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Kooky American finds peace and love out west.
by Sylvie Simmons
photos by Hayley Madden
"There's something about this place," Tori Amos whispers. "Driving out here in the jeep with an ice-cream cone I didn't run into any ghosts, but it is mystical. There are so many land secrets. The trees know things..."
We're in Cornwall, up the coast from King Arthur's old 'hood--these days Tori's--sitting on a cliff and staring at the sea which the wind's doing its darndest to blow us into.
"It's strange--oh, hello, how are you?" An old man, one of several taking walk-on parts in MOJO's interview, rambles past with his dog. "In 1992," she picks up the story, "I did a video for China, down there around the cove. This is before I knew any of these people I'm living with now. I had no idea then that I would be passing by here all the time. I had a piano built out of rocks and I fell into the sea--the tide came in to where my derriere is and I was trying to avoid it because it was cold, it was January, and I slipped. But there's a romance to it..."
Last year Tori married her sound engineer, Englishman Mark Hawley. She hadn't planned on marrying--her dad was a minister so she'd seen too many weddings and as a little girl in Maryland she took a vow of spinsterhood after falling in love with a Robert Plant photo. But marry she did, and the couple talked about building their own studio. Hawley chose Cornwall, where he used to come on holiday as a child. Martian Engineering, converted from a 300-year-old barn, sits just across the pebbly courtyard from the couple's main house.
Knowing how cold Cornwall is in January, she keeps a suitcase packed for quick escapes--the latest being a joint headlining US tour with Alanis Morissette. "I like her. She has a dirty little giggle. I had tea with her once when she came to see me in Long Island, then she tootled off and I hadn't seen her for a few years, until her person called my person last March. I came out here, walked around and thought, there's a mutual respect and I haven't done that before, so why not?"
To Venus and Back--"I've started to notice her a little more in the sky out here, and it just seemed the right time in my life to take a trip there"--is her second barn production. Tori had planned to follow From the Choirgirl Hotel with a part live, part B-sides collection, but suddenly new songs kept breaking out ("you might say like herpes"), resulting in a studio plus live-from-the-Choigirl tour double. Where the last album was the result of Tori's miscarriage two years back, the inspiration for this one was "passion. I didn't know that passion could spread to friendship, to a marriage. 'I've cried a thousand oceans'" she sings. "'And I would cry a thousand more if that's what it takes to sail you home.' To know that you feel that for somebody--you know that the bodysnatchers haven't taken all of you yet."
Right on cue, another mysterious man sidles past, hound under his arm. Then another. And another. "You know that story about the Grinch who stole Christmas?" Tori asks. "How his heart grew 70 times seven larger that day? When people come down from London, it feels like that here. And when I'm in a town in the America South, and you're humming Deliverance because you just know that Uncle Billy is doing something strange with little Tommy, you think of this place--and you breathe a little easier knowing you can get back to it."
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