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The Wall Street Journal (US)
August 14, 2017

Tori Amos's Favorite Things

The singer-songwriter shares a few of her favorite things


photo: Nick Balloon for WSJ Magazine

by Tori Amos

"THE PIANO HAS BEEN with me since 1994. She's a Bosendorfer, a black beauty. I take her and another whenever I'm on tour. They've been my collaborators for over 20 years. In June of 2016, I started writing tracks for my new album, Native Invader, in the lyric book on the ledge. It traveled with me to a coffee shop in a little town in Florida and to the mountains of the Carolinas and Tennessee, where my mother's people have lived for hundreds of years. My mother started to get very ill last year, and during that time we spoke a lot about my grandfather. Those conversations drove the record, and me. In the studio, when we put a mix down and it gets mastered, we light the candle on the left side of the piano to send the song into the world before other people hear it. The parasol is a reference to a joke: Like Mary Poppins, you can pull almost anything out of my handbag, but the one thing you'd better have, especially if you're in England, is an umbrella.

The statue I call Bat Girl. I picked her up in Cornwall, where the studio is, in 1992. She wears the wires in the studio like a scarf, so she has a practical function, but she's also the watcher. Next to her is honey for my tea; the honey is made by my piano tuner's husband, who is a beekeeper. I'm not a smoker, but I love smoke, and burning the sage in the buffalo holder on the piano bench keeps my mind clear. The books -- Robert Graves's The Greek Myths and Joseph Campbell's The Mythic Dimension -- were pivotal research for the new record. Every album has its own references. Under those is a Pendleton blanket I've had for years. When my daughter, Tash, was a little girl she loved pink, so when I saw it in a shop in Oregon, it just spoke to me. That's the key -- trust your heart, and sometimes just pick something up. I got the figurines on the piano, the Zuni fetishes, years ago. They're sometimes very cheeky. But the armadillo fellow makes things lighter for me when I'm dealing with tough subjects in my music. I hold him, and he makes me feel safe. And then we go on to the next song."

--As told to Sara Morosi


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