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The Seattle Times (US)
November 12, 1998

Tori Amos: Notes from a life

by Carla A. DeSantis
Special to The Seattle Times

CONCERT PREVIEW: Tori Amos, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, KeyArena, Seattle; $27.50, 206-628-0888.

Last time Tori Amos played Seattle, she found herself in a local hospital. "My band calls me 'Helen Hughes' because I'm always washing my hands," explains the germ-o-phobic musician in a phone interview from Utah, where she is about to perform. "I think I got some version of the E. coli. The people in the hospital were very nice to me, but I was really sick."

Amos, who plays Key Arena tomorrow night, has developed a faithful following, with her legions of Internet-savvy fans erecting Web-page shrines devoted to her. A gifted pianist (who surprised her family with the ability to play at the age of 2 ), she attacks the instrument voraciously with the musical prowess of an alt-rock Liberace.

As the daughter of a Southern preacher and rape victim turned rape activist, Amos' vivid lyrics are rife with equal amounts of religious cynicism and blatant sexuality, stemming from the experiences that left indelible marks on her girlhood.

Yet her reply is slightly brusque when asked if her songs are autobiographical. "The songs have part of my life weaving in and out of them," she says. "But there's a lot in the songs. We (the songs and Amos) co-create together. It's pretty arrogant when writers think it all comes from them."

On her latest and fourth solo album, "from the choirgirl hotel," Amos chronicles another event in her life that required medical intervention: Two days before Christmas in 1996 and barely out of her first trimester, she suffered a miscarriage.

"It was a great shock to me because I really thought I was out of the woods," she says. "I went through a lot of different feelings after the miscarriage. As I was going through the anger and the sorrow and the why, the songs started coming to me in droves."

The album, named for the choirgirl-like voices inside her head that guided her through that arduous time, contains some of Amos' most accessible work to date. It also challenged her musically, as "choirgirl" is the first album Amos has recorded with a full band since the ill-fated "Y Kant Tori Read," the 1989 heavy-metal debut she's never managed to live down.

In faithful keeping with the new album's more band-oriented production, Amos is touring with a full band, eschewing her traditional preference to perform with simply her voice and her instrument for accompaniment. Of her past tours she says, "the piano had to be everybody and play every role; father, mother and daughter. Now I'm playing quite differently because I don't need to be the rhythm section. They (the band members) do it quite well, so there's a lot more freedom for me as a player."

And what is it like for Amos, who recently wed sound engineer Mark Hawley, to suddenly be traveling with so many men?

"They're like my brothers," she says. "We're all in the same bus and you see dirty socks lying around. It's like ewwww! But you get used to other people's habits."


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