Amy Lee Reveals How New Evanescence Album 'The Bitter Truth' Helped Her Heal After Brother's Death

Amy Lee opens up about Evanescence's first album in 10 years

amy lee of evanescence
Amy Lee. Photo: Nick Fancher

Evanescence is back with their first album in a decade.

Ahead of the Friday release of The Bitter Truth, frontwoman Amy Lee spoke to PEOPLE about the new album and its influences, reflected on the rock act's legacy and opened up about how she's spent time in quarantine with her family.

"A lot's changed, from perspective, to life experience, to the lineup itself," Lee, 39, tells PEOPLE of her headspace going into creating the LP with current bandmates Troy McLawhorn, Jen Majura, Tim McCord and Will Hunt, who documented the making of the album for Evanescence: Embracing The Bitter Truth, a documentary now streaming on The Coda Collection. "We wanted it to be raw and visceral, and it relates so much to the lyrical content and experiences that I'm drawing from. We're talking about being human, being broken and starting from that place before you claw your way back out."

As on past Evanescence albums, like breakout Fallen and follow-up The Open Door, The Bitter Truth tackles some heavy subjects.

Evanescence. Nick Fancher

"This whole thing has been very much about facing your fears and facing the things inside myself that aren't easy to admit. On a personal level, the biggest bitter truth is that life is short; we're not going to live forever," she says. "And in these moments, when we do have a moment where there's love and peace and good things — live in it and enjoy it, and embrace it, because it's not going to last forever. That can be a challenge when you're grieving, to not let it suck the joy out of the moment you could be living right now."

The Bitter Truth was party born out of grief. In January 2018, Lee revealed that her younger brother had died after a years-long battle with severe epilepsy; he was 24.

evanescence the bitter truth (2021)
Evanescence The Bitter Truth album art.

"Our music has always been a very sacred place for me to really just bare my soul. On the grief and everything, it has been really healing for me, having that outlet, to not only be able to pour my pain into, but also to be able to listen back, and reflect back, and see that something good was coming out of something so painful that honors the people we've lost, to still be able to stand back up and be your best self, and remember," Lee says.

"Not to throw it away and let it go and try to tune it out and pretend like it didn't happen — that's not what he would want. He would want me to be the best me I can be. And I know if he can see me right now, he's totally banging his head to this album and so proud of it."

Evanescence also waded into politics on the new album. With the track "Use My Voice" — which was released as a single last August — Lee urged listeners to vote in the election between Donald Trump and now-President Joe Biden. For the anthem, Lee teamed up with her peers Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless) and Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) to make a statement.

"I've always relied on women in my life. I've always had good, strong, grounding, wonderful women in my life that are and are not, rock stars. Being backed by supportive men is important too, and been a big, positive thing in my life as well — but there is something to be said for sisterhood. It's real," Lee says. "My actual sisters and my friends sang on the song, too. It is a beautiful thing that having the thought of, 'Hey, I want to express that we're many, that we're stronger together.'"

There's another young woman who Lee hasn't worked with (yet) but whom she says inspired her in the making of The Bitter Truth: Billie Eilish.

"I think she's just really, really good. [Her music is] dark and real and raw and authentic and bad-ass — and the spookiness, for sure. I hope she keeps making music for a long time. I would love to meet her sometime. She's at such a crazy high point. This is her big moment happening all around right now, so I'm sure she's just flooded with all kinds of people wanting to get a hold of her," Lee says, before adding with a laugh: "I'll wait until she's tired and has more time on her hands. Like, 'Hey girl, what's up? Come over.'"

Lee admits she wasn't always so open to collaboration because she felt she had to prove herself in a male-dominated industry.

"I used to be a lot more guarded about not having somebody [else] sing but collaboration with people. I had to prove myself as a creator, not as a singer. Anybody can imagine a sweet young girl as a singer, but prove to myself as a creator, and a writer, and the driving force and leader of the band. This time I'm so beautifully free from all of that," Lee says.

She didn't necessarily feel that way when debut album Fallen dropped in 2003 and shot her to fame.

"There were just so many older, more experienced dudes all around me who would stand to benefit and profit so much if they could write my next song for me. I had to fight that fight for way longer than that one moment, and way longer than I should have," Lee says. "Working with people, and surrounding yourself with people that believe in you — and really support you and get what you are capable of — is really important."

March 4 marked the 18th anniversary of Fallen, which, with hits like "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal," catapulted Lee and the band to the mainstream charts.

amy lee of evanescence in 2004
Amy Lee at the 2004 Grammys. Frederick M Brown/Getty

"It was a dream come true in a lot of ways. As far as the music and being received like that, I can't tell you how much it meant to me. I was the kid in school that was definitely not the one getting the lead in the school play, and definitely not the one with all the friends going to the football games. Not to be a jaded or whatever; I wasn't always putting myself out there. But I didn't think I was somebody who was going to be recognized for my talent," she says.

At the 2004 Grammys, though, Lee and Evanescence won two awards: best hard rock performance for "Bring Me to Life" and best new artist.

"It really set me on a path, and enabled me to have a career in music. That we had that time in the mainstream to let something that was different — and not just because I'm a girl — something that was different for a lot of reasons, something that was exposing some of the darker realities of life and growing up..." Lee says. "Taking pain and challenges in life and turning them into something that helps others is one of the greatest things I've been able to do…to have that be accepted by so many people."

amy lee
Amy Lee performing in 2004. Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Lee says her greatest accomplishment, though, is Jack, her 6-year-old son with husband Josh Hartzler, 43, a therapist. Last March, the rock-star mom was gearing up to go on tour when the coronavirus crisis hit the U.S. Lee immediately embraced her newly cleared schedule.

"The bonus is I got to spend a lot of extra time with Jack," she says. "We made slimes of every type. He's into science experiments and messes — huge messes. So we made some things explode."

Still, Lee is looking forward to playing music live again when it's safe to do so — and so is Jack.

"He thinks it's cool. He'd be on tour with us [pre-pandemic], and he gets that 'those fans like my mom,'" she says. "His favorite thing was going out onstage at the end every night and getting some applause. But at the same time, if I'm like, 'Want to listen to my song?' He's like, 'No!'"

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