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Asbury Park Press (US)
October 7, 2015

Tori Amos on 'The Light Princess' album

by Alex Biese

Tori Amos is taking her fans on a journey.

The iconic singer, songwriter and pianist made her first foray into the world of musical theater back in 2013 with "The Light Princess," which debuted at the National Theatre in London. Now, she's transporting listeners to the world of the show via the cast album of "The Light Princess," set to be released Oct. 9 through Mercury Classics/Universal Music Classics and including two songs performed by Amos herself.

The composer discussed the show -- with music and lyrics by Amos, book and lyrics by Samuel Adamson and inspiration from a 19th-century fairy tale by George Macdonald -- as well as the creation of the album and its possible future on the American stage in a recent interview.

Q: How was it different creating the album version of "The Light Princess," presenting these songs in a way where they work as an audio-only experience?

A: This means that it's all on the audio to tell the story, which was challenging and yet Universal Mercury said, "We want you to go make a record, just do whatever you need to do as far as decision making but go make it great.' And I worked with my team and Sam Adamson, who is my partner in this, and we chose to work with the actors (from the stage production).

I didn't want to rush it, I wanted to get great performances and that everybody was really relaxed and focused and not under pressure. A lot of cast recordings do it live, you see, everything at once, in two days, and that's not how I make records. So I really wanted to have sonic theater happen in your head. That was the challenge.

Q: It feels like a concept album in this case, a piece of audio theater happening in the listener's head.

A: Well, that was the goal. For me, I wanted it so that people across the world, when they put their headphones on or they've got their speakers on, they're envisioning what's happening, their imagination kicks in because the soundscapes are vivid and it gives the listener an opportunity to engage themselves so they have to conjure up, visually, what's going on. That meant that we really had to be very clear about telling the story, super clear.

Q: I've been a fan of yours since "Little Earthquakes" (1992), and this was such a fascinating listen to me because the melodies so sound like you, but seen through a prism of musical theater presentation. How was it for you as a composer, bringing something distinctly you to this different medium?

A: Well, it was a tightrope walk because you do begin to respect what the form is, and yet I believed that we could have songs that deal with issues in a beautiful, haunting way at times, and at other times in a strident way.

But I didn't see why I couldn't marry "Little Earthquakes" with Broadway. I thought that could be done, particularly because of the themes, and the themes are a teenage girl and a teenage boy having to question what their fathers intend for them, so they have to really take a journey and discover who they are and what they believe in, and sometimes it's a very dark journey. And that was similar to the "Little Earthquakes" album thematically, but the difference is I was that protagonist in my 20s, asking those questions and living through some harrowing situations.

The goal here was that when you're listening, you feel empowered to tackle the dark issues in your own life.

Q: It's so fascinating how thematically it continues the discussion of themes you've been dealing with your whole career and musically, this seems to continue a trend on more recent records, like "Gold Dust" (2012) or "Night of Hunters" (2011). It feels like your career has been making its way to "The Light Princess" for a long time now.

A: You're very right. "Night of Hunters" inspired this and "Gold Dust," and this inspired those because they were all being worked on simultaneously. It's such an involved work, "The Light Princess," over 30 songs involved. ... At the time, I didn't feel -- and the team that I was working with, Sam and Martin and later (orchestrator) John Philip Shenale became part of our team -- that it was a rock musical. Because it's a fairy tale, we felt that we needed an orchestral score.

But we wanted the piano at the heart of it. A lot of musicals don't have piano at the heart. So we thought that's the combination that we wanted, and that we could get the fairy tale color from an orchestra, so that was the choice.

Q: So "The Light Princess" had a run on stage in London and now there's the record. Is there any chance American theater fans will get to see the show at some point?

A: I think that's the next natural step. We were in state theater in London, so it's different than commercial theater. We haven't made that move yet. This is our first commercial venture, the album, which is out on Universal. And then, the next natural step is (that) we think an American production would be really great.

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