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Real magazine (US)
February 1997

free at last
Tori Amos faced her demons:
now she's helping others

By Lindsay Planer
Music Writer

Tori Amos is a study in desting in essence, Amos was born to play the piano. In fact, Amost's life and her music are, at times, virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Amos was born to a Methodist minister in High Point. She entered the prestigious Peabody Conservatory for Music in Baltimore at the age of 5 on a music scholarship, then was expelled at 11 for the great sin of "playing by ear."

Her early teens were spent playing a gardem variety of pop music standards and Gershwin classics in bars around Washington, D.C. Amos then rediscovered what she calls "the Tori of old" -- A girl who had been severely repressed from years and layers of musical convention.

This personal revolution led her to Los Angeles in her late teens, where she subsequently formed the glam-metal band Y Kant Tori Read? -- a mostly forgettable combo whose fame came from Amos's successful solo works.

Her 1991 solo debut, Little Earthquakes (Atlantic), was "a liberation," she told real while resting after a sold-out performance in New York City's Felt Forum. "I couldn't have gotten to the point that I am at now without having been through what I have."

And exactly where is Amos now? "If I'm honest with you," she says, "I'm kind of at what seems to be a threshold. I'm just now able to go to the next place of experience that isn't so very intertwined with the past.

"It's sort of like the way you feel after high school, when you wake up to find out that the entire world is waiting for you, and you for it."

Amos adds, "It is critical for people to know that regardless of how dismal life may seem at any particular time, it will get better. Sometimes it has to because it can't get any worse."

It is this sort of inspiration that fuels Amos' creativity and often is the subject of her starkly honest work. The best example of that is the track "Me and a Gun," from Little Earthquakes. The song tells, in hauntingly graphic a capella detail, of a sexual attack that Amos endured. This is certainly Amos at her most unguarded.

"Some people are so very afraid of what they might find when they try to analyze themselves too much," she told real. "However, you have to crawl into the wounds to discover what your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing will also begin.

"I guess what I'm trying to get at is that you have to face the scary stuff and in time you will find that you are much bigger than it is."

To aid others in their own cleansing, amos founded RAINN -- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. The 24-hour-a-day national hotline helps victims of sexual assault. Services are provided for victims of sexual assault. Services are provided for victims who cannot reach a rape crisis center through a local telephone call, as well as those who might not know such a facility even exists.

The services are free thanks to grants from Amos and her record company, Atlantic Records and the Time/Warner Music Group.

"I want people to know that there is always someone who cares. Sometimes it can be a total stranger, or it can be your minister or even someone from your school. They love you and want to leave the world to a healthy person, both physically and mentally," she says.

Overcoming demons, Amos knows from hard personal experience, "is a daily process. You work at exorcising them every day -- not through drugs, not through anything but love and good works. That is the only thing that delivered me."

And delivered is a good word for Tori Amos. She has delivered herself from fear so that others might do the same.

-- Lindsay Planer is a Gaston College grad who covers the music scene from her new home in Toronto.


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