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Brisbane Times (Australia)
December 9, 2012
What I know about men
Interview Jane Rocca
SINGER, 49, MARRIED
My father, Dr Edison McKinley Amos, is a Methodist minister with a doctorate in theology. He is an incredibly tenacious and ambitious man. You could describe him as a feminist because he believes in women's rights and equal pay, and he wants to see his daughters succeed. I was the youngest of three. My sister, Dr Marie Dobyns, is married with five children, and my brother, Michael, died in 2004 from a car accident. He was 10 years older.
After I was born in Newton, North Carolina, we lived with my mum's parents. My grandfather, Calvin Clinton Copeland, told me stories every night as we sat on the front porch. He moulded me to look at life through the stories that his grandmother taught him. I remember going on walks with him and he would say, "What do you see when you look in front of you?" I would reply, "That is a pile of dirt." He would say, "It's not a pile of dirt" -- and so would begin another story. I learnt to imagine with him.
My father was very much a driving force for me to become successful as a songwriter. He acted as my agent until I was in my 20s and moved to LA. He and Mum owned my publishing rights and assured me it was the way to do business. My mother, [Mary Ellen], is the heart and soul of the family. When my father went to church to preach, she would take out her records and play Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. My brother would bring home records that weren't allowed in the house. He introduced me to '60s rock like the Doors. My father thought rock music turned young girls into a vortex for the devil. He wanted me to follow classical music and my brother encouraged me as a composer. I could play the piano [at age 2] before I could even talk.
At 13, I started working in bars. My first job was in a gay bar. It was called Mr Henry's and they took me on when nobody else did. I played for tips. Gay men taught me about deportment and how not to be a slut. They taught me about fashion and how a lady should sit and behave; how to carry a handbag and how to walk.
My first kiss happened at 10, when I lived in Silver Spring, a town in Maryland. It was at a bus stop and he was a couple of years older. He looked at me and said, "I would love to give you a kiss." He was cute and popular. I remember feeling attractive. It was our secret moment and after that he would always smile at me down the school hallway.
When I moved to LA at 21 there was a vulnerability to me. It came with being young and raised by a religious family who taught me to see the best in people. Being in a frightening situation as I was [when she was 21, Amos was raped at knife point in her car by a fan she had offered to drive home] showed me everyone has a monstrous side. You can become blind-sided by situations if you're only willing to see the best in people. Some people will tell you, "I don't have a dark side", but if anybody tells you that, especially a guy, run for the hills! You don't stand for that crap. These sorts of people have no idea what is inside them.
I was in a relationship with somebody else when I fell in love with [Englishman] Mark Hawley. He was working as my sound engineer on the Under the Pink album tour in 1994. I would sing to him every night but he didn't know it. I'd been in other relationships through my life but this was love at first sight. It was the first time I felt connected to a man.
When I told Mark how I felt [nine months into the album tour], he made it clear to me that infidelity was out of the question. He believed in marriage. He taught me about the idea of a monogamous marriage and that you can always have romance. It takes work and respect.
Mark and I married in 1997. He told me he wanted to know me when I was 80. We are still together and have a daughter, Tash [born in 2000], who is in boarding school in London. Mark has a house in Cornwall and I have my place in Florida. We split our time between the two. Mark has shown me the importance of family and having family time.
Through the death of my brother, Michael, I realised that mortality is a real thing. Before he died, I didn't think about mortality in the same way. It woke me up in a way to see just how fragile life is and how important it is to let the people you love know that all the time.
Tori Amos's new album is Gold Dust (Universal Music).
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