In its eight seasons, most of “American Idol’s” 90-some alumni have gravitated toward solo careers, trying to capitalize on the name recognition the show brought them. One recent contestant’s journey is about to take a different turn, however, when she gives up her solo status to join a rock band.
Carly Smithson, “American Idol” Season 7’s intense Irish rocker, is scheduled to announce Monday that she will become the lead singer of the Fallen, a group led by three former members of Evanescence.
In addition to Smithson, the Fallen will include Evanescence lead guitarist and co-songwriter Ben Moody, along with Rocky Gray and John Lecompt. Completing the lineup is Marty O’Brian, who was not in Evanescence.
Founded by Moody and singer Amy Lee — who bears more than a passing resemblance to the raven-haired Smithson — in their early teens, Evanescence sold 15 million copies worldwide of their 2003 album “Fallen.”
Immediately after their success, however, the band was rent by personal disagreements, ultimately leading one-by-one to the departure of their founding lineup.
In a phone interview, Moody described the band’s slow-motion split, recalling that back in 2003 he, Gray and Lecompt discussed their issues with Lee. “This thing,” he recalled saying, “is going in a different direction, and we all love the music that we make together.’ And we all contemplated doing it with someone else. But the timing wasn’t right.”
Post-Evanescence, Moody worked with artists as varied as Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and “Idol” contestants Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson.
Recently, however, Moody contacted his former colleagues. "How do you feel about looking for someone to complete our family and to finish this thing?" he said he asked them. "It feels like everything with our old fans is at a standstill. There’s not new music, there’s no tour. There’s nothing.’ So I reached out, and everyone was just ready to get started.”
But they faced a hurdle in filling Lee’s shoes, whose plans since Evanescence’s last release in 2008 has been the source of much speculation. Rumors floated around that she was alternately working on a Celtic-inspired solo album or collaborating with Metallica.
“We began looking for our soul mate, which we were scared was going to take a long, long time,” Moody said.
Smithson’s post-“Idol” journey, meanwhile, had been rife with uncertainty. Though offers came for recording contracts, all attempted to place her in the pop world, away from her natural hard-rock roots.
In an interview Tuesday, she said: “I kept getting told that ‘you don’t have the rock voice, you can’t do rock music.’ But it’s everything I am. It’s everything I listen to. I’m not the regular girl next door.”
Months after the seventh season finale, Smithson was preparing to turn down what offers lay on the table. She said: “I thought I was making a huge mistake. But I’d rather make a huge mistake than be miserable in something I’d regret for the rest of my days.”
Meanwhile, Moody and his clan had grown exhausted with their search, having auditioned legions of aspirants. Finally, a colleague forced Moody to watch videos of Smithson performing. One of the videos was of a song from her set on last summer’s “Idols Live” tour — Evanescence’s hit “Bring Me to Life,” the song all the singers used to audition for Moody and the band.
The coincidence underlines “Idol’s” ability to prep singers to take the lead in existing bands. Each year when contestants perform bands’ hits -- as when Adam Lambert sang with Queen, for instance -- the rumor mill takes off suggesting they will become the new front person of that band post-“Idol.” Until now, though, the rumor has never born fruit.
Moody was immediately struck by the power of Smithson’s singing, he recalled. Since she happened to be a friend of Moody’s housemate’s, a call was immediately placed; the housemate delivered her that night.
“Carly and I sat down and we just kinda geeked out at looking at stuff on the Internet,” Moody said. "I want to take this from Cirque du Soleil. I wanna do this kinda outfit and costume."
Moody said he and the band “had been planning all this stuff on one side, and Carly’s been planning it on the other and they just happened to be literally identical. And I don’t mean, like oh, they were kind of the same. I mean, an uncanny amount of detail being identical. And it was just clear to me that we had found our better half.”
The Fallen will make their public bow on Monday with a midday set before a small industry crowd at a recording studio in L.A. Simultaneously, they will release their first song for free download on their website, www.wearethefallen.com, also set to go live that day.
The group will then begin preparing for a national tour to be booked in theaters rather than clubs or arenas, indicating, they hinted, a show with performance elements that go beyond music.
Instead of recording an album, the band plans to tour for a year and a half, breaking only once every eight weeks to record two songs at a shot for release online.
As for how the music differs from Evanescence, Moody said that the Fallen picks up where the band left off after the album “Fallen.” “It’s got more intensity behind it. Evanescence was pretty intense. I’m telling you, this is bringing more energy than Evanescence could ever muster.”
Referring to his and Smithson’s separate rocky trails to this point, he said: “Doing this over with adults, people you meet now, people you meet post an experience like ’American Idol’ or Evanescence, everything is so much less uncertain and everything seems poetic.”
-- Richard Rushfield
Photo credit: SKH Music
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