albums / Little Earthquakes

promo bio / discography / photos / tour




Atlantic Records promo bio
February 1992

"I have so much in my closet to clean. For all these years, I felt like different people at a dinner party. When you've got the virgin and the whore sitting next to each other, they're likely to judge each other harshly -- but it's never about good girl and bad girl, right and wrong, good and evil. You can't have your body without your shadow. Now I can wear these different hats but, essentially, it's the same girl singing."

WHO is Tori Amos? A singer-songwriter who could play piano before she could talk. WHAT is Tori Amos? More than you bargained for. For the first few seconds of her debut solo album, "LITTLE EARTHQUAKES," you're thinking Kate Bush, maybe. Then out comes the knife. The veneer is torn away. Imagine biting into a pea pod and it turns out to be a chili. Better still, imagine you just picked up a hitchhiker in the middle of the night along the highway that runs past the forest. She seemed like such a nice girl, but now you're beginning to worry...That's Tori Amos. How did she get that way?

Well, she began early. Tori was born in North Carolina. Her father is a Methodist preacher, her mother part Cherokee. She grew up in an atmosphere of love and discipline, an atmosphere that was spiritually alive yet hampered by a doctrine of sexual repression. "There were lots of do's and don't's," Tori recalls. "Love and lust shall never meet. And there was me, five years old, and I had these feelings. I had a crush on Jesus, and I got into trouble for wondering if he had a thing going on with Mary Magdalene."

And there was music. Lots of music. Her mother loved Fats Waller and Nat King Cole, her brother dug Hendrix, and Tori sang in the church choir. By the age of four, she had started playing piano scores and writing her own songs. At the age of five, she won a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where the older kids were into The Doors.

"I was working with musicians who were 17 or 18," Tori comments. "It was very exciting because, through them, I'd be exposed to all the new music. Then, all of a sudden, it stopped being fun. Something got lost, and it became deadly serious. It wasn't free expression anymore; it was going to be channeled into a career. I just didn't want to do what was expected of me."

Tori began to balk at the discipline of academic life, and at age 11, she was booted out of the conservatory for playing by ear. "So much was happening to me when I was a kid," she muses, "and, to some extent, all my songs come from there. Things that happen to me now seem to be connected to what went before. It's the same pain, with different names and places attached. Getting kicked out of the conservatory was so traumatic for me; it was like a bad relationship ending. At 11, it seemed like my life was over."

For the next several years, accompanied by her father, Tori spent four or five nights a week playing old standards, Gershwin classics and the like, in bars and hotels across Washington D.C. and Baltimore. "When I was 15, my father stopped acting as chaperon," Tori remembers. "I found myself working with women who were in their late-twenties, and chatting to gay men all night, interrogating them about their sex lives. Then I'd go to junior high the next morning, and it was a totally different experience. I learned to create these different sides to deal with it all."

In her late-teens, Tori moved to Los Angeles, vowing never to play the piano again. She had "not quite a nervous breakdown" at 20. "Then I faced up to the fact that, since around the age of seven, all I'd been doing was trying to please other people rather than myself."

Wondering what to do next, Tori visited a friend's house where there was a big old piano, and she began to tentatively noodle on the keyboard. She started to discover her old voice, her old self. This was the re-awakening, the seed that would grow into "LITTLE EARTHQUAKES." Continuing to play and write, Tori moved to England a few years later, finding fertile ground in which to further develop her music.

So this is Tori Amos today. She's decided that her life went wrong "when I stopped talking to the fairies, lost the magic, and gave in to everybody's wishes." Today, her songs -- elegantly constructed yet torn apart by a trembling rage -- are naked in their frank attempts to reconcile, or at least recognize, the disparities in her life. Her piano style, natural and artless, is subtly attuned to the ebb and clash of her conflicting emotions.

Tori's cycle of oppression and self-liberation is the dynamo that drives "LITTLE EARTHQUAKES." The album deals with "all my fifty different personalities called back home and melted into one." For this stunning solo debut, Tori enlisted the aid of several producers, including Davitt Sigerson (The Bangles, David + David), while co-producing four of the tracks herself.

Tori's songs quiver between innocence and experience, with a blade of irony in place -- she delights in startling the listener with abrupt chord changes, juxtaposing images of Charles Manson and ice cream, purring winsomely about crucifixion and violation, thinking about Carolina biscuits while a man with a gunn is on her back...

Underneath a deceptively calm surface, the gorgeously languid "China" seethes with the first awareness of a love slipping away. "Leather" toys unnflinchingly with the theme of lust, while "Mother" draws imagery from Hