them?
It’s never been more important. We need to all vote. We need to all use our voice so we can be represented as a whole. The only way it can work is when we all chime in. We can all be representative. We all speak up. This isn’t about just you. It’s about everybody all together. And that’s what makes us a free country. We make the decisions. We choose our leaders. So it’s our responsibility to do that. It’s going to be worth it in the end if we do. So go do it. Get it done. It’s totally worth it. We need to make things better.