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The Post-Standard (US)
Syracuse, New York, newspaper
Friday, February 28, 2003

"America Is A Character In This"

by Mark Bialczak

Tori Amos got back in touch with lots of feelings she holds dear about her country as she made her new disc.

"Scarlet's Walk" is a concept album. The 18 songs follow the main character as she journeys across America.

Sure, part of Scarlet comes from her own heart, Amos says during a recent phone conversation. "I hadn't decided that (a concept album) was what I was doing," says Amos, who sings and plays piano Saturday night at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse. "The songs showed me. As a writer, you may think you're writing fiction and then realize that it's real. Then you have to go and do your research. You may change the characters' names, but it really happened."

Growing up in North Carolina, Amos adored listening to stories from her grandfather about their Cherokee heritage.

Amos decided to name her main character Scarlet in part because of that lineage.

"The etymology goes back to scarlet being a thread before it was a color," Amos says, "and I like the way it's weaving and pulling on history, Native American history, their spiritual walk, their past."

Amos is known for her passion. Her early work, albums "Little Earthquakes" in 1992 and "Under the Pink" in 1994, included emotional, personal songs that pop fans - particularly female pop fans - could identify with.

"Me and a Gun" was a particularly honest and painful tale of Amos' encounter with a man that abused her.

Amos hopes fans identify with Scarlet's story.

She began formulating the idea for the album soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

"America is a character in this. All the characters are based on real people or real events," Amos says.

Amos says she found people searching for answers after the terrorism.

"I think people were questioning their relationship with the soul of the country," Amos says. "Once you get through the, 'There's an outside force attacking us and we have to bond no matter what,' kind of thinking, I saw people saying, 'We have to ask some deeper, harder questions here if we don't want this to happen again."'

Amos says war is not the answer.

She adds that lots of people she encounters during her travels feel the same way.

"When the emotional blackmail from some of our leaders saying, 'If you question us, you don't love your country,' started, I saw some people pull back, saying, 'I do love my country. Don't you dare tell me that I don't,"' Amos says. "I see people who hadn't necessarily picked up the microscope or the torch start to do that.

"If I love my country, I have to protect her, see that she's on the course to protect our soul," Amos says. "We're being perceived as rogue bullies around the world, and a lot of people aren't comfortable with that."

Amos says she senses a mood in the country that she likens back to the late 1960s.

"We have the responsibility to keep watch," Amos says. "There will be another generation that will say "Where were you?' if we don't."

In her music, Amos says, she makes that connection with a strong feel for protecting the planet.

"We have to mother our mother, the soul of our land," Amos says. "We must mother our mother, or there will be nothing left for our daughters."

Native American people, Amos says, appear to have a strong sense of commitment to Mother Earth.

"Native Americans, they seemed to pick up over the grapevine what I was working on," Amos says. "They reminded me that there was a time as a group that we were caretakers and not just takers of the land."

Amos says the recent rallies for peace around the country have made her feel more optimistic.

"We're just beginning to catch up with those that are happening in Europe," Amos says. "The hundreds of thousands of people, the peaceful warriors. A lot of people are networking on the Internet. ... I think there's a stirring that's happening. And it began with a love for our true mother, which is our land. And our leaders underestimate that."

The details
What: Tori Amos in concert. Jeffrey Gaines opens.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., Syracuse.
Tickets: $33, available at the Landmark box office, TicketMaster outlets,
www.ticketmaster.com, and by phone charge at 472-0700.


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