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The Duquesne Duke (US)
Duquesne University campus newspaper
March 20, 2003
Tori Amos, a voice for women
by Pat Varine
When Tori Amos walks into a room, heads turn. It might be her fiery red-orange hair, her tiny figure or her soft, articulate voice that speaks with just a slight hint of British from living in England for several years. But when she talks, it is difficult not to listen. The same goes for her songs. Amos has explored several issues in her songs such as the painful side of femininity, losing friends and her own rape. Her delicate piano melodies and haunting voice make her live shows emotional tours-de-force.
For her spring tour, in support of her latest album, Scarlet's Walk, Amos has been organizing roundtable discussions with local college media. Before her March 16 performance at the A.J. Palumbo Center, she sat down with 11 college students, each armed with one question, for the following interview.
Q: Is it important for a musician to have serious musical knowledge?
A: Well, as far as classical music, I definitely don't practice as much as I should. As a composer, I approach it differently than performing other people's music. To be a composer is very unique. You have to sort of get a palette together; a store of knowledge to work from. For example, I never cross my fingers and just hope a song will come to me. You have to make a commitment to the writing process, the creative process, and that takes practice.
Q: What would you say to God, given the chance?
A: (after a little mild confusion about which God was being discussed) I would ask the Christian God to show me the paradigm of abusive male power. It seems to seduce us, as women. I once had someone ask me, "Why do women continually pull men into their lives that will chew them, eat them and spit them out, only to have women back their cars up and say, 'Want another ride?'"
Q: How do you go about arranging a song?
A: Music is the foundation. I trust the language of music to guide a song. Music always gives me the clues. It's dictating where the piece is going. Then I do my research, symbolism, things like that.
Q: Your past albums have focused more on personal exploration and female empowerment issues, but 'Scarlet's Walk' appears much broader. Was there more of an expansive framework behind it?
A: After becoming a mom, and after making [my album] 'Strange Little Girls,' I started looking at the world my daughter was going to be coming into, and it was 'Hey, bitch' this and 'faggot' that. I wanted to talk about things that were really affecting people personally. Ours is the first generation that has had to deal with women bringing home the bacon in some families. So I got a pantheon of mens? voices together; some violent, some gentle, a cross-section. I was trying to understand what society and pop culture was like at the time. What I didn't realize was how much it would end up affecting me.
Q: What is your most personal album?
A: 'Boys for Pele' is probably my most painful record. For that album, I really took a turn. I walked off of a really nice road, to a world where I had to sort of uproot a lot of things in my life, and for me, it all ended up happening publicly. So 'Pele' is sort of a raw nerve. Sometimes I can't listen to it.
Q: What are your views on the looming war in Iraq?
A: I just came from a tour overseas, and the view of the US over there is that we really, really want war. It made me think that we as citizens, many of whom are against it, need to act. This is not what our country was supposed to be about. Germans in WWII didn't listen to us when we warned them about what Hitler was doing. But look at us. Our leaders are dragging the country into something it may take a long time to recover from. In 1968, a generation rose up against Vietnam. And it's rising again... I'm seeing it in cities all across the country.
Q: Would you want your daughter to follow in your footsteps?
A: She loves to sing; that's how she communicates. I think if you choose to make music your life, there would be no reason for someone to want to come in and change that. Being a musician isn't really a job. It's more of a way of being. If she chose to become a musician, I would certainly support her. But I can be a lioness of a mom. I would protect her, that's for sure.
Q: What are your views on gay adoption?
A: If you're going to be a parent, you have to make the commitment. You can't just call yourself mom. You have to show up for the job. It's about the commitment to the child. To have two good parents, or even one for that matter, is a really special, unique thing, much more unique that I once realized.
Q: What's the secret to balancing family and career?
A: A sense of humor, a good support system and a babysitter you like.
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