Evanescence’s Amy Lee Opens up About Motherhood, the Children’s Album Her Toddler Helped Her Write, and Prepping for Tour

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Evanescence singer Amy Lee is famous for her fiery, impassioned vocals on songs like “Bring Me to Life” and her powerful presence as a front woman for a goth-metal band.

But for an adorable two-year-old named Jack, she’s just “mama.”

This month, as Lee and her band get ready to embark on another national tour, parents everywhere get to enjoy her first children’s album “Dream Too Much” (Amazon Music).

Amy Lee

Amy Lee (photo credit: Drew Reynolds)

Recently, the Rockmommy sat down to chat with me about her new record, balancing Jack and family life with a full-time music career (who knew watching your wee one on the baby monitor could inspire a song?!), and how other creative moms can keep their musical muse alive.

Rockmommy: When I first read you had made a children’s album, I couldn’t help but think it would be a hard rock album! Did you ever in your life think you would make a pretty, melodic children’s album with your family?

Amy Lee: It definitely is different than anything I’ve put out publicly before, but it really is a true part of who I am and who I’ve always been! This is me connecting my childhood with Jack’s. There is music in here that has been part of our family since as far back as I can remember, and I’ve always loved good, catchy melodies.

Rockmommy: In your recent Rolling Stone interview, you mentioned that the album started as a family project. When did it occur to you to make something bigger that could be enjoyed by the masses?

Amy Lee: Well … I did my first recording session with my dad and uncle in February of this year, and in that same month my manager asked if I’d be interested in doing a children’s album, because there was an opportunity with Amazon. It was kind of bizarre — just meant to be I guess. I not only really enjoyed recording this music for Jack with my family, but I loved the way it was sounding. So we just had to keep going!

Rockmommy: How did you decide on the songs you would include? What was the creative process like?

Amy Lee: We recorded in Ft. Worth Texas at Spaceway Productions with my good friend and collaborator/producer Will Hunt. I would write and make demos from my home until we had four or five that I wanted to record, then we would figure out what the line-up would be for that session and book a week or so. We did that three times. So for the first batch, it was my dad, my uncle and me doing mainly songs from my childhood like “Rubber Duckie” and “Goodnight my Love.” Then for the second batch I started getting into the Andrews Sisters-style three part harmony stuff and made the focus about my sisters and I. My sister Lori, my dad, and my husband Josh all got in on the writing process, which was really fun! Plenty of hilarious emails and voice memos back and forth.

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about how your son Jack inspired some of the songs on this record?

Amy Lee: The lyrics for “Dream Too Much” came right out of his mouth! I was just sitting on the couch with an acoustic guitar, and Jack was running around the room in a circle saying hilarious nonsense (not unusual!). So when he yelled out “monkey in the band,” I sang it back to him. Then, “the muffins are sleeping!” and I sang that too. After a few lines I thought, ‘hey, that could be really cool, to make the verses just crazy imaginative stuff he’s thinking about.’ I’m keeping it that way! Another one— “I’m not Tired” — started as I was watching him on the baby monitor while sitting at my keyboard trying to write. Total rebellion against sleep. ANYTHING but that! I put myself in his mind and sang what I thought he would say if he could, and that became a fun game.

Rockmommy: You are going back on tour with Evanescence in just a couple of months! What are you most excited and concerned about, considering your new life as a mom with a toddler?  (And are you bringing him on tour?!)

Amy Lee: I’m excited because it’s a side of myself that I don’t use that much lately. Most of the time I’m Jack’s mom, hanging out at the neighborhood sandbox or watching Curious George while making him dinner. Many days I don’t put on makeup, and if I wear a necklace it’s getting ripped off. I get to strap the boots on, pour glitter all over myself and thrash around onstage with my badass rock band. YES! I’m ready! The hard part is leaving him. It’s insanely painful. We will see each other but with long stretches in between, this will be the longest we’ve been apart and it’s killing me just thinking about it.

Rockmommy: What are some of the biggest challenges you have when it comes to balancing it all — the children’s album, Evanescence, marriage, time with your son — and how have you made it all work?

Amy Lee: The thing is, I want to be the best of myself — not just for me anymore, but for him. I want him to have a mom that spends every spare minute showering him with love and making him laugh, and I want him to have a mom that rocks (literally!). It would be easier in some ways, if I didn’t work at all, of course. There really aren’t enough hours in a day. But if I stopped making music, doing what I was born to do, or even just taking time to myself sometimes to think — I don’t think that’s good for anybody in the end. I want to show him that anything is possible, that life is a gift and we should live it. And balance — some days I feel like I can’t do that, I can’t balance it all out. But keeping perspective makes that OK. He comes first in my heart, so when something else is dragging a little bit, I just have to forgive myself. I’ll fix it/clean it/book it/write it later. Making this album, fueled by my love for him and my family, brought both worlds together and just felt right.

Rockmommy: Do you have any plans to play family shows (featuring songs from your children’s album) in the near future?

Amy Lee: My dad and I are going to do a little live performance on a Sirius show called “The Absolutely Mindy Show” at the end of the month. We’re looking forward to it!

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker moms who are trying to find time and inspiration to be creative (while exhausted from parenting young children!)?

Amy Lee: Keep it in perspective. Allow your mind to rest sometimes and just breathe and listen. Turn off the TV.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Going Freelance Again … with Two Kids in Tow!

When I first moved to New York in 2005, I became a freelance writer and (later) a guitar teacher by default. There weren’t any magazine jobs, but I had a lot of b-to-b writing skills — so friends of mine who knew I needed money just started sending my name to editors. I got assignments. And more assignments. And soon, I had so many assignments that I didn’t have time to look for a job. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to take a shower.

I did manage to find time to volunteer for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls as a vocal/guitar teacher. So when an opportunity to teach guitar to kids came up on the Rock Camp listserv, I applied on a whim. The job — teaching students with the Brooklyn Guitar School — was mine a week later. A part-time freelancer’s position.

So the e-mail tagline changed with my identity: I became Marisa, a freelance writer and guitar teacher.

Then, the economy tanked in 2009, taking most of my high-paying media outlets with it. After months of trying to get new contract work, I humbly applied for a full-time job, tail between my legs. When I was hired, I felt like such a huge sellout, going corporate after years of being free. But numbers, like hips, don’t lie: I could barely afford more than rent, subway fare, and groceries. At the time, my then-fiance was a student teacher. We decided to move to Stamford, Conn., from Brooklyn, and I would need a car. And more money for things like gas and car insurance. There was no way around it: I had to get a job.

It’s been five years since I moved to Connecticut and returned to the corporate-job world. And now, I am leaving it again, only this time around, the circumstances are VERY different. Unlike before, I am not just working for myself. So I can’t just get up at 7 a.m. and plow through an assignment until noon. Rather, I can get up at 6 a.m., and plow through some work until 7, but then I’ll need to take a break to eat waffles with my toddler, and nurse my infant. I’ll need to make sure that bottles are washed and both little men are dressed and changed. In other words, there is only so much I will be able to work. Instead of working up to 80 hours a week, I’ll have to make sure my workload ends up being no more than 40 hours a week. I’ll have to have hard limits.

Of course, there’s the usual sadness about not having paid sick days (when you’re a freelancer, you don’t get paid when you’re sick!). And I’ll miss having colleagues — one of the nicest things about working in the corporate world. I’ll also miss the income that comes with working 50-60 hours per week. The idea of giving up money to put toward little luxuries like weekend getaways or new clothes is crazy scary.

But in return I’m getting something better: More time with my sons, big dude and baby dude. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to give up having waffles with my older boy, or nursing my little one because I’m on a business trip. I want to be there at the beginning of the day, instead of in a car on the way to a job. I want to be there for them at the end of the day. I want to cook dinner for them — and learn to use a food processor.

As much as I love work, family comes first. So here’s to “living the dream” as my friend Miriam called it. I truly am a lucky girl.

 

 

When Two Under Two Get Sick

Caring for two under two at the same time is like any other challenge. It’s hard at first, and seems overwhelming. But then, you get used to a routine: Make food for toddler while baby is sleeping (or toddler is at daycare), turn on Berenstain Bears for toddler so he doesn’t freak out while you nurse the baby, etc. Got it.

Or so I thought.

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Just when I thought I had this “two under two” lifestyle down, Nathan threw a wrench in it. Last Tuesday, poor dude was cranky when I brought him home. He didn’t take to me having a guest, and he fussed as I put him in his high chair. Typical toddler, I thought. Two seconds later I picked up baby Logan to nurse him. Dinner for all!

About a minute after I attached Logan to my breast, what looked like a scene in “Alien” transpired: Nathan projectile puked creamy chunks of milky stuff speckled with bits of grape (sorry to get so graphic, foodies!). The high chair was a mess, Nathan was a mess. And as he stared at his puke-covered clothes and chair in disbelief, I knew I had to act quickly! I yanked the baby off the boob, put him in the car seat, ran to the linen closet to grab a towel, and then yanked Nathan out of his high chair. I stripped him down, dried him off, and shuttled him upstairs for a bath.

The timing couldn’t be worse: We had a plumber coming an hour later to fix our shower. I had a baby I left downstairs. Nathan was inconsolable. I said a quick prayer and took him downstairs. Gave him a sippy cup of milk and a veggie pouch (a mistake), and thought the night would only get better.

If only.

Ten minutes later in the living room, a diaper clad Nathan puked again on our rug (thank god it’s not an expensive one), and declared “uh-oh” as he continued to spit up. I called Zack to come home so he could help. There was no way I could care for a sick little dude and properly tend to my baby.

Logan is less than two months old, so while I got up every two hours to nurse him, Zack and I also had to periodically get up to change Nathan’s sheets and toss them in the laundry (either from puke or diarrhea), comfort Nathan, and try to get him to go back to sleep. The next day we were whipped.

I don’t have any tips on how to make dealing with such a scenario easier in the future. What I can say is that I never knew I was capable of handling two sick under-twos until I had to. It’s amazing what we’re capable of when we have no other choice.

Week One, Son Two

As I start to type this, little Logan Alexander is in my arms. I’ve long since mastered the art of nursing and using the Internet (and holding baby and typing). I’m exhausted and waiting for a roofing contractor to wipe a buttload of snow off our roof, and he’s 20 minutes late.

I’m not gonna lie: Caring for a newborn baby is much easier this time, but the experience of being home has been much harder.

As most of you who read this know, I started Rockmommy shortly after I gave birth to my first son, Nathan Mariano, in July 2012. I was just learning the ropes of mommyhood and how to balance being a mom with being Marisa, the rocker/writer/exercise lover.

When Nathan came home, my husband was so sweet and considerate; everyone I knew was oh, so helpful, and when hubs went to work at 7, Nathan and I slept peacefully till 10 or so, when we’d start our day (which, since it was summertime, consisted of a nice walk, nursing, and various errands). This time, I returned home on Sunday to a clingy but cute toddler who couldn’t deal with me nursing our infant, a husband who seemed to find fault with everything from how I spoke to child #1 to how I handled dinner (and since I’m hormonal, I’m extra sensitive). That, and a ground full of snow. So much for nice walks. And so much for the love fest!

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me and baby Logan on his birthday

Yet, I must be grateful for the plusses: I know what I’m doing. I don’t think nursing and not sleeping is the hardest thing in the world (which is what all new moms, myself included, think). I have a lovely, spacious-but-not-too-big house (albeit with a leaky roof, but a house, nonetheless). I have this blog and a wonderful career as a writer and a guitar teacher. Most importantly, I have two little dudes and  one big dude who love me. It’s going to be life in a frathouse for the next 18 years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some initial things I’m noticing about little Logan:

1.) He’s VERY alert. Loves to look from side to side when I nurse him.

