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Jim Cooper, Associated Press
Amy Lee and Evanescence — Terry Balsamo, left, Rocky Gray, John LeCompt and Tim McCord — perform at UVSC tonight.

Amy Lee, the heart, soul and soaring voice of Evanescence, says she's being sincere and not dishing out any rock-star cliches when she says Utah is one of her favorite places to perform.

"We have such great, great shows there," she said. "(The fans) are literally stage diving and going crazy and having a blast, and that's what really feeds us."

Lee and her band last performed in Utah almost exactly one year ago. At that time, their latest CD, "The Open Door," had just been released. Since then, she has literally toured the world twice in support of the album.

"We got to go to Russia for the first time ... we got to go to Red Square," she said. "We went to South Africa. We got to go on a safari there."

One of the most memorable tour stops was in South America where rabid fans made Lee feel almost too loved.

"We're like the Beatles down there. We couldn't leave the hotel room," Lee said. "I feel like our international following is a little bigger (than in the U.S.). Because we're not there all the time. ... They can't go see an American band every weekend."

Evanescence's unique blend of classic piano and industrial guitars launched it into the musical stratosphere in 2003 with its major label release "Fallen." Since then, the band has sold more than 18 million copies of its first two albums.

Now, the band is making one last victory lap before wrapping up the entire Open Door Tour in early December.

"I'm looking forward to taking a serious break. We toured forever (off the first album), then went right back into writing and recording the second album. We're looking forward to taking some time off," Lee said.

It was also a little over a year ago that Lee went through several professional and personal challenges, including multiple lineup changes within the band and the breakup with her boyfriend, who went into alcohol rehab.

Since its last Utah show, the band has gone through even more growing pains. But for the past eight months, everything in Lee's life has seemed to settle down.

"I'm loving it right now," she said.

Lee said people forget that in the big picture of the music world, Evanescence is still a relatively new band. It's not unusual for a band to go through lineup changes, especially when there have been as many creative people in Evanescence as there have, she said.

"People change. People's hearts change of what they want," she said. "I'm the most invested in this Evanescence thing since I do the majority of the work. It's my lyrics, it's my heart. It's not hard to understand why (the band) wouldn't be as big a deal to the others. Everyone who has been a band member has been a creative person."

When asked what was the biggest misconception about Amy Lee, Lee, a very pleasant interview, said she's at a point in her life now where she doesn't worry about that kind of thing.

"I don't care anymore. I'm really learning to let go. I'm really happy with my life. The band is in a really healthy place," she said.

Lee, who studied classical piano for nine years, said her vocal talents really just came from participating in school choir.

"I was a big choir nerd," she said.

Lee said she joined choir in junior high school in Little Rock, Ark. ("My favorite class") and eventually started competing in regional and state competitions.

"It pushes you to learn all types of stuff ... how to phrase your vowels," she said

Lee later became choir president in high school. But while "obsessing over cool Latin hymns," she also became involved in another project.

"During all my choir nerdyness I was also working on Evanescence," she said.

Lee formed Evanescence with guitarist Ben Moody who later departed from the band in a much publicized split right after Evanescence exploded onto the music scene. It was the start of a bittersweet time for Lee who was receiving success and fame, but also was dealing with personal and internal band issues.

Much of the misery Lee went through during that time was eventually turned into the deeply personal songs on "The Open Door."

The most personal of all the songs may be the one recently released as the album's final single, "Good Enough." It was the last song written and is the last song on the album. But unlike the others, the piano-filled song delivers a message of content.

"It's the diamond in my pocket," said Lee . "It's arguably my favorite song. It's the one I'm most passionate about."

After essentially completing the writing for "The Open Door," Lee said she ended up writing the song that became "Good Enough." But this time, now that she had gotten things off her chest, the song was more positive. She said she realized that it was OK to be happy.

"It was the calm after the storm," she said. "After all that other stuff, I didn't have anything left."

A big inspiration for the song was Josh Harzler who eventually became her husband.

The Deseret Morning News talked to Lee by phone while Evanescence was on a tour stop in Texas. The interview was on Oct. 31 so the question had to be asked whether Lee enjoyed Halloween?

"I miss Halloween," she said excitedly. "I miss trick-or-treating and going with siblings and passing out candy."

One of Lee's fondest Halloween memories is teaming up with her dad and scaring the kids who would come to their door. While her father would pass out candy, Lee would hide in a backroom and pull a string tied to a ghost in a tree that would swoop down on the porch and scare people.

"I miss that stuff," she said.

If you go

What: Evanescence, Sick Puppies

Where: David. O. McKay Events Center, Utah Valley State College, Orem

When: Tonight, 6:30 p.m.

How much: $36.50-$39.50

Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499

Web: www.smithstix.com

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com