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Finger Lakes Times (US)
August 13, 2003
Tori Amos offers safe haven for fans at shows
by Chris DeChick
Times Staff Writer
HOPEWELL -- After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Tori Amos decided to go ahead with the tour to support her "Strange Little Girl" album. Traveling with her then 12-month-old daughter, Natashya, the entertainer began to wonder what the future would hold for her own little girl.
"What kind of world are we going to hand these kids?" Amos asked during a phone interview from the 107-degree heat of Phoenix, Ariz., where she was "baking like a lizard lady."
"In 20 years, what are things going to be like?"
That premise and everything it implied led to "Scarlet's Walk," Amos' latest CD, which she wrote on the road at the end of September 2001.
"I'm not sure if it came from inside me," she explained. "I was in New York City in midtown on the 11th ... and this album became what it needed to be."
Historically, Amos said, troubadours separated themselves from politics and sought information on their own.
"Maybe it's because I'm a history buff -- musicians used to travel hundreds of years ago, so I used an approach like that," she said. "[This CD] is a metaphoric campfire. It's about all different sides of our belief system and asking questions about our responsibility to the soul of our country."
After 9/11, Amos said she heard people questioning the information they received from officials and the media. Those people often were ridiculed.
"I'm not a warm and fuzzy person," she said laughing. "Those people who were asking questions were called unpatriotic and nothing dips my wick more! People can justify anything, as 2001 shows. These people were not feeling good about the manipulation of information."
Amos said debate should be encouraged, and people shouldn't feel ashamed to ask questions.
"Some of my friends who are journalists were afraid," said Amos. "That kind of thing got me thinking and researching. It's quite complicated how information gets out. People were under the impression they were getting all the information -- not the spin -- and accepting what they were given, not like in '68 when everything was questioned."
All of these factors forced Amos to think about how to explain these times to her daughter.
"How to explain it to Tash, when she asks, 'What did you do to become the bully of the world?' I have no problem fighting for America as a soul that has its feet to the fire for integrity.
"That was my commitment to her as a mother and as a musician -- to historically reflect what's going on at the time."
Partly inspired by the stories Amos' mother told of their Cherokee family history, "Scarlet's Walk" is a "documentary of a time in story form."
Amos said she was following the psychology of the time.
"On tour I would talk about this country," Amos explained. "I would have Native Americans coming up to me telling me, 'If you're going to talk about our Mother [Earth], talk about her historically.'"
So Amos made America a porn star.
"All the women Scarlet meets are different personifications of America."
Scarlet's walk begins on the West Coast, where she visits Amber Waves, a phrase found in "America the Beautiful" and also the name of a porn star in the movie "Boogie Nights."
"It's not until Scarlet has a little girl that she goes from porn star to birth mother."
Even with its cross-country theme, Amos stressed that "Scarlet's Walk" is not a Jack Kerouac story but a narrative based on modern times.
"It's not segmented songs -- there's a map that comes with it -- and it's not a collection of short stories. It's a road trip album and a narrative. It's historically based."
Amos said there was one theme she encountered over and over again in the letters she received from fans -- trust in world leaders and trust in her.
"On one level there have been a lot of things kept from the public, and presidents have been impeached for lying," she said. "We as Americans can't throw up our hands and say [Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden] are worse so we are justified."
Amos said people just need to be honest with themselves.
"What I see when I get letters is a level of trust and [people] feeling manipulated," she said. "I hold a place [at the show] for people to come without Big Brother to say what they can and cannot see.
"People are being told if they don't agree [with the information given], they are an outcast. That's not what a Democracy should be. If we call ourselves a Democracy, we better start acting like one!"
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