Interview: Amy Lee, Terry Balsamo and Troy McLawhorn of Evanescence Discuss Gear and New Album
Singer Amy Lee and guitarists Terry Balsamo and Troy McLawhorn of Evanescence discuss songwriting, gear and their new self-titled album.
In 2007, after a five-year roller coaster that zipped out two multi-platinum studio albums, a live album, a string of tours and band lineup changes, Amy Lee decided to give her band, Evanescence, a break.
So for nearly three years, Lee spent time with her husband, Josh Hartzler, fixed up her New York home and experienced life.
“It was good, because I didn't make any kind of plan,” Lee told Guitar World while she was in San Francisco preparing to play the first U.S. date on the new tour. “I didn't think about what was next for Evanescence or me. I just thought if I get inspired, then I'll know.”
In 2009, Lee started writing and obsessing about music again.
“I started missing the band more and more,” she said. “I missed the guys and wanted to work together again.”
The result is the band's new self-titled album that was released in the U.S. on October 11. The album, produced by Steve Lillywhite and Nick Raskulinecz, wouldn't have sounded the same if it weren't for Lee's perfectionism and current band that includes lead guitarist Terry Balsamo, rhythm guitarist Troy McLawhorn, bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt.
Guitar World caught up with Lee, Balsamo and McLawhorn to discuss the break, the new album and guitars. During the interviews, Guitar World learned both Balsamo's and McLawhorn's early influence was Kiss. While Balsamo dug the flamboyant riffs of Ace Frehley, McLawhorn wanted to be drummer Peter Criss.
Lee, on the other hand dabbled in classical music and fell in love with the music climate of the 1990s. The new album reflects those influences, and brings Evanescence to a new level.
GUITAR WORLD: Who were the music heroes that made you want to play guitar?
Balsamo: The first thing musically that came into my life was Elton John, but guitar-wise it was Ace Frehley and then Angus Young.
McLawhorn: I'm not exactly sure. I started off wanting to be a drummer. I was a huge Peter Criss fan as a kid, but my dad and grandfather played acoustic guitar and there was always one laying around the house. I think I got more serious about the guitar when I was 10. We moved into a new neighborhood and this kid down the street who became my best friend throughout school was a really good drummer. He was eight years old and was already pounding the drums. So in an effort to jam, I started to pick up his dad's guitar and tried to learn "Crazy Train" or an AC/DC song. I joined Columbia House record club and got the first Van Halen album. Eddie was incredible and was a whole new level and a new ballgame. He's still one of my favorite guitar players. My top three guitarists are Eddie Van Halen, Billy Gibbons and Rick Nielsen.
As you started playing guitar more regularly, did it ever occur to you to play professionally?
Balsamo: It always seemed to me that something was going to come out of it. I felt that if I kept going after it, it would pay off. After I graduated high school, I asked (myself) if I wanted to keep doing it and then Pantera came along and that made me say, “Yes, by all means.”
McLawhorn: As a kid, you don't have a choice. You ask your parents and, if you're lucky, they'll buy you something. There was a little music store down the street and I saw this Lotus Explorer guitar. It was huge and I still have it.
What is your guitar of choice?
Balsamo: For many years it was my Ibanez and I still use Ibanez, but on this last recording, the producer kept asking me to use a Gibson. The Gibson was always something I would use while recording to get different tones, but I started playing it a little more live lately. I also love Charvel guitars. Every guitar we used on the song, we play live.
McLawhorn: If I had my choice, it would have been a Strat, Les Paul or an SG. For the past 10 years, I've been using PRS and Les Paul, exclusively. I also have a Fender Telecaster that I love, but I doesn't fit the music I play and I don't want to change out the pickups and get rid of that twangy sound and all that. On tour I'm using a PRS Baritone and a seven-string Gibson Flying V, they just came out with.
Tell us your experience making the new album.
Lee: We spent a lot of time together writing songs and we have tons of music. We have more than enough for the album and have a lot left for next time. We had a lot of writing sessions with me, Terry and Tim, this time. We also did a lot of writing as a whole band. All of us sat in a circle with our instruments and did jam sessions until we came up with a cool idea. Sometimes I come up with a start on my own and then we would collaborate, but it's awesome to have so many great musicians in the band. Sometimes I'll get an idea and not have that pressure to flesh the whole thing out by myself. There are four other people coming up with their own ideas, too.
Balsamo: We wrote a whole lot this time. There are two or three songs that we wrote together, things just flowed well. We were thinking the same thing, but we had to make sure we worked together, without us playing the exact same parts. So there is the same riff, but two things going on at the same time. During the recording process, we fed of each other and tried to make things really tight.
After taking that long break, did you feel the pressure as you began working on the new album?
Lee: There is always that pressure. I'm an obsessor. I want to make something great. We've already made two awesome records and I never want to put anything out that I think isn't better than what we last did. The challenge was finding the vision of what we wanted to do, because I felt a great sense of freedom creatively. After making those two albums, I felt like, "OK, I can do whatever I want, and if it is going to be a new Evanescence album, should it be a crazy departure?"
After a couple of years of writing and experimenting, we felt like we discovered the album.
Was there a question about you all playing together again?
Balsamo: I knew we would do it again, it was just a matter of when.
McLawhorn: After we finished the tour in 2007, we all went off and did other things. I didn't know what was going to happen. I had another band and assumed I was finished with Evanescence, but when things started going bad with the other band, I called Amy and she said she was ready to make another album and would love me to be a part of it.
The band's new self-titled album was released October 11 via Wind-Up Records. For more about Evanescence, click here.
Amy Lee is featured on the cover of the new November/December issue of Revolver magazine. She's also featured in the new 2012 "Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock" calendar, which you can check out here.
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