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The Sunday Times (UK)
October 16, 2011



The American singer-songwriter and pianist Tori Amos, 48, has sold more than 12m albums and received multiple Grammy nominations. Her latest album, Night of Hunters, is out now, and her tour of Britain and Ireland starts on November 2 at the Albert Hall, London SW7. She lives in Florida and is married to a British sound engineer, Mark Hawley. They have a daughter, Natashya, 11, who is at boarding school in this country.

My Hols: Tori Amos

by Sue Fox
photo by Teri Pengilley

Want to taste the best fish and chips in the world? You’ll find them in Grimsby, according to the singer Tori Amos

"I grew up on the East Coast of the United States, just outside Washington DC, where my father was a Methodist minister. Summer holidays were spent with my maternal grandparents, Nanny and Poppa, in Newton, a small town in North Carolina. My brother, Michael, was almost 10 years older than me, and Marie, my sister, was six years older, so some summers it would be just me and Momma in Newton.

As a minister, my father had just two weeks' vacation in summer. Sometimes, he was invited to preach at a Methodist camp somewhere. I didn't like the idea of grim Bible school, and I certainly wasn't looking forward to camp at Lake Junaluska, in North Carolina. We stayed at Nanny and Poppa's on the way there. As it turned out, the Methodist camp wasn't so bad. The music wasn't great -- definitely not as good as swinging Baptist church music -- but there was a rock I could climb and jump off from into the lake. I had nature, religion, music and other kids my age, but I'd rather have stayed with my grandparents the whole summer.

Another holiday option for my father was to swap parsonages. I guess in England you'd call them vicarages. When I was seven, we found a minister from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who wanted to be in Washington DC. Florida definitely beat Lake Junaluska. There was no Bible school, and we didn't even have to go to church, because my father didn't have to preach. We drove all the way to Florida, stopping off at Nanny and Poppa's house. This was long before the state was full of shopping malls, and I was mesmerized by the trees, the swamps and the feel of being in the tropics. I remember saying to Momma, "This is paradise."

All I wanted was a straw hat and a beach hut. It was a 25-minute drive to the beach, but we drove there most days, and I thought, "This has to be the future, I'm going to live here some day." Years later, when I was just starting my career, I played a concert near that beach. As I got back to the hotel, I passed a shadow of myself aged seven and told her, "I don't have the beach house yet, but wait a few years." And my little self said, "Okay."

When I was almost 10, Poppa died. Two years later, Nanny went into a nursing home and there were no more golden summers in North Carolina. It was hard on my mother, because we were so far away, and what had been the core of the family was no longer there.

As a teenager, I started working in the summer, singing during happy hour in downtown hotels. My father would chaperone me into town at 4:30pm, then collect me at 7:30pm, after he'd visited other ministers. At 16, I got my driver's license and was able to be more independent.

A year later, I had a working holiday at the Myrtle Beach Hilton, in South Carolina. Momma came with me, so I wouldn't be lonely, and to help me revise for a paper I had to write for school on John Milton's Samson Agonistes. I only got a C grade for the paper, but Momma and I had a great time hanging out together, walking on the beach and enjoying the sun. Away from the church and the demands of being a minister's wife, my mother really came alive. My parents have retired now, and we live about 20 minutes away from each other in Florida. My dream came true and I got my beach house.

In 1994, I met my husband, Mark. He was the sound engineer on my tour. He's from Cornwall, and has a home there, so I take time off to be with him whenever I can. We've had wonderful holidays exploring the Cornish coast. Mark's wider family are from Grimsby. He's taken me there, and I've seen the docks and eaten the best fish and chips I've had anywhere in the world. His grandfather was a fisherman and his boat was used at Dunkirk. That's something the family are very proud of.

Mark and I really fell in love in Italy. We stayed in the bells tower of L'Amorosa hotel, in Tuscany. Each day, we'd drive out to explore Montepulciano and Montalcino, come back, eat wonderful food and drink wine. It was total heaven, away from the world."


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