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The Conscious Culture Magazine
August 1, 2014
On performing live,
funny road crews
& being empowered
interview: Maranda Pleasant
photo: Amarpaul Kalirai / Mercury Classics
"Everyone has an opinion, and if you apply them all, you will change everything you have written."
Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive?
Tori Amos: When I am able to be present, listening -- really listening -- to a viewpoint described through someone else's lens, I am here in the now and alive.
In order for my live performance to work, which is about generating a focused energy for about an hour and a half, it is necessary for me to listen and take in someone else's focused energy the day of or the day before the live show. That can transpire through a conversation, or inspiration can occur by looking through any type of visual book which sparks a narrative. That narrative then becomes today's seed and can then take root in music terms, where a sonic tree begins to grow.
MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?
TA: It's important to define for yourself what the word "vulnerable" means. My first instinct is that the way the question is phrased, in this context, it sounds as if the word "vulnerable" could be defined as "not empowered."
There certainly are situations where I feel not empowered or uninspired. Particularly when the person's agenda is to intimidate through abusing their position or their authority. When I am present and in a nonreactive state, then I can become like snake and slide through their "intimidation net" back into the creative plane. When I am in a reactive state, I usually regret responding, because usually all that happens is that the intimidator feels righteously vindicated.
Vulnerability, on the other hand, can be empowering as a songwriter and storyteller. If you can surrender your protection devices, in order to track the potentially raw and perhaps elusive emotions that are the song's DNA, then that is creative vulnerability, which is ultimately hugely empowering.
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
TA: If you have the urge to curse, because you are like I am and just one of those people, think twice about going to Russia after July 1, as it might just be illegal. You'll need to be thinking on the lines of "I want to love you like an animal."
MP: How do you handle emotional pain?
TA: All kinds of ways. Channeling that energy into creativity, even if it's not a very good result, might be a jumping-off point for something else that does eventually work.
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?
TA: There are quite a few very funny people in my life. You know those people who don't mean to be funny, they just come out with these zingers that just make you howl with laughter. Usually you find these people in the road crew. A good crew is a key to a healthy funny bone.
The road crew is a traveling circus which only works if it is based on mutual respect. Getting people to go above and beyond the call of duty can be achieved but only if you, the artist, are willing to go above and beyond any and all calls of duty yourself. When you value your crew, they look after you.
I married a crew guy. Tash, who is our thirteen-year-old daughter, thinks it is the wisest thing I ever did. She actually would say, when she was a little girl, that she picked out her dad for me to marry when she was a twinkle in the sky.
So part of our routine on the road is to look after each other -- which hopefully includes a good laugh.
MP: What's been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?
TA: Being able to hear an opinion. And then how to apply that opinion is something I am learning and working with every day. What can be tricky is how to differentiate a good suggestion that you should apply to your work [from] someone's personal taste at their opinionated best.
Everyone has an opinion, and if you apply them all, you will change everything you have written. So finding a way to test-drive ideas is really important. People can be quite bullish with their opinions. That does not mean they have their finger on the pulse. It just means they value their own opinion. So knowing your own mind can be a game of mental cat and mouse.
Not being afraid to make changes is a valuable tool -- knowing you can change back. Also, finding people in your life as sounding boards who can be neutral and clear is worth nurturing. But having said that, we all must develop a grounded clarity for ourselves.
MP: What truth do you know for sure?
TA: We can all choose to become our potential, not just talk about it or dream about it. But daily, make a shift whereby we begin living and being our potential. With each day, that potential can expand because we are open to learning something every day. Not everyone wants you to become your potential, for whatever reason. Where we focus our energy is where we will get the results.
MP: What currently inspires you with your work?
TA: Hearing about other people's process. Motivation comes from all directions. Inspiration quite frequently arrives as a surprise. The key is being open to it.
MP: How is creating different now than ten years ago?
TA: There are similarities as far as dedication to a project. What changes are the experiences that spark new ideas.
MP: What causes are you most involved with?
TA: RAINN [Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network], which has been active for twenty years now.
MP: Tell me about your latest projects.
TA: The new album out is called Unrepentant Geraldines, and we are touring, doing about eighty shows.
I am currently producing with a team The Light Princess musical original cast recording, which will be out sometime next year.
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