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The News Tribune (US)
Tacoma, Washington, newspaper
November 6, 2001

MUSIC: Singer features shift in perspective as she presents songs by male writers

By Roger Catlin

Tori Amos returned in September with her latest album strange little girls coving songs of male songwriters, from Eminem to John Lennon.

She spoke about it recently from NYC during her concert tour which includes a show Friday at Seattle's paramount theater.

Q: It's been awhile since you toured by yourself on stage. How are you adjusting to that?

A: It's challenging. Its a different kind of show. You have a different relationship with the audience than when your having a conversation with another musicians on stage. You can be more spontaneous.

Q: You've done covers of male songwriters before. You've done songs from nirvana and led zeppelin on b-sides. What made you want to do a whole album of them?

A: Different reasons. The difference of how men say things and what a woman hears draws me in. The closer I got to it, I started to think that the way that some of my guy friends hear songs is very different than how I hear them. And the picture they have going with it is a completely different thing. Like, what they want to hear after you've made love and what you want to hear, its like, "What?"

Q: How do you make that clear on an album where you have to sing their words?

A: That's when it gets good. You don't really change to much verbally. But music is where you make your statement. And the statement is that you really don't change the words. You take a man's words and hand them right back to him. And it means something completely different without changing a word. That's what fascinated me.

Q: Did you have other contenders for this album that didn't make it?

A: There were some that came very close - public enemys' fear of a black planet', Peter Murphy 'Marlene Deitrichs Favorite Poem' and Iggy Pop 'sick of you'.

Q: Were all these songs that came to you, or were they suggested to you??

A: I had a group of men - I fondly called them the laboratory of men. The whole premise of how men say things and what a woman hears could only work if I understood how men say things and what a man hears. So that was the beginning of that investigation, which was endless.

Q: How do these songs fit in with the rest of your songs that your also playing on tour?

A: Well, all the meanings change. The songs that preceded and follow change the song that your doing. Again, its another shift in perspective. I'm working a lot with perspective right now. The view changes, depending on where your standing.

Q: You were the first musical guest on David Letterman when he went back on the air following the terrors attacks. Was tom waits 'time' a song you were planning to play, or did you adapt it for the moment?

A: No. that was a decision made after the events. You know, normally on television they don't want ballads. That's just not what they want on late-night television. That's sort of been a rule for years and years and years - with me anyway. They don't want to bring it down to much. But this was such a different circumstance. When I suggested this song, they said if you feel right about it. And I said "yeah I really believe this is the right song, for the right time." I still do, in hindsight. But then your trying to weave a thread from broken hearts into tapestry.

Q: Has that been something you've been doing on tour too?

A: Sure. You work with each city's emotional ingredients. This is the time where you're really challenged as an artist. In New York City the set list is different than it was in Atlanta, because Atlanta's at a different place with this whole thing. In Atlanta there are certain songs you can go after. And in New York City there's certain things that if you sing it, its going to mean something different because these people have been where the trains don't run. Atlanta is waiting for the other shoe to drop. They're a little bit more on the counterattack. You know what I mean?? People are in different places with it. And until you walk into the city and read what is being written, your not aware of the mood.


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