By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Lee: Yeah--I'm writing songs about them as we speak. I've been working on music, because I'm going to do a solo album/side project that I'm hopefully going to start after the beginning of the year. And I wrote a bunch of music while I was in jail. I had four months in there in solitary confinement to do a ton of introspection and think and write lyrics. I'd call my answering machine at home and sing melodies and leave them on the machine. I did whatever it'd take to make it work. But I wrote some pretty incredible stuff in there about what the hell has happened to me in my life, and living in the fishbowl, and also, the change that took place while I was sitting in there. There's this really cool tune called "Metamorphosis" that I've been working on that's about the change that happens when you're in isolation for four months.
WW: How did you end up in solitary? Because usually prisoners get put there for bad behavior.
Lee: Actually, that's called hard time in jail: When you do something bad while you're in jail, they stick you in the hole. And that's where I spent my four months. But for me, they did it for my safety, just to keep me away from everybody. But it was very hard time to do.
WW: Did you have much interaction with other inmates, or were you kept totally separate from them?
Lee: I was separate from them, but I could talk a little bit. There were no windows or anything--just a twelve-inch-by-twelve-inch piece of glass in a steel door that I could look through, and I could talk to people and pass notes under the door and stuff. And I did talk to a bunch of inmates--people that were there for murder, people that were there for armed robbery. I met some fucking crazy people in there.
WW: Did you get a sense that you were lucky to have been separated from them because you might not have been safe, or did you think it was an overreaction and that you would have been accepted?
Lee: I never got any bad vibes. People were really cool to me, and everybody wanted autographs and wanted to just talk--to ask me about my life and stuff. And I was interested in their lives. I was like, "Why did you kill that person? Why'd you do this, or why'd you do that?" So I think we would've gotten along really well. But then again, I'm glad that I was alone, because I would have never been able to do the sort of psychotherapy on myself if I hadn't been alone. People would have been talking to me the whole time and bothering me and stuff. So I'm thankful that I was alone and got to figure out what it is that Tommy really wants to be and who I am and all that.
WW: What kind of changes did that process take you through? Did you look back and feel that you'd made some mistakes?
Lee: Oh, yeah, there's those. And I found things that I loved about myself, and I found things that I hated about myself.
WW: Can you share some examples of either of those?
Lee: Spiritually, I was always looking for something and never really took time to find out what it was I was looking for. And I found it in there. I'd like to keep that private. But I also learned something else about myself--that I really enjoy reading. I never did that before. I'd read occasionally, but I was stuck in there, and the only thing I really had were books. So I read about forty books while I was in there.
WW: What kind of books did you read?
Lee: I read everything. Relationship books, child-care books...
WW: Like Dr. Spock?
WW: Dr. Benjamin Spock--he's the one who wrote what a lot of people see as the classic child-care book.
Lee: No, I didn't read that one. But I read this one really cool book called...shit, I can't remember the title now. Maybe it was Like Father, Like Son or something like that. See, I'm a new father, so I don't claim to know everything about being a father--but I definitely make every attempt to be one. So I was doing some research on that, plus reading spiritual books, self-realization books, relaxation books. You name it, man. I read a shitload of books there.
WW: It sounds like the isolation may have done more for you than your anger counseling did.
Lee: It was pretty hardcore. When I was sitting there alone, I sort of realized that I could have handled that situation a lot differently and I wouldn't have been sitting here at all. I could have just walked away, you know?
WW: In the liner notes to the new album, you write, "Remember, there are lessons to be learned at every crisis, and if life deals you lemons, don't bitch about it. Start making lemonade." Is that what you learned while you were in there?