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7 Nights (UK)
supplement to the Sunday Mail, Scotland
August 30, 2009
Life's No Fairy Tori
American singer says the recession inspired her new album.. but hopes her UK tour will leave audiences feeling uplifted.
By Avril Cadden
You get the feeling that not many people know the real Tori Amos -- after all, she seems to change chameleon-like with each of her albums.
For example, the flame-haired songstress was Scarlet in the album Scarlet's Walk to tell the story of the native Americans, a subject close to her heart, as she is part Cherokee. Her American Doll Posse album was a reaction to the Bush administration.
However, for her 10th album Abnormally Attracted To Sin, which she has been touring in the States, Tori dealt with the darker themes of power, relationships and thoughts of suicide. But this time there were no dolls, no posse and no alter-egos.
Well-known for her hit Professional Widow, which was remixed so memorably in 1996 by Armand van Helden, Tori is currently writing her as-yet untitled 11th studio album, before embarking on a tour of the UK which brings her to Glasgow on September 8.
On her latest album, the 46-year-old singer, who lives in Cornwall with British-born husband Mark Hawley and their eight-year-old daughter Natashya, says she was simply reacting to events around the world.
Tori said: "I was writing Abnormally Attracted To Sin when I was out on the American Doll Posse tour and things were beginning to break down around the world. I guess it isn't a concept record, it's just a woman with red hair singing these songs.
"It just happened that way. I think what is happening in the world guides the work. When I wrote Scarlet's Walk it was important to take a journey across the US, which had already been invaded before 9/11, because a lot of Americans were fixated on the fact that 9/11 had been the first invasion on the mainland. We as Americans needed to remember that and it's not taught in the schools.
"Sometimes I do take on a persona in order to tell a story but all the songs really come from personal experience, even on American Doll Posse."
During her recent US tour Tori witnessed the results of the downturn in the economy and while the experience led her to release a more stripped-down album, it also had an influence on her upcoming tour.
She explains: "I think we needed a change of administration, there's no question about that. I've toured the States and lots of people have lost their jobs but we are only now feeling the effect of decisions which were made years ago.
"I've never experienced such an unknowing from one day to the next, so I've tried with the band and the crew to develop a show where people leave feeling as if they have more energy. I made a pact with myself that the shows would be incredibly grounding and joyous.
"Although the show takes you through dark places, I felt that the work needed to reflect the tough times, but also to help people see that in these instances they can find their strengths and be able to prioritise what is really important, and not to be afraid of life changes."
The album's title Abnormally Attracted To Sin comes from a line in the musical Guys And Dolls and Tori explains that figuring out who you are attracted to and why tells you a lot about yourself. The song Ophelia speaks of women stuck in the well-worn pattern of continually attracting the wrong men.
She explains: "As I was doing the research for this, I found that women would be attracted to a guy who didn't respect them and would want to have power over them by withholding praise or support, and yet the women would keep going back to them time and time again."
Tackling the theme of power in a world where familiar structures are breaking down, Tori is concerned at how much power gets abused.
She said: "People that need to have power over other people are just abusing their authority. They are not powerful people, truly powerful people are people who don't need to take something from another person because they can generate it themselves within themselves.
"This is not about money, this is about something that can't be taken from you. You can't lose it in the bank or on the stock market. It's taken me years to really value and redefine what is a powerful person and be attracted to those women and men, instead of being drawn to people who can have power over you if you let them. Also, because they are negative you try to please them, turn them around and the reason they have power over you is that you can never totally please them."
Although serious and thoughtful, Tori does love a good laugh and it's her husband Mark that makes her giggle the most.
She said: "He's very funny but he's really appropriate. We get on well because we don't have a similar path. I grew up in the States, he grew up in the UK, our references are very different. He doesn't have a religious kneejerk reaction issue and I don't have a class system issue. It's good because we don't get fussed about the same things and can make the other one laugh."
When she talks of her family, the kooky persona we identify her with disappears. She conjures up a lovely image of her parents being like old oak trees, strong and protective, sheltering the whole family.
She said: "I saw them in Washington DC at the show a couple of weeks ago. We had an 80th birthday party for my mum. My dad, who's 81, read this poem he had written about waking up every morning and realising that he was with the love of his life. To see these two people who are in love as much as a couple of teenagers who think they have found their soulmate was special.
"My mother says they've built this beautiful garden together, sometimes it's had weeds which they've had to get rid of and they've had to tend it but they have a lush, beautiful thriving garden. They've had their 60th anniversary and it's taken them that time to build it."
That family stability is something that resonates strongly with Tori and she loves taking her daughter on tour with her.
She said: "This is her fifth world tour. She's been touring since she was a year old. Before I went on stage at Radio City in NewYork City she said, 'You know mummy this is a really big deal. You must be really excited. It's one of the most special venues in the world to play. Were you ever here when you were my age wishing you would ever play it?'
"She had been Googling. I told her I was there as a teenager with my dad, he had on his dog collar, carrying his bible and I was trying to get a job at the Sheridan. I was told they didn't need any teenage piano players. Tash told me to tell the story and say I couldn't get a job at the Sheridan but now I'm playing Radio City - and I did, I told the story."
Tori plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, September 8.
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The Big One
Playing boys at music game... and winning
She's beein involved with the music industry since her debut album Little Earthquakes in 1992 and is one of many women in the business.
But while there are more women, perhaps wielding more power than before, Tori says the balance of power still tips towards the boys.
She said: "It is more of a guys' club and instead of being intimidated by that or negative about it you have to learn how to communicate with them.
"There are some men in the industry who do have a lot of respect for women's ability and women's power and then there are some who don't believe in the emancipation of women and just don't believe in women being equal.
"If you end up being signed to a label where there is someone like that it's going to be tricky because there is no way the two of you are going to be creative soulmates, but you have to try to find a way to get them to do what you want them to do and that's much easier said than done."
A change at her old label Sony saw Tori jump ship to join Universal. She's teamed up again with Doug Morris, now chairman of Universal Music Group, and he originally put out Little Earthquakes.
She said: "I left Sony because when I signed initially there was a woman there, but when all the mergers took place, the boys' club took over. She wasn't going to play their game, so she left.
"We need to be able to have mutual respect for each other and that wasn't necessarily what I was dealing with. But Doug Morris is a big believer in women being in charge of their own careers so the relationship works out very well."
Tori is quiet yet forceful and perhaps her steely determination has served her well in terms of career longevity, but she understands how some people can fall by the wayside and out of music.
She said: "Some people may choose to leave the music business because the chess game that has to be played is not what was signed up for.
"I'm not going to tell you that I enjoy it but if I'm going to play that chess game then I will not lose, and I will do it in high heels with a nice glass of champagne. You can't go in there in a confrontational way, you have to learn how to speak their language and not everybody wants to do that."
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