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San Francisco Chronicle (US)
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Piano diva still driven by love and passion
by Aidin Vaziri, Special to The Chronicle
While most of her peers get million-dollar makeovers in the hopes of clinching 11-year-olds' lunch money, Tori Amos, 39, has the sense to keep doing whatever it is she did to sell more than 12 million albums worldwide and get nominated for eight Grammy Awards.
It probably involves her piano and the kooky characters she sings about on her latest album, "Scarlet's Walk." Now living in Cornwall, England, with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter, Amos is coming back to America to tour with Ben Folds. They play the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord on Tuesday.
Q: What's this tour called again, Lotsapiano?
A: No. Lottapianos.
Q: How did you end up in Cornwall?
A: My husband used to come here as a child every summer, so this is his sort of stomping ground. That was just what it was for love. If it was up to me I would be living in a really hot place right now.
Q: I heard there are crop circles and fairies and everything.
A: It's not as simple as just saying to you that it's not mystical. It is. But that doesn't mean you lose all sight of reality. Things can be quite magical and real all at the same time. I think it's a given. People have lived here their whole lives, and they stay for a reason. But at the same time they have to deal with their own troubles. People kind of walk hand and hand with the land here. The land dictates. Whereas when you're in London it's very different.
Q: Is there a red-light district?
A: No. Are you kidding?
Q: What about Vikings or pirates?
A: No. Farmers and surfers.
Q: You have a home in Miami.
A: Quite north of that. A couple hours.
Q: Do you ever go there?
A: Once in a while. Sometimes just to be quiet. To get away from output, if you know what I mean.
Q: How long before you appear in Maxim in your underwear and have the Neptunes producing your songs?
A: I never have to walk down that road again.
Q: Are you sure?
A: I'm sure. Because, guess what? I can always say f-- off. I'm in a place where I can. I don't do this for the money. I don't need it. Commerce is something that's about bartering. If I like somebody's carrots I go and say, "You make wonderful carrots and I want you to keep making these carrots. I make lavender so let's do a trade." Do you see what I mean?
Q: Chicken McNuggets?
A: What? No. I'm taking it to a really basic place. I don't do this to make a living. What I'm trying to say to you is that I do it because of a love and passion about it. If I'm not passionate about it, then I don't need to do anything to put bread on the table. Now, the world can change. You might see me 10 years after the apocalypse, and I don't know. I might be the piano bar lady with a brandy glass.
Q: Well, then, what do you think is wrong with Jewel and Liz Phair and how they're all trying to be like Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne now?
A: I, at almost 40, do not make judgments on anybody because I don't have to wake up in their skin, and I don't have to crawl inside them and live there.
I don't know what it feels like to be anybody but me. I have no idea. You know what they say, what one person is OK with, another person just cannot agree to.
Q: Who said that?
A: You're funny. You're waiting for the quote. I know you are. You have to understand my position here. I really try to be at a place with other people where I am not a judge and juror. I try to be somebody who if you're having a bad day you can come and have a cappuccino with me and you're not going to want to jump off a building. It's not for me to say.
Q: But what about you?
A: Absolutely not. But you're asking me now -- at almost 40 with a child, who's been touring since November, who had a really successful run this year doing what I do. So you have to understand, you're not asking me while I'm on my knees here and the piano has betrayed me and nobody is coming to the shows and nobody is playing the record. So maybe I was in a really fortunate position whereby doing what I do, singing what I believe in a thousand percent was received in a way that I was happy with.
Now if nobody was there . . . what would I do? I would do something that I felt good about. Some people feel good about changing themselves totally and completely, for whatever reason. Some people can walk down the hoochie trail and get dividends in different ways. Maybe those are the dividends they might want. It's about what you want.
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