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A Heart is a Spade (www)
April 25, 2014
A Heart Is A Spade Interview: Tori Amos
Why did you decide to title the new album Unrepentant Geraldines?
Well, it's a bit involved because it comes from a few inspirational sources. I was going through many paintings from the last hundreds of years. I looked at visual artists a lot for inspiration. I was seeing a lot of repentant Magdalenes from a few hundred years ago. Then I found myself in Ireland -- I'm always kind of jumping over to Ireland -- we've had the house there since 1995 -- I was with a friend of mine who is an artist/painter who has a print of Geraldine. She's looking up at the Virgin Mary and she's repentant. I thought about women having to apologize -- particularly in the 19th century -- for their passions, their actions or their feelings and how they were ostracized. Gay men have had to live with that for so long until recently and there are some places where you still do. I was fascinated with not being apologetic in what you believe in -- being able to stand by and not waver. At 50 years old, I've learned you are what you believe. It's not something you can clock in and out of.
How would you describe the direction and intention of Unrepentant Geraldines?
It was a place of calling together everything I've learned. We're back to artists -- in the old days, they were making their pigments. Sometimes, as a sonic artist, you go through your blue period, like painters have. For this one, it seemed as if all bets were off. Anything was open to me. The last three albums worked as a trilogy. I wanted to step away from the orchestra and I did. Everything I've been exposed to my whole life became part of palette.
How do you plan on incorporating tracks from Unrepentant Geraldines into your upcoming tour?
When I approach the live show, I'm approaching it differently than the record. This tour will be a one woman show but there will be variations, different arrangements. These are how the songs began -- most things start out built from the piano. On this record, things developed from there. A song doesn't have to wear one dress, it can express itself in many different outfits.
You're known and celebrated for changing your setlists considerably from night to night. What's your process for building them?
If you're open to what's going on in the world -- now with technology, you can know what's going on globally more than ever before -- that's very much the temperature, the gage that I go by. I look at an area specifically -- what they are dealing with and how it's affecting them emotionally whether it's a big fire or some kind of storm or floods with the earth changes. You go into an area and realize this community is dealing with something they didn't deal with the last tour. You have to do a little research. I have people around me that are very good at that. The night before, once you leave a city moving into the next city, we're doing research immediately on the bus. You just walked off stage with 220 voltage -- some people get into all sorts of trouble because they have all that energy and they don't know what to do with it. No human can contain that voltage. How do you scale down from 220 voltage? A lot of people party all night and do all kinds of things -- they're on the internet all night talking to people. Whatever it is, the reality is you've got to give it back and have a wind down period. The last time I played Oslo, they were recovering from a horrific tragedy involving many many many people. What songs seemed too raw to play? By the time we got to Oslo, the energy had shifted. I was ready to hear their stories. As a performer, you have to change your energy so that you can be a good listener. I meet people at the stage door around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and work things out in soundcheck.
Your fans are known for their unparalleled dedication. Can you describe the relationship you have with them?
It comes with responsibility. I believe it's an exchange of information and storytelling. Particularly, it's the gay audience that sends me letters and have opened my eyes. Sometimes I'm influenced by letters I get and that plays out in the songs -- that's really how I understand and I'm able to write music -- my songs aren't for a particular sexuality. The letters are about feeling rejected or not being able to be yourself, not being able to tell your family who and what you are because they're not open to that. Sometimes conversations that I've had with the gay community are the only way that I'm able to understand what they go through. In a sense, I see it as a relay race, it's like passing a baton. They take the baton and come back and give me insight. A big one for instance -- I got a letter from a young man being molested by a woman in his family. She was an attractive woman so nobody could understand what the problem was. He was completely disillusioned about where to go. In the letter I began to see the path he was on. He was gay and nobody wanted to really acknowledge the big set of circumstances here. He has had a real struggle. That letter completely opened up this discussion that I have now.
This year marks twenty years since you released Under The Pink. Do you have any fond memories looking back?
That record -- it's been close to me for the last year. Knowing that it's the 20th year, it's had an influence on me again. It was written when I was in New Mexico and I'd come off the road from the Little Earthquakes experience -- yet I didn't want to make Little Earthquakes again -- but I didn't want to completely take a departure that was so far away. I wanted to take it to its next step. You'll be hearing those songs on this tour. There's a lot of joy about that time -- quite a bit of my crew from then are still with me today!
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