When I was asked by Mercury culture editor Blair Stenvick if I would like to interview Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee and Halestorm frontwoman Lzzy Hale ahead of their November 5th Portland show, I wanted to decline. Interviewing was hard in good times, and I am like many people in that my people skills have been completely obliterated by the last year and a half. I’m much more self-conscious and weird in ways I won’t be able to wrap my head around for years. And I’ve never been into that wing of hard rock anyway. “No” was the obvious response.
But something told me that if there was anywhere I could dust off some social cobwebs and be an awkward weirdo, it would be with these legendary rock goddesses. And friends: I was right!
I spoke with Lzzy and Amy over Zoom; they were both in Nashville, rehearsing with their respective bands. Their Portland show is the kickoff for this tour, which is the biggest metal tour of the year and the only one co-headlined by woman-led bands. Amy and Lzzy have been IRL friends for years and have collaborated on various projects before this, and they were as kind and warm and professional as they are metal as hell, which is extremely. They got real with me about supporting women in rock, creating music at the end of the world, confirming that Portland is special, and giving me a lil pep talk.
Here are some highlights of our convo.
Mercury: Is it good to be back to doing stuff?
Amy Lee: Oh my god, so good. This is literally our first time to be all together as a band, since the record was done, since the pandemic started. So we all were finally in the same room at the same time just starting a week ago, and I can’t tell you how good that feels. So yeah, lots of excitement over here. We’ve been looking forward to this and dreaming of this and plotting this and dreaming about the set list for months, but to finally be in a room playing our music feels incredible. I cannot wait until the show.
Lzzy Hale: That must have been so emotional, Amy.
Lee: It was.
[See: so nice!]
Are there jitters? Or just joy?
Lee: I was feeling more nervous before we got together and then when we did, it just all melted away.
Hale: Yeah, what Amy said—this is home, this is where I'm supposed to be. I’m equal parts nervous and excited about it. I keep calling it the beautiful panic. I like feeling that way because I feel like if I ever go onstage and don’t feel that way I will have lost the fire.
This tour is co-headlined by two women, there’s another woman in Evanescence now—how is this different? What’s the vibe like? I’m feeling a lot of…
Lee: Girl power! Chicks rule!
Lee: I believe in supporting great musicians and that is Halestorm. In addition to that, she’s my sister. Both of us are all about lifting up people that we love, other women, and especially those just starting out. We’re having Plush open for us for half the tour, who I’m really excited about. They’re a new all-female band that’s really kickass. This is their first tour. It’s like reaching back into the past and giving ourselves a leg up and a high five, and like, go for it, girl. We want to pay that back.
That’s so awesome. Now talking about your new music, and the pandemic. Different people have different creative processes in how they worked through the pandemic. Like for me as a writer, my creative process was just to not write and do nothing. How easy was it for you guys to write music and be creative during this crazy time?
Lee: [laughing] It was hard!
Hale: I mean for me, we began writing this album before the pandemic hit and then I feel like I lived about three different lifetimes through that. And then we just recorded our last song for the album yesterday.
Hale: I know, right? In a lot of ways writing kind of saved me. First and foremost I love live music and touring and being in the bus and the whole thing. And since I was 13 when we started the band, we had never gone this long without a live show. Because even when I was 13, we had two bowling alley shows a month, which I totally would have taken during the pandemic.
So in a lot of ways writing music was just the outlet. It’s where I could put all of my fears and my doubts, trying to reconnect with the person I am off-stage because I hadn't seen her in a while. It’s just the power of music, man. You reconnect with why you really love music. And what I discovered is, it’s not about the whole “I wanna be a rockstar” thing, it’s not about the live show, it’s not even about the fans and the radio and whatever it is. It’s my thing. It’s a part of me.
Lee: Yeah it wasn’t easy for sure. But the challenge was inspiring. It really made me realize how much I needed music and how much we wanted it. All of us. We want this bad enough that we will create a situation where it is going to be possible. Rethink everything. Rethink comfort zones….kind of like when you’re making it the first time.
Like when you’re doing the first album, like, "I don't know what I’m doing! How do we do this? Let’s find a way!" And you find your process. Having to do all that again took me back to that drive and discovering from a deep new organic place. It still comes out of your heart like, this is a part of who I am. This is something I need for me. And I think having it during all the chaos and anxiety of the last year and a half was a complete life-saver for everybody in this band.
Well, I am so excited you’ll be in Portland and that we are the kickoff show. I’m sure there was some geography that went into that decision. but I'm going to assume it’s just because we’re special.
Lee: You are! I love Portland! It is geography, but we all love it there and we’re gonna be doing some more rehearsals there so it will be a cool place to start. But yeah, that first show is the one— you asked about jitters, yeah, they’ll be there.
Hale: You’re going to be seeing us when we’re at the height of our emotional—whatever it is, it’s going to be at its peak.
I closed the interview by thanking them for their time and for being so nice, and shared that I’d interviewed a jerk before and was still a little traumatized by it. “Don’t let them break you!” Amy reassured me.
I’d listened to nu metal exclusively for the last several weeks in anticipation of this interview, expecting to feel a little aggro for it. I did not. In fact, both Halestorm and Evanescence’s new stuff is almost painfully earnest and full of hope. Do they appear in music videos to look like ghosts who would fight you? Yes. Do their actual lyrics and demeanors make them seem more like the kind of ghost that is your dead grandmother who is returning to your childhood bedroom to tell you to believe in yourself? Also yes.
You can see Evanescence and Halestrom this Friday, November 5, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Get tickets here.