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July 8, 2007
My whole life conspired so that I'd become an artist
Even though she's played the piano since she was 2 and a half years old, Tori Amos says she wants to forget her unhappy childhood years.
by Sandy Tsantaki
She is tortured. And her music - at least - shows it. Tori Amos will tunr 40 on the 22nd of August. And she wants to forget her childhood, with her father, a Methodist Minister, the religious depression, the sexual abuse from a family friend, her later participation in an unsuccessful rock group in the '80s, and the periods she felt depressed. She prefers remembering the little earthquakes of her life, "Little Earthquakes", her first album. But since 1988 everything changed. Like she needed that tremor. She is married to the sound engineer Mark Hawley, has a daughter, splits her time between England and the US, she is a founding member of Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network - RAINN, and has 9 Grammy nominations. On Wednesday, 18 of July she will perform in Athens, as part of the newly-founded Fly Beeyond Festival. The same day, Air and James will perform on that same stage.
What brings you to Greece? Especially with James and Air? What would you do if you did not like the... musical company?
I've wanted to perform in your country for a long time. The timing is perfect. As if I had to wait so many years to get to today, to now. As for the music company... I do not like judging other people. I do not care about pettiness. As a musician, you are just a member of a community. When it comes to music or an artist that I don't like to listen to, I prefer keeping it for myself. But I am open in listening to others. I am not one of those bitches that have an opinion on everything. I do not laugh at someone tumbling down. I feel sorry when a colleague leaves the ring.
Are you talking from experience?
I've performed since I was 13, it's at least 30 years now, I know very well what to expect, and what can make a show good or bad. The worst of all? Not to have the audience take a journey, and not to be carried away by the notes. My worst is when I sense that someone in the audience is in danger. And every year we have festivals with incidents. It's a time where a black cloud covers over everything. The thing that concerns me when I am up there, is to make the audience feel safe. Either way concerts have to do with feelings, my goal is for them not to feel that they have to express their strength or break out in violence. Music can excite you. But I do not tolerate violence. If I have to, I will take the bastard down myself. You have to be alert all the time. Because you are on stage to do your job. You want to make people, especially women, feel safe.
You work hard. Almost since you were born. At the age of 4 you memorized piano sheets of Mozart. Do you think of yourself as a child prodigy?
No, no, no way. I've played the piano since I was 2 and a half, it's one of those things that happen to you and you can't explain them. You cannot get away from what you were born with. I was born with the gift of music, as cliché as that sounds. And I don't want to spend or throw away that gift. But I want to evolve it. And wherever it takes me.
What are the things that you sacrificed as a child?
Music was my life since I was a little girl. Whether I liked it or not. I didn't go to the Carribean on my 18th birthday with my friends. I worked six days a week, I played weddings and funerals. My father took me along wherever he went. He payed me less than some other person he would have along, but 20 dollars at that time - and we're talking about 1973 - it was a lot of money never the less. But I do not complain. My whole life conspired so that I become an artist. I can't do anything else. I did not have the childhood that Natashya, my daughter, is living now. She has many friends, I had one. I have one and only gift. No more. I cannot cook, or spoil husbands. I am a disaster in that part. On the contrary she knows so much: computers, painting, singing, surfing...
Do you have any regrets? Would you admit them?
I play music for other people. What more could I ask as an artist? I write music and I practice every day. It's like breathing. Because I know the consequences if I get lazy. My daughter often says: "Poor Mommy, you never played like the other children". But I do not worry, because I play with her now, and I don't sit around like other mommies. Now I am learning to play too. And it's fun.
To what extend is your music autobiographical?
If I don't experience something, I can't write. The character of a song maybe a bit different than the one in real life, but few of them realize it's them. Even my friends don't get it. And it makes me happy, cause many times I write about them and they still think it's my life I'm writing about.
What is the one and only song you sing to your daughter?
It's 2 songs: "Gold Dust" and "Ribbons Undone". When I leave this place and she's a mother or a grandmother, I'd like these songs to live forever. From one generation to another. It's the time she will know she's not on her own.
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