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The Sacramento Bee (US)
April 11, 2003
One for the road
Tori Amos talks about how she wanted to 'walk the walk' in latest album
by Chris Macias
Bee Pop Music Writer
Tori Amos' latest album, "Scarlet's Walk," is a conceptual road trip through the heart and soul of the United States. Along the way, there are pit stops in American Indian lands, college towns and New York City, and Amos' cast of characters includes adult-film actresses and Latin American revolutionaries.
In all, "Scarlet's Walk" is a way-out journey, but road-tripping is one of Amos' specialties. Since the album's release in October, the pianist pop star has been touring virtually nonstop and will do so through the summer. On Sunday, Amos and her band will perform at the Memorial Auditorium.
Talking with Amos can be a trip in itself, especially when she's speaking of Scarlet, the main character in "Scarlet's Walk." Here's what Amos had to say about her latest album and tour in a phone interview from Green Bay, Wis.
The Bee: Now that you're on the road, are you revisiting some of the cities and places that inspired "Scarlet's Walk"?
Amos: Some of them, yes. But Green Bay wasn't one of them (laughs). But on some of them, you go, "I remember writing notes about this place." And you walk down certain streets and you find that there are Polaroids in your head from a certain time. Like Madison (Wis.) -- we're going there tonight -- a lot of things kind of happened to me there and I included that on "Scarlet's Walk." And as I've said, "Scarlet's Walk" is based on real people and real events. How it comes together is up to your skill as a writer.
The Bee: Once you had your stories together, what were the particular challenges of getting the musical part of "Scarlet's Walk" together?
Amos: I think the challenge was working with geography. I got the musicians and engineers together, and showed them on the map where I felt the songs were aligned with, the references in the songs themselves. Others, it was because of how I wrote them and where I wrote them, and the characters that were involved happened in a certain place.
So then you sit the engineers and musicians down with the songs mapped out. So (drummer Matt Chamberlain) and I would be talking about, "Well, this happens here, and what are the cultures that settled here?" We know the Native American culture that was around here, so we had a little reference team looking up the skins, the drumming, what was going on.
And also there was an influence of people who had settled there. "Sweet Sangria" kind of embodies that with that kind of low-rider, more modern influence. Whereas, "Don't Make Me Come to Vegas" has more of the classic Central American, Cuban (influence).
The Bee: Is Scarlet still very much in your head? Do you think of how she might be reacting to current events?
Amos: No, because I feel that she lives on the record, and now I'm Tori walking Scarlet's walk. I didn't realize it necessarily at the time, but that means that I have to make choices knowing what I know after hanging out with her for a long time. And she kind of holds her feet to the fire in a way, about what do you believe in and can you live it.
The Bee: I've heard you describe your songs as being "friends." Is this a case where you needed a break from a friend, even though she was close to you?
Amos: Having let her into my life and becoming her, and letting her sort of take me and push it as far as she could, which was, "Can you walk the walk not just talk about it?" That's really what she's about. And I didn't realize how that would play out until I took it on tour. I knew I had to be Tori because the record had finished. That's like an actress living a character for the rest of her life.
So the way that played out was opening my catalog. Certain songs were coming easier than others, but realizing that was kind of my body map. So these were my songs, my clues on where I've been.
The Bee: Are you touring in a different way, now that you have a 2-year-old daughter?
Amos: She's on this tour, and we've been out since November. She was on the last tour, too, so she started young. She knows how to bus surf. She knows bus rules -- you'll have to ask me about that some time. She's aware of that kind of life. She's a suitcase kid: Legos in one case and the princesses in another. So she knows how to pack.
But we're not unaware that you need to put your kid in school, and we're going to. But right now, the question was, "If you're going to do it, is this a good time?" And we figured this was the best time, so we stepped it up. Instead of saying I can only (tour) for the summer in between the school year, we're saying we can do the nine-monther. But I don't know how much longer I can do that. This is probably the last big one in a stretch like this.
The Bee: Have you thought of how you might approach your next album? Your last two records were very conceptual, so might you do something different?
Amos: Honestly, for me this was a big undertaking. Once I'm finished this summer, after that I think I'm going to be driving my daughter to ballet class for a while. I need to consider what I'm going to do next. I think my next move is important, and I think I need to study it.
WITH: Rhett Miller
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Memorial Auditorium, 15th and J streets
HOW MUCH: $35
INFORMATION: (916) 264-5181 or (916) 766-2277 (Tickets.com)
About the Writer
The Bee's Chris Macias can be reached at (916) 321-1253
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