2.) He does the grunting/headbutting thing when he’s hungry (and he is just as hungry as Nathan was, every hour, so perhaps my milk isn’t creamy enough).

3.) He seems to be okay with being fully swaddled. Last night he got up every two hours (as opposed to every hour). And my husband didn’t have to promise to buy him a BMW to get him to go back to sleep.

Life is full of so many unexpected things. I certainly didn’t expect to get pregnant twice or have TWO boys (I figured I’d have a daughter). I didn’t expect to marry the person I did, or to spend my parenting years in Connecticut (which, so far, is how I’m spending them).

Today, I’m so thankful for all I’ve been given.

10 Things I’m Grateful I Did Before I Settled Down

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas. Mine was, as it always is, chaotic. 

I had, as expected, zero time to do anything moms of the 1980s seemed to have time to do (ahem, shopping!). So I purchased most all of my presents online. I made it to Crate & Barrel just once to get a few little do dads, but that was about it. 

A lot of good things happened, though: 1.) I got to spend a ton of time with my mom, dad, brother, and his baby girl. 2.) My husband and son were super sweet. 3.) I was reminded how lucky I am to have such cool inlaws. 

Yet, as time is of the essence, I can’t help but think about all of the things I would never have time to do now — from traveling to other countries to playing weekly shows with a band. And to anyone in their 20s and early 30s who wants to marry and breed, these are things that have contributed, ultimately, to my satisfaction. I don’t feel like I didn’t missed out on much. 

 And now, the top ten things I am grateful I did before I “settled down”: 

  1. Traveled to London in 2001, on a whim, to see my friend Jason. And I hit up Amsterdam on the same trip (what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam). 
  2. Enjoyed a trip to Paris with my whole family, and to Scotland, with my parents. 
  3. Toured the East Coast (twice!) for two weeks — once solo and once with my band. Speaking of bands, I had about six of them. Grandma’s Mini, which I formed in 1999 with Ann Brandstadter, was my first one! 
  4. Dated a lot of interesting, and not so interesting, dudes. Made for good writing inspiration (“Eggs” and “S&G” are two of my best tunes). 
  5. Lived in four culturally rich, interesting, and diverse cities — Washington, D.C., New Orleans, La., Chicago, Ill., and Brooklyn, N.Y. Perhaps that’s why, on some days, Fairfield, Conn., seems so suburban. 
  6. Enjoyed dozens of media/magazine/rockstar parties as a super-connected, music-arts writer living in New York. I can’t believe I actually felt “old” at 29!
  7. Wrote for dozens of major media outlets while living the freelance lifestyle in Brooklyn. As in Brooklyn, N.Y., where everyone cool lives or aspires to live. 
  8. Attended graduate school at Northwestern University and was only one of 20 students accepted to the magazine journalism program. Ah, magazines … 
  9. Accidentally discovered a second career I am passionate about — guitar teaching — through chance encounters and volunteer work.  
  10. In 2006, after a soccer match on the west side, swung by Dorothea’s super-fun birthday party. There, I happened to meet the man who would ultimately become my husband. It took two years for me to see he had all the qualities I ever really needed in a man, but I’m so glad I saw the light eventually. 

Ok, so, I never got to study abroad or backpack across Europe. I’ve yet to record and produce an amazing, full-length album, though I do have a sub-par album and a smattering of perfectly recorded singles. I am only 60 percent through my novel, and I cannot imagine when there will be enough time to finish it (see previous entry). There’s still some stuff left to do. But today I have a dream for a son, incredible guitar students, and an amazing writing career (though I’m less than perfectly prolific when it comes to my personal stuff, or so it seems). I also own an adorable little house with said husband. 

Life is, ultimately, about experiencing amazing things. What have you done? And what are you holding back from doing?