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August 31, 2005

liveDaily Interview: Tori Amos

by Don Zulaica
LiveDaily Contributor

Tori Amos has a lot on her plate these days. Besides trekking hard on the Summer of Sin Tour to support her eighth studio album, "The Beekeeper," she's also taken a step into the online-distribution arena.

On toriamosbootlegs.com, fans can choose from several different soundboard-quality recordings taken from this year's Original Sinsuality Tour. At press time, two shows were available: Auditorium Theater in Chicago (4/15/05), and Royce Hall Auditorium in Los Angeles (4/25/05). Both feature several staple songs and a few covers, including Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer." She also recently penned the memoir "Piece By Piece" with noted New York Times music critic Ann Powers.

Amos spoke with liveDaily while preparing for a recent show in Montreal.

liveDaily: How has the tour been so far?

Tori Amos: Fascinating, in that I'm out here without [drummer] Matt [Chamberlain] and [bassist] Jon [Evans], and when you don't have your rhythm section, it forces you to play your instrument differently. To command a crowd of a few thousand people every night and hold them for two hours as a one-woman show is very ... it's a perspective that you don't know about until you're forced to do it. You think, "Oh yeah, I can sing to people when I'm in the studio," but think about it. That's a few people sitting on a nice leather couch.

You're filling a much larger space.

Yes. Absolutely.

How was the recording experience for "The Beekeeper" different from other albums?

I think on "The Beekeeper," that was a moment in time. I'll never forget, it was dusk in Cornwall [England], and we were tracking "Sweet the Sting" with that Afro-Cuban rhythm. [My daughter] Natashya had gone off for a "princess week," so the mommy in me had an opportunity to have a break, and just to be the musician with the guys. When you're with the guys as not just the singer, but the player and composer, something very ... I have to be careful about my words, but you form a marriage with each man. It's not sexual. Therefore, I was able to form a bond with Matt and Jon, a threesome, like ZZ Top without the beards. Although, I was the one that probably had the only real one. [laughs] In all honesty, there is that cheeky side of me that--as a mom, when I'm touring with my child--I cannot bring out until show time.

For the tour for "Scarlet's Walk," when I toured with them, I think we formed a language that was captured on "The Beekeeper," because that record is very much about keys and rhythm--the marriage between the bass and drums, and a piano player, in a classic jazz-combo style without the jazz. That's what I wanted. I wanted the joining of the male and the female, and I think--because we played over 150 shows on "Scarlet's Walk" together as a threesome--I was able to go write music around them. I designed these songs for the male as well as the female, not just the girl alone at her piano.

Now, the next record will be totally different, and that's why--because of that moment of touring with those guys--I had to compose something of the joining of that relationship. It's funny, because Matt and I are like twins: from the same mother, but from another galaxy. Then Jon and Matt have their relationship, and then Jon and I have our own relationship, because he is so musical. He can tell Matt what I'm doing when I can't.


How do you decide what songs to cover live and on record? Of course, some make complete sense piano-wise, like Joe Jackson or Joni Mitchell, and then there's Eminem and Bon Jovi. Is there a moment when you go, "I should get their permission to record ..."

You don't have to have permission to do someone else's songs. Anybody can do my songs, unless you're going to change it. That's important for people to know. With [The Beatles'] "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," we had to get permission because I added the Bush father-and-son quote, and Yoko [Ono] gave us permission. It's one of those things, because I didn't change [Eminem's] "Bonnie and Clyde" at all, not one word, I didn't have to get permission.

How did you decide to do Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer?"

When I was in Los Angeles, I had to acknowledge the big-hair days, so Bon Jovi was, of course, a natural choice. I was there in the '80s, so Cyndi Lauper and Bon Jovi, that's just what was happening at the time when I was running around in my tight, fake snakeskin ... ridiculous hip-huggers. [laughs]

When I make choices, I open it up. It goes back to playing at the Carlton [hotel] and the lounges, because that's were I sort of formed myself as a writer, listening to all this music. It's no different than architects looking at all kinds of structures. Just because you might not build those yourself doesn't mean you don't want to walk into them and say, "Ooh."



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