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Daily Nebraskan (US)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln student newspaper
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Soft-spoken singer radiates power on stage

by Andrea Heisinger

Tori Amos is a tiny woman.

She swears when least expected.

She would someday like to do a collaboration with Run DMC.

These are three things learned in a basement dressing room of the Orpheum Theatre-turned-interview room with the singer/pianist before her show Monday night.

With mirrors reflecting every angle, Amos entertained questions asked by a handful of college journalists about everything from the war in Iraq to her daughter's education.

Amos is on tour promoting her latest CD, "Scarlet's Walk." The journey of America portrayed on the album is in the content.

"The songs reflect my walk," Amos said. "They're about my loss of confidence as a woman. I went to the edges as far as I could."

She said there are four lovers portrayed on the record, and they keep shifting shape. The album starts its journey in California as a porn star, and works its way inward through Wounded Knee, where a split happens, and the madness of America is ripped open.

Between all of the metaphors, there is a savvy woman, who is known for getting what she wants out of the record industry, despite being a woman.

"With guys, everything in their songs is really deep," Amos said. "With women, it's just more fucking chick stuff."

With a steely look in her eye, she made it clear how far she went to keep musical integrity and control over her work.

"Would I burn my tapes?" she said. "You bet your ass. I've retained my vision, but never had to go to court because of it."

Amos' unique place in the music industry was what drew Jan Deeds to her sound.

"She tells stories that are real," said Deeds, assistant director of gender programs and student involvement. "People do listen to what women musicians are saying. They communicate different viewpoints and personal stories."

Halfway through the journalists' questions, Amos offered up a demonstration of why she plays the piano as though about to start a race.

Sitting upright, with both feet in front of her was fine if playing a nice ballad. But when it's time for the intense numbers she is known for, a foot goes back, and a push to the shoulders didn't even budge her.

One topic that was bound to end up in conversation was the current war in Iraq. Amos seemed somewhat reluctant to offer any view about the conflict, but said it did affect her musically.

"The songs change meaning, especially now with the war," she said. "They changed more from last night than from 10 years ago."

She mentioned the song "Horses" as one that had changed meaning recently, and people were finding different meanings in her other songs.

That's what she likes about her songs; that people can imply different meanings from them.

"I'm careful not to alienate fans," Amos said. "I don't want to emotionally blackmail people. I want to hold a space for people to come to where they don't feel threatened."

Judging from the sometimes frightening devotion of her fans, Amos probably doesn't have to worry about threatening her fans anytime soon.

So what would make her stop making her distinct brand of piano rock?

"When I have to use an oxygen machine before going on," Amos said. "You have to have a passion for it. If a performer loses that passion, it's sad because then no one wants to go see them."

With those words, it was time for Amos to sit at the piano and show that passion.


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