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Condé Nast Traveler (US)
July 16, 2014
The Worst Hotel Experience Tori Amos Ever Had
Written by Elyse Pasquale
Before she embarks on a U.S. tour, Tori Amos chats about her favorite travel spots, the best meal she's had on the road, and the worst hotel she's ever stayed in.
Rolling Stone recently named Tori Amos one of the top live performers of all time -- an honor well suited to the Grammy-nominated songstress. Her fiery stage presence draws a devoted following who have traveled alongside her, to many of the 1,200 live shows she's played over her 23-year career.
"That's a lot of hotel rooms," Amos admits. It seems fitting we meet in a hotel: We're chatting on the sunlit balcony at the Palazzo Montecasino in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Amos will play two shows before heading to Cape Town and then on to North America. She's at the midpoint of a 66-city world tour supporting her latest album, Unrepentant Geraldines.
"Nobody asks me about travel," says Amos. "No one! But it's funny -- [musicians] travel more than anything we do."
She's not exaggerating. Within the past two months, Amos has gone from Ireland to Istanbul, performing in 31 European cities. On her day off, she flew to London and shot a music video before hopping on an overnight flight to South Africa. Still, there's no sign of jet lag here; Amos is radiant in her sparkling Prada eyeglasses, sipping iced coffee like she's been here all year.
You've stayed in hotels all over the world. Can you name some of your favorites?
I love the Hotel de Russie in Rome. When you walk in there, they take care of you. It's this magical space in the middle of Rome that works on every level as a hotel. The Four Seasons on the Big Island, Hawaii is great when you need to rest and recuperate. It's kid-friendly, and that's always been at the top of my list. The W in Paris has this unbelievable suite and they have pictures of historical people, the Marquis de Sade, George Sand, Marie Antoinette -- but modern versions of them -- on their pillows, the walls, in paintings. Sometimes when I'm in Paris, I have no idea I'm in Paris, but that hotel makes me feel as if I'm having a Paris experience!
On the other hand, over the past 20 years, you must have stayed in some nightmare hotels. Tell me about your worst hotel room ever.
I got trapped in the shower. It was in the Midwest, during the time of Little Earthquakes  when I was out writing. Anyhow, I got trapped! The door handle came off, and I was there for a couple of hours just thinking, What in the world is going to happen to me?
That's pretty bad.
It's one experience that stays with me and has affected me... because I'm always checking door handles! [Laughs.] I know it seems a bit strange when I walk in the place and Tash [Amos's daughter] will look at me and say, "Mother, what are you doing?" And I'll say, "I'm just seeing if the door handle's going to fall off to your room!" You become a bit neurotic when you travel so much, but when you've had these experiences, you try to minimize them happening again.
You often speak in interviews about being an oenophile and a gourmand. Where's the best meal you've eaten on the road?
Recently, in Zurich, we were told to go to Isebähnli. It's very small and the building is hundreds of years old. It's a mixture of European and exotic flavors; they're cooking right in front of you in this little kitchen. The guy who runs it is originally from Turkey and you just feel like you've known him forever. He has a great wine cellar around the corner, and he'll take you down and let you pick the wine you want. It's the personal touch. We walked out and said, "This is a gem."
There must be a lot of travel time between hotels and concert halls. With so many miles on the road, I'm sure you've seen your share of stunning drives...
I love the drive from Santa Fe to Taos. I would make it a lot when I was writing Under the Pink . There's something about the light there and the smell of white sage. Taos Mountain is behind you with snow on its peak, yet you're in the high desert. It's one of those moments when you pinch yourself and say, "This is what Georgia O'Keefe saw when she was painting." It makes sense why she was here, why her work was so powerful. You realize Nature herself is painting that. It's a drive that stays with me.
Do you find some places, more than others, possess a certain creative energy?
The desert. The Southwest calls me back, over and over again. I would go with friends to Joshua Tree and camp, and we would be out just looking up at the stars. That's something I would love to do again near Navajo nation -- going into the canyons and listening to nature. When you're away from the sounds of cars and the sounds of modernity, you hear things differently.
When you're on tour you're moving through cities so quickly. How do you manage to connect with where you are?
There's a Native American saying -- "make home" -- and it's the idea that you make home wherever you are by being fully present. So, we're not in Cape Town yet, we're really here. To be fully engaged with a place you have to be observant and you have to listen, particularly to the people. A lot of the information you get is from listening to waiters and waitresses, who are really good storytellers.
You've been around the world many times in the past 20 years. You're in a unique position to name the place everyone should see once in a lifetime.
You know, this sounds crazy, but Cornwall [in England, where Amos resides with her family]. I'm not suggesting the tourist traps; I'm suggesting you get in a car and follow the little fishing villages, but get a small car! Trust me, the roads are really narrow. And get good maps, because you will get lost. And be careful of the scrumpy. I'm telling you! I've seen what happens to people when they drink the scrumpy. [Laughs.] But, the stories that you find just talking to people... the Cornish are so warm. Because I've been around the world so many times, they ask me, "Where should I go?" And I say to them, "You should stay right here. You have it."
Tori Amos kicks off a 28-city North American tour July 16 in Vancouver, B.C. For more information on tour dates and tickets, visit toriamos.com.
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