home / interviews
Faith and Music (UK, TV)
February 29, 2004
(Voiceover) Hailed as a musical prodigy Tori Amos has sold over 15 million albums worldwide, Tori was born the daughter of Methodist minister, stifled by the confines of organised religion she set to find her own answers
Tori: "Of course I believe in Jehovah, I believe in Buddha, I believe in Jesus, I believe in the Magdalene, I believe in the great peacemaker, in every great deity that has ever existed, I believe in Muhammad, Allah. I believe Kali is as real as Jehovah."
"My particular faith system is always growing all the time; I do have my roots in Native American spirituality because it's what I was taught as a little girl. It's very much about a way, a path, their ceremony but you can be by yourself."
"I remember having a dual when I visited my mother's father who was of the Eastern Cherokee nation; life was very colorful and musical. I think he found life, aligned with the spirit and the spirit world that was real to him as you are to me and that he was very aware of the ancestors and tradition, honor, the great spirit, our true mother the Earth. So completely different thinking then going to the Methodist church on Sunday which was about an authority, patriarchy and hierarchy for instance."
"My grandmother who was Scottish and severe in many ways she was revered really respected, she would say you must give your body to you husband on your wedding night and your faith to Jesus. I said, "What's left?" and she said well you don't need anything for yourself that's the ego. And I began to realize that was evil. I began to see that manipulation that can occur when people are committed to the subjugation of another human being and so I knew that my grandmother and me were on different sides."
(Past the Mission video plays)
Voiceover: Through her music Tori has challenged the church and questioned its suppression of women.
Tori "And it was clear that I was going to follow the more of the Native American tradition of balance, quality and the sprit world being something that I had to integrate into my life"
"I was pregnant with my daughter and I felt that I needed to rewire something so that my daughter wouldn't take on board my damage that I had. I don't have damage with Christianity, I have damage with how it was misappropriated."
"When somebody begins to take authority over you, as a soul where they try to get you to doubt yourself or lose you voice, to not speak, your begin to lose the essence of who you are. I did see that a lot, not only in the Christian church but in every organised religion. I've seen it in the Native American tradition where there can be a devouring."
(Crucify video plays)
Voiceover: To choose between the role of sex goddess or submissive servant is something Tori could never accept
Tori: "I still enjoy playing Crucify, she comes to me every so often, this idea of feeling torment although you're trying to walk into the place of resurrection and transmutation. I wasn't at this place and sort of the reason was because of the shame goes along with some my upbringing. I was not at the stage of transmutation, I was in the state of crucifixion." (laughs)
"As a woman realizing that was my cross to bear, until I walked of the marriage of the two women the Marys if Christian women could marry the two Marys. Mary the mother who we acknowledge had her spirituality and the Magdalene who we all acknowledge had her sexuality. We could be whole as Christian women, without that Christian women, and I found as I studied them just sitting there watching them as the Minister's daughter, were divided, they felt that they had to make a choice so I started in my mind to marry the Marys in my being and that's something that writing songs helps me do."
(Begins to play Crucify: I've been looking.")
Tori: "Now let's see if I can the key right (laughs) "I've been looking for a saviour"
"And it keeps going and it talks about my heart being in chains and I felt like Yes! This song is my friend she understands me"
(Crucify video plays)
"Music is a place that takes me into other dimensions. People that don't write songs sometimes have a hard time understanding this, its not like they walk in with a head and legs and say "Hi, I'm a song." But they come as an entity as consciousness and sometimes I feel I have to go on an archeological dig sonically to uncover what they're saying to me or who they are."
Voiceover: From a very early age Tori Amos has regarded her piano as almost human, a fellow conspirator in her mischievous relationship with the world .
"Just to touch her you know (plays piano) sometimes I go in and talk to her even now you now. I might get my daughter ready for school and didn't get the tights right on. I am not the most organized person and husband might have rolled his eyes at all my books and my mess and my station and I come to her and talk to her and she talks back to me. Its all about the tone, rhythm and then I come back in myself then I'm aligned and I go face what I need to face, This gives me strength because it is my language, the first I learned."
