home / interviews
The Canberra Times (Australia)
January 1, 2004
Tori Amos tells the Tales Of A Librarian on her new album
Twisted tales, straight outta the Library
Tori Amos still carries some baggage, but the 40-year-old singer-songwriter now has the voice of a woman who is healed - and she proves it on new album Tales Of A Librarian, as Mike Gee writes.
Tori Amos used to have a "thing" for guacamole but she's moved on. Now it's Thai food - and London, surprisingly to her, now has good Thai food.
The daughter of a Methodist minister father and part-Cherokee mother is bright, happy, buoyed by motherhood and the joy that she is getting from her three-year-old daughter Natashya.
It hasn't always been this way. This is the woman - she's now 40 - who first appeared in her late 20s with the album Little Earthquakes, singing about her own experience of rape, and the crucifix that haunted her.
Me And A Gun and Silent All These Years remain compelling and frighteningly personal statements.
Amos has never backed off.
Her new collection, Tales Of A Librarian - I hesitate to call it a "best of" because Amos has spent a lot of time working on it - details a woman's fight to deal with the crushing experiences of youth and eventually to embrace marriage and motherhood.
Indeed, to find joy. That Amos has, is reason to believe for many. She is adored and revered by millions of fans and remains one of the most popular artists on the Internet.
So with Amos, nothing is simple. Or shallow. Her collection is quite wonderful, really. It is, as she says, the closest thing to an autobiography of a woman's 40 years. It is information, told as a story.
"Librarians have such access to information," Amos says. "Knowledge is the sexiest - in my mind every librarian wears a stiletto heel."
So the librarian in Amos wished to tell her daughter something, indeed everything. To explain why. A lot of whys.
"I listen to this record and I hope she understands," Amos says. And to understand where Amos is now, you have to understand the mother she has become.
"Being a mother is so..." she says before being momentarily lost for words.
"20 words come to my mind. Of course, it is magical and the most overwhelming love. It's also, wow! What a challenge.
"Since Natashya was born my thinking has changed in more ways than I even know. When you are in the middle of it and just dealing with it you aren't really aware of all the changes going on in yourself.
"I'm at that place where she's very much in the imagination place. That's great in a lot of ways. At the same time, that's why I have to pull back and think about 15 years or 20 years time.
"As a musician, there are those of us who can keep planting seeds in the masses - even in a small way. I think that is where change has occurred historically.
"It is how women eventually got the vote. I felt that in 20 years time, the kind of world - that generation that Natashya is in - might be a world we, maybe, could have avoided. So I wanted Natashya to understand the history of her mother and America as I saw it.
"When I was compiling Tales Of A Librarian I wanted to take it from the position of an American woman who was born in 1963. When I was a child, feminism was coming alive and America was at the crossroads of change - as it recently has been again.
"This record is the story of a woman brought up in America's religious and political indoctrination."
That is a statement that Amos also makes on a recent electronic press kit, where she goes a step further and says, referring to herself abstractly: "It's important that we know she was raped, it's important that know she was part native American-part European, a mutt, that she loved and had all these personal experiences, as well."
As such when Amos went back to examine the body of her work, she had access to all the original multi-track recording, but - quite properly - refused to change them.
"The voice of the girl that was raped is singing back then," she says. "If I re-recorded the vocal now it would be the voice of the woman who is healed."
It is all about perspectives - and Amos has plenty of them.
"Some of my writer friends and I were talking a year ago," she says, "and they were saying 'wouldn't it be great to have some Roman woman's account of how she viewed Rome at it's zenith, perhaps moving towards the end of that time.'
"As an artist, as a musician, I thought, yes, I would really like to have heard that perspective. So that kind of brought me to the parallel of America and being an American woman I have the right to talk about America.
"I don't have the right to talk about Britain - even though I live here - and where it is at.
"My roots are American, my mother's people go back thousands of years. I felt that compiling this record was, in many ways, like what musicians have done for a long, long time - chronicled the time.
"I wanted to take it back to the songs Jackie's Strength and Precious Things when this woman was growing up you get a sense of what she was feeling right through to this time when Sweet Dreams has become relevant again.
"When I wrote that [Sweet Dreams] in late 1989-1990 about the current George [Bush]'s father and where we were heading at that time, I had no idea that the song would ever be relevant again.
"We had moved on as a country; we were never going back to that place. Nothing happened. I even didn't play it that much. People would request it and I'd say, 'No, this is silly, it's like walking down Republican lane.' Why would you.
"And then it becomes quite relevant now, so that's why it made the record."
Amos still carries baggage. She wouldn't tell you she doesn't. But she'll also tell you about angels and the blessings that love and motherhood have finally brought her.
It is fitting that she should wrap up her career, so far, with Tales Of A Librarian. Now there's the future to consider.
"You know, I have no idea of what it holds, what I'll do next, musically," she says. "Actually, I may have a small idea but that would be telling."
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos