The wait is finally over. A year after her stint on "American Idol," Irish rock diva Carly Smithson has partnered with former Evanescence band members and released her first song, “Bury Me Alive,” on Monday, June 22.
Smithson, who was born in County Dublin and now lives in San Diego with her husband Todd, took time out of recording on Saturday (and time away from her mom, Sarah, who was visiting from Ireland) to speak to IrishCentral.
The last time we spoke with Smithson, 25, she was only two days off the American Idol show (she placed sixth). She was worn out from interviews and was on a 24-hour visit to New York. By the time we caught up with Smithson in the Fox offices in New York she ready for some down time.
However, on Saturday, the opposite was true for the bubbly Irish singer. She told the Irish Voice she was “super excited” about her future with her new band, The Fallen, and couldn’t wait to get on the road and begin touring.
Smithson, who owns a tattoo shop with her husband and sports an arm length drawing of a geisha, explained how her new partnership was down to good friendships and coincidences.
“I was out for a birthday dinner with a friend of mine and we went to this charity event beforehand because she wanted to swing by. There I ended up sitting next to this lovely girl called Monique and we just clicked straight away. We quickly became great friends,” said Smithson.
While the friendship between Smithson and her new friend solidified, Monique moved into a house with Ben Moody, former lead guitarist with the top-selling rock band Evanescence.
While Smithson was busy working on her own projects and trying to get her solo career on track, Moody and former Evanescence band mates John LeCompt (guitar) and Rocky Gray (drums) and new addition bassist, Marty O’Brien, were ready to get back on the road, but they needed a lead female vocalist to complete their ensemble.
While Smithson had met Moody once or twice while visiting Monique, the idea of playing alongside the legendary guitarist never crossed her mind. However, it was Monique who could see a potential match.
“I was sharing my ideas with Monique and Ben was doing the same,” Smithson says.
Monique suggested to Moody that he listen to her friend’s music, but he wasn’t too keen. She was an American Idol contestant, after all.
However, after persuasion from Monique and other friends, Moody agreed to watch some of Smithson’s work on the Internet, and he was blown away.
“He couldn’t believe I was the same girl that was in his house several times,” she laughs.
After seeing the powerhouse that Smithson is, Moody didn’t want to waste any more time. He had found his new lead singer right under his nose. He called Monique -- who happened to be at a concert with Smithson at the time -- and asked her to bring Carly over ASAP.
“I went over to the house in the middle of the night. Ben and I talked till about four in the morning. We talked about everything we both wanted. We got on great,” Smithson recalls.
“There and then Ben asked me to join them and make a decision. I asked him to at least give me until tomorrow, but I really knew in my heart I wanted to be part of this, to be part of a band. I was thrilled,” she said.
According to Smithson, Moody, who had been auditioning women for the lead singer position for some time, was looking for someone who has the same personality and humor as the rest of the band. Smithson was the girl. She had the full package – a voice, an edge, humor, excitement and lots of personality.
Although Smithson said music is extremely important for a band’s functionality, she feels that ultimately the glue that holds any band together are the personalities of the band members.
“We are going to be living in each other’s pockets for God’s sake so we need to get on, and me and the lads do really well. They are fantastic lads and I’m so excited to be working with such a great bunch of people,” said Smithson.
“After the first few hours of jamming together they were picking on me, which they call celebrating, and they were taking off my Irish accent and the way I speak. It was a great laugh.”
This, said Smithson, is where she belongs, in a band.
“The Idol stage was very lonely and weird for me. I hate big empty stages. It was difficult to get on that stage on Idol and perform. I really had to work the stage so I’m much more conformable with having a band up there with me,” she said.
On Idol, Smithson said that she could never be the performer she wanted to be. “It’s a family show so I really had to PG myself, you know?” she recalls.
“You know us Irish, we are straight out, and when Simon (Cowell) would say stuff to me on stage I just wanted to take off at him but I just couldn’t because it really was a family show,” she said.
Smithson, who adores Adam Lambert, American Idol season eight runner up, said it was an episode of The View that really tamed her down.
“I remember I was watching The View one day and they said, ‘That Carly Smithson needs to be quieter or she will be voted off.’ I had only really spoken out once or twice, and from then on I never really spoke again,” she recalls.
Now, said Smithson, her censoring days are over.
“Don’t get me wrong. I loved everything that happened on Idol and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” she said. “But finally I can be myself, the Carly I always was and the performer I want to be.
“I spoke to all the guys and told them last week that I joined The Fallen and they said this is huge, perfect for me, that I will be able to spread my wings and fly off into the sunset.”
Thinking big and theatrical, Smithson said when the band gets touring (they are looking at September) they will put on one hell of a show.
“I want people to come to my show, and for there to be so much stuff going on that they want to come again because they missed things. Like visual boards and fire and acrobatics. I want it to be really visual and dark and really cool,” she said passionately.
The Fallen’s first song, “Bury Me Alive,” was released on Monday, June 22 and was an instant hit with fans. Over 100,000 songs were downloaded free from www.wearethefallen.com.
Looking towards the tour, Smithson said there is one thing that will indicate success for her. “When the audience sings our songs back to us,” she said.
Smithson, who had several pop music offers but turned them down because they weren’t her style, said, “I remember (Idol winner) David Cook said his greatest moment was when he went out on stage and paused and the audience sang his song back to him. That is the moment I can’t wait for.
“He said it hits you right in the chest. I think that will be the moment when I’ll know I’ve made the right decision.”
As the interview was coming to an end, Smithson said she was going back to Ireland in the next week or so for a few days to spend time with her family. Her mother, who waited patiently for her to complete her interview with the Irish Voice, giggled with her daughter when Smithson said she was going home to cook some meals for her mom.
“I’m the cook in the family,” laughs Smithson.
“Mum has done loads of decorating to the house since the last time I’ve been home so I can’t wait to see it all,” she admits.
Then she pokes fun at her mother, Irish style. “Sure she does up the house all the time. Even when there is someone calling for a cup to tea, ‘Oh, I must paint this room now cause so and so is coming for a visit,’” jokes Smithson while her mother laughs in the background.
July 2008 was the last time Smithson was in Ireland and she admits she wasn’t expecting the welcome she got.
“I remember I arrived in Dublin Airport and there was press everywhere. It was really weird. I had no idea what was happening but it was great to be home in Ireland and be acknowledged,” she said.
There is no doubt that this is only the beginning of Smithson long and successful career. The Irish and Irish American community will be rooting for her all the way.