"My father as a Methodist minister was mmmm Billy Graham was his mentor, I mean I think my dad was on that path. Taking me down on the Potomac river into George Town very close to the Whitehouse to get a job at 13 cos I been kicked out Peabody and some my friends were getting at 13, he didn't want that to be my destiny so he said what kind of music. (Imitating her dad's voice) If music can save you what music would it be?
"I said well I feel like I'm a contemporary composer I want to talk about now. I want to write music that reflects now, that chronicles time now. Not 100's of years ago, those guys I said to him, you know they're six feet under and been eaten by the worms but their music lives on and its great but they did it. I don't want just go over that. It doesn't reflect out time now, I wanna been one of those composer's and he said, "You need to get training then."
"So her took me down and it was sort of like no room at the inn kind of thing and the gay community let us in the door. They was very hard for my dad, And so I applauded him, I tell him now I'm so proud of him, that he opened up to taking me, it didn't help him at the all at the church, people were so judgmental and still are - as we know.
"I would look him, my mother was the one that said the Christian faith believed in love and loving your neighbour, yourself and accepting the last sheep into the fold and at the time he was Minster for the Good Shepherd United Methodist church, so my mother was always good at analogies, she had her Native America agenda, she had a tomahawk always hidden under her white Methodist wife's apron.
"And dad and I were off in the gay bar world um my father being much more a follower of Saint Paul, than Mary Magdalene, this was big for him and it taught I think a lot as father and daughter about another way and not being so judgmental and what the core of Christianity really was which why all the judgment?
(Me and A Gun from the RAINN concert plays)
Voiceover: In 1985 Tori Amos was raped at gunpoint by an audience member to whom she offered a lift to, she remained silent for 6 years finally the trauma she had suppressed for so long erupted in this song
"The song, Me and a Gun, which I wrote about my own um experiences of a violation that I try not to go into detail about because as the years go on I feel likes there's certain um aspects of it that to heal they have to be left there. The song came and made me aware of things that had happened I didn't want to look at, that I'd been silent about and shut way. If I can create worlds in songs for to look at this I think I created a place to hide these um violations so when the song came to me it took over my whole being and I had to perform it"
"When Leather was um working itself out at the piano and that line came:
"I almost ran over an angel he had a nice big fat cigar 'IN A SENSE' he said 'you're alone here so if you jump you best jump far.'"
"I think 'you best jump far' was pretty good advice, from the angel, the idea that some force is going to save, um some people maybe do have an experience where it was miracle, they were saved. I must not rank high 'cause I've not had that experience; I've just had to pick myself up off the floor and remember some of those mantras."
"I remember poppa my grandfather saying that if you think granddaughter that you are going to jump off a cliff and wings are going to come down and get you then in this life you may need to jump of a cliff, crash, shatter, die then maybe next time you'd get it right but I would miss you granddaughter I would miss you, I think that knowing that he would miss me wanna stay. Now that I have a little girl, any problem that breaks me down, which it does anybody else; I know it would selfish of me to leave."
"There's this song when I'm at my lowest she will sometimes comes to me. When this song came, she came an African women and she pulled me out bed, and husband didn't know what I was doing, I ran out of the house and threw a pair of jeans and on the way out and go to (taps the piano) my girl here and this song was 1000 oceans and she was singing to me this women um in a way that made me know that we're never really alone." (Tori sings this verse twice)
I'm aware what the rules are
but you know that I will run
you know that I will follow you
over Silbury hill
through the solar field
you know that I will follow you
"When I try to walk back to the time when I was writing From the Choirgirl Hotel, that a time when I had miscarried, and there was a part of me yes, that was running to the edges of any belief system to try and contact a God and an authority to ask where my child had gone."
"And I willing to cut deals you know negotiate, if I could have been enlightened in some way how do you find the soul of a being when they have left planet Earth? Where have they gone? How do you make contact? I think the songs brought me back to a place of healing, many mothers who have lost a could I was given a great gift by this being that was the ability to love in a way that had not loved before so I although the being the being continued on and may have chosen another mother that might have been more right for this time. This being left me with the ability to feel something I hadn't before." (Tori smile's and her eyes fill up)
(HAPPY PHANTOM live performance from Little Earthquakes video)
"When Happy Phantom sort of waltzed in, into my life, There was a lot of talk in my family where souls go when they leave earth, Some people in my family believe you go to an afterlife a heaven, a hell, an in between. Whether that's purgatory or you sit kind of in a dentist's office, I haven't figured it out yet how they figure it out, you get a little card and then if you pass you get to go and if you don't pass the test they need your seat." (laughs)
"But there are others that really believe the souls go to where they need to go and because there are many universes it hard to take as human being to if you're not arrogant to say what that is but you surrender, you surrender that idea and I think Happy Phantom was a giggle about dying. Not that dying and I am not ok about dying because there's something that poppa always said to me, um especially when the topic of suicide was coming up. He would say don't be fooled granddaughter, just because you leave this plain doesn't mean you leave troubles behind, you take them with you that is who you are. You might shed this body like a violin case but the violin only songs the songs it knows it will take that with it and I began to realize that the was no escape I think Happy Phantom said "No there's no escape, have a giggle" (Tori smiles) The songs became mortar and they became frames, from me to walk into like pictures and I would access that part of my being that needed to be liberated through the song."
"Before I take the stage I guess I do go into a place of (pause) prayer but its not quote unquote a religious prayer, its about allowing myself to be a key so that the songs can invade me but its an agreed invasion"
(End of LITTLE EARTHQUAKES from RAINN concert)
"You can lose your stage in seconds. I'm sure you've seen performers who walk out and don't know where to take an audience. That's because they don't know how to plug into the force that's greater then yourself you are only a conduit as a performer once the ego takes over and it's all about you that when it goes really sour."
"I have to move into a revving up so that I can hold the stage and also that I am able to hear conversations of people in the audience without them speaking. The relationship between performer and audience is a very scared relationship. To be able to allow yourself to be um (paused and looks off camera and smiles) used in a way that is the right use of musician and where songs become the subtext for what people are feeling. You have to put yourself in another time and place."
~ ~ ~
'Faith & Music' Press Release
FAITH & MUSIC III (PROGRAMME 3)
A revealing portrait of the minister's daughter and original Cornflake Girl, who became a major musical force and source of inspiration to women around the world. Filmed at the Shaw Theatre in London, the programme offers a touching insight into the thoughts and beliefs of this prolific star. Featuring rare stills, pop video and live performance material we trace the relationship between Tori's music and her beliefs - the source of her creative freedom.
Tori Amos burst onto the music scene in the early nineties as part of a new wave of female singer song writers. Her formidable skill as a pianist combined with powerful, provocative lyrics gained her instant critical recognition, a loyal army of fans and album sales in excess of 15 million worldwide.
Produced using one core interview Tori talks candidly about the influences her Cherokee grandparents had on her at a young age, growing up in the unforgiving glare of the congregation, her faith system and the strength in her own beliefs that have helped get her where she is today.
Tori deconstructs her lyrics expanding on the thoughts and emotions that underpin some of her biggest hits. She also touches on the resonance her songs have found with her audience and the comfort and inspiration that music can offer.
Articulate and engaging, Tori Amos offers us a unique window into her life, her beliefs and her music.
Transmission: Sunday 29th February ITV1.
Director: Allen Jewhurst - Series Producer: Simon Wells
Producer: Emma Ekelund
A CHAMELEON TV PRODUCTION - 0113 205 0040
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos