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Tacoma News Tribune (US)
July 24, 2003

Piano-toting Tori Amos plans break after tour

Ernest A. Jasmin; The News Tribune

Right about the time grunge was turning the rock world upside down and gangsta rap was picking up steam, Tori Amos reintroduced pianos to the pop landscape.

Armed with her Bosendorfer, she stood out like a glowing ember in 1991, the year her intense, confessional debut "Little Earthquakes" cruised up the pop charts. Follow-ups such as "Under the Pink" and "Boys for Pele" continued to showcase the singer-songwriter's haunting, offbeat music.

Her past two albums represent a departure from her early work. "Strange Little Girls," released in 2001, may be remembered as one of the most unorthodox cover albums in rock history. On it, the 39-year-old North Carolina native brought a sometimes ironic female perspective to radically reworked tunes by the likes of Depeche Mode, Slayer and Lou Reed. But the most notorious track on "Strange Little Girls" was a revamp of Eminem's wife-murder fantasy "97 Bonnie & Clyde," sung with eerie effect from the perspective of the dead wife.

"Strange Little Girls" took her on the road in the months following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an experience she says profoundly affected her. During that trek she wrote material for last year's "Scarlet's Walk," a concept album that follows its fictional namesake as she takes a cross-country trek and rediscovers America.

This weekend, Amos will kick off her final stretch of tour dates before taking a few years off. She'll be joined by opener Ben Folds when the Lotta Pianos tour stops by Redmond's Marymoor Park at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Recently Amos - who lives in England with her husband, engineer Mark Hawley, and baby daughter Natasha - called from her home to discuss the tour, her upcoming greatest-hits CD and the political questions that inform her latest album.

But first, matters turned to kid stuff:

Q: So where are you now?

A: I'm packing, and I'm in England. ... I think Angelina Ballerina just got packed.

Q: (Confused pause.) Oh - that's one of your daughter's toys.

A: (Faux condescending) Yes, Ernest. (laughs)

Q: So what's an Angelina Ballerina?

A: I don't know. You tell me. I'm just learning myself. (Laughs) She's (daughter Natasha) two and three-quarters. She's taking ballet; she's just starting. She's into musicals - "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." She loves singing.

Q: So the musical talent is already being passed to the next generation.

A: Well, it's a bit early to tell. But she loves to dance and sing, so we encourage it. ... She also likes to sit and play with the computer with her dad. So it's one of those things where I just try and not push.

Q: What's her take on what mom does? Does she understand that you're a big shot yet?

A: We don't talk about that. ... The piano left the other day, and the musicians have been in and out over the last week. ... She knows the piano goes first and mom follows. That's kind of what happens.

Q: The last time I saw you, you were touring for "Strange Little Girls," on your first solo piano trek in years. What can we expect this time around?

A: Right now this is more of a trio - like a traditional jazz combo without the jazz. (Matt Chamberlain is on drums and Jon Evans on bass.) They're such great musicians, it's very challenging. We change the set list pretty much every night. We start the same way, naturally, but we change it up. And we end in September for a very long while. So this is kind of the last 6,000 miles. ...

We've been out since November, and this album was quite a bit of work. We have a best-of
(CD) coming out close to Christmas. But you just need to kind of regroup as a composer. ... Instead of just output, there has to be an input period.

Q: You got a lot of your input for your last album on the road. How did you compose "Scarlet's Walk" versus previous albums?

A: (Pauses, sighs) You know, in 20 years' time, if Natashya asks me about it, it was a pivotal time in America's young history - for me, anyway, as an observer. I was on the road, as you know, right after Sept. 11 ... and I was seeing that people were asking questions that needed to be asked but were being shamed. I found that very troubling.

I found it was important that Scarlet find her relationship with her land - the people separate from those who are in power.

Q: Are you writing these days?

A: I'm starting to write again. ... Because things are moving so fast in our world right now, "Scarlet's Walk" is about what went on then. And I'm writing songs that are different now, because certain things have been proven to be true since Sept. 24, 2001 (the beginning of the "Strange Little Girls" tour). There have been inner betrayals; people losing their life savings, not from an outside force, but from (threats) within our own country. ... You cannot hang that on the Middle East. It's not always on the outside. Sometimes there's a fox in the hen house.

Q: How are you approaching those themes in the new material?

A: You will have to see.

Q: That's a secret, huh?

A: Not a secret. It's just you will see. It will be out soon (on the greatest-hits CD.) I just recorded it with the guys. It's cooking; the sauce is on the burner.

Ernest Jasmin

If you go

What: The Lotta Pianos tour, featuring Tori Amos and Ben Folds
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond
Tickets: $45.50
Information: Ticketmaster (253-627-8497 in Tacoma, 206-628-0888 in Seattle or www.ticketmaster.com)


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