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The Star Press (US)
Muncie, Indiana, newspaper
Wednesday, September 18, 1996

Like An Open Book: Singer Tori Amos Has Little To Hide

By Michelle Kinsey

They call Tori Amos The Goddess.

Who, you might be wondering?

The thousands of people who visit more than 85 World Wide Web sires devoted to her to share in everything that is Tori -- stories of unicorns and fairies, exploring sexuality, probing her lyrics for hidden meanings and detailing euphoric minute-by-minute "I Met Tori" encounters.

So, what is it about this tiny red-headed songstress with the voice of an angel and devilish thoughts that has fans flocking to her web sites and concerts in droves? How does this woman, without much radio airplay, generate three successful albums and straddle her piano bench at more than 180 sold out shows a year.

"What draws them to me?" Amos began. Just a hint of breathiness that flows through her music can be detected in her paced, relaxed voice. "We're all, um, we're all sort of trying to find our shadows."

An interview with Tori Amos is kind of like a visit to the therapist. But it's hard sometimes to determine exactly who is the patient.

"My music is about owning up to behavior," she said. "I think people come to my shows to look at what they are up to. It's a way to end victim consciousness and not be afraid to take responsibility for who we are, whatever we believe in."

Amos isn't afraid to take her life -- full of her views on sex, myths, religion, and pain -- and spread it seductively across her keyboard for all to hear. Her music can be erotic, disturbing, melancholy, and childishly playful. One thing is certain -- it is always thought-provoking.

As for the World Wide Web Toriphiles on the Internet, she hasn't had a chance to check them out yet. "For one, I don't even know how to turn on a computer," she said with a giggle. "For another, I feel like it's their privacy. If I've kind of created a small forum for people to want to throw ideas back and forth, I think that's great. Bit it's not really about me anymore. I mean it's just a reference point. They might start by saying how awful I looked on this show or something. But then you get someone who asks does it really matter what somebody looks like? I might be the catapult for people to take things further."

She was born Myra Ellen Amos in North Carolina about 33 years ago. Her father is a Methodist minister, her mother a homemaker.

She was playing the piano at age 2 and studying classical piano at the Baltimore's Peabody Institute at age 5. At 13, she was playing bars in Washington D.C.

Amos headed to Los Angeles in 1984 and formed the rock band Y Kant Tori Read. The band's first album bombed in 1988 so Amos quit the band, moved to London and reunited with her piano.

In 1992, she released Little Earthquakes, a deeply personal collection of songs, including Me and A Gun, an a capella confession of a rape experience when she was in her twenties. This lead to the forming of her support hotline called RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) in 1994.

She's often referred to her first album as her "diary." Her second album, Under The Pink became an impressionist painting. She calls her third album, Boys For Pele, her womanhood record.

"Each song on the album is a different girl having a response to how I view the men in my life... well, view isn't a good word... how I've responded to the men in my life."

"Sometimes I thought because of my Christian upbringing, that men had the access to the dark that I didn't have. I couldn't find the socket. So, I would live through men who were dangerous."

This album, she said, allowed her to plug into the dark. In the dark she found the words for Father Lucifer, Blood Roses and Professional Widow, which "is a song about convincing a guy to kill himself so she doesn't get her fingerprints on it... to the point where she tells him that the Mother Mary will supply him with smack or videos of Muhammad Ali, whatever he wants."

"I am committed to writing about things that are hidden because I think that is where freedom is," she said. "Once you are free, you can let the little girl inside you out, or the Viking or the snake or the self-righteous one and go, yeah, this is all part of me and I am conscious of them. This is what being a whole person is about."

But is there a limit? Can people, your fans, know too much? "They probably already do," she said. "I bet my [medical] records are floating around out there somewhere."

She laughed, then sat silently for several seconds.

"But, I made a choice to put my music out there," she said finally. "Sometimes I think 'Do I really want people to know this?' Maybe it's not something I'm proud of. But, I made the decision that I wasn't going to hide anymore. As a poet and a writer I have to talk about it or I will go insane. And hey, as long as I'm not hurting another person..."

And if she can help others in the process, all the better. And for some, 16 bucks for a CD sure beats the cost of a therapy session.


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