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Chicago Tribune (US)
Tuesday, June 25, 1996
WHAT'S THE STORY, TORI?
PLEASING HERSELF IS THE KEY TO OFFBEAT SINGER'S SUCCESS
By Brooks Whitney. Special to the Tribune.
Singer/songwriter Tori Amos was born with a gift. By the age of two and a half, she could crawl up onto the piano bench, place her tiny little fingers on the piano keys and create music. She didn't read music, and still can't really, but she could play whatever she heard.
"If music was only about playing what was written, I wouldn't be a musician today," she says. "Because that's not where my skill comes from, it comes from the ear."
Tori was born in North Carolina. At the ripe old age of five, she entered a famous music school, the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and started training to become a concert pianist. But there was a big problem: She didn't want to play classical sonatas! She wanted to play songs by John Lennon and her own music. And besides, she couldn't really read music anyway.
"I found out that I was more interested in freedom of expression," Tori says. "I couldn't live with the piano in a structured way. I just didn't want to do what was expected of me."
Tori's situation at school went downhill, and at eleven, she was kicked out. Her teachers didn't think it was too cool when she brought in her own songs to play in the recitals.
"They saw that as arrogance," Tori says. "But it wasn't arrogance, it was just like, can't there be another way? But there wasn't for them."
Feeling like a failure, she was determined to prove to everyone that she was not just another wasted talent. With her dad acting as her agent, she spent the next seven years playing in local clubs and sending her songs to record companies. But it was only when she stopped trying to prove herself, and started playing the music that she loved to play, that she truly became successful.
"Musically, I always allow myself to jump off cliffs," Tori says. "That's what it feels like to me."
Tori's music is dramatic and intense. Sometimes it's soft and beautiful, and sometimes it's totally heavy and pounding. Some people call it strange. Whatever, she's hugely talented and people love her. Her third album, "Boys For Pele," is proving to be way popular, and her concerts are selling out all over the country.
Tori has a motto: "If it's too loud, turn it up." In other words, test boundaries.
"I gave up trying to please others and started playing for myself, and because I love music," she says. "Things naturally happened then. Funny how that works."
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