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Now (Toronto, Canada)
July 23-29, 1998
Vol.17 No.47



Tori Amos Baring Her Soul In The Name Of Art

by Susan G. Cole

Tori Amos knows no taboos, at least in the songwriting department. So if there's a singer/composer willing to open up on the subject of a soul-shaking event like miscarriage, it would be this volatile diva.

The experience dominates her fourth release, From The Choirgirl Hotel, and has coloured her life ever since it happened to her in 1996.

It's not an easy event to leave behind, in part because no one likes to talk about it much -- and talk is something Amos thrives on -- and because when somebody tries to say something, it usually comes out wrong.

"What I got was, 'It was God's will.' You get all the wrong answers," she says, as her tour gets set to touch down at the Molson Amphitheatre Saturday (July 25th).

"What's so tricky is that the experience is so intangible except to your partner. You're pregnant for three months and you form a connection. Then it goes away like a ghost.

"But the love doesn't go away. You still feel that connection. You can never go back to being the woman you were before that life was inside you. The hard thing is that I'm not a mother now, either. It's so hard being in that limbo.

"I am changed -- people say I'm a better listener now."

Not that her music has veered in new directions. The scratched-up guitars signal some sonic developments, and Amos does a little electronic doctoring on the vocals to raise the intensity levels, but the piano tangents, lyrical repetitions and graphic wordplay continue to feed Amos' form.

As on her other albums, the songs are thematically linked, this time to the personal tragedy of losing her pregnancy.

"The fragility of it is amazing. It's such a mystery -- where these souls come from and where they go. Of course, I'm still pro-choice -- you have to believe in the independence of women. But sometimes I wonder whether women are aware of their huge responsibilities."

Especially given her rep for flakiness, Amos is supremely lucid as she speaks from Milwaukee, where her tour is temporarily parked. Her words don't cascade off the tongue the way her song lyrics do -- with that breathless eagerness to get it all out -- and doesn't wander off on verbal detours the way her piano solos spin out their musical digressions. The girl's got focus.

Just ask her about the misconceptions people have about her attitude toward the Lilith Fair -- Rolling Stone tagged her as someone who doesn't see the point of an all-woman fest -- and she'll tell you exactly what she thinks.

"Journalists are looking for a cat-fight because they're bored this summer, but really there is only goodwill inside. Just because I'm not doing the Lilith tour doesn't mean I don't respect it. I'm friends with Sarah McLachlan. I sent her a case of wine on her wedding day. What I don't understand is why nobody understands that I want my own tour. Why is it a problem for women to do their own tours and go on different journeys?"

She says that if people really want to support women's music they should be celebrating those women who have the clout to head out on tours of their own.

"Not many women are able to accomplish that. Bonnie (Raitt) is going out on her own this year, and Janet Jackson is too, but it's really rare for a woman to be able to do something like this.

"I don't want to have to compromise, and the truth is you have to shift your show to participate in something like Lilith."

Then again, this is an artist you want playing in your living room. How does a performer with no fear of intimacy fare in a 16,000 seat outdoor arena?

"It's challenging for sure. With a band you need the bigger places. The band in this case is not gratuitous -- it's not just a backup band. But you gotta find a place where the kick drum goes into your stomach and doesn't make you feel like you're being attacked but makes you melt like butter."

Writing comes easily to Amos, and she's matured to the point that she knows how to deal with the undigested material as it wells up.

"Just because you're known doesn't mean that everything you write is going to stop traffic. You have to know when you're getting it right and know when you're getting it wrong."

But writing about miscarriage has left Amos emotionally exhausted and she says it will take some time before she has an experience which moves her the way that tragedy did. But she's not worried.

"I'm not writing yet. But there's fertile time for a song to come. It's like a scent -- it's elk season and it's mating time."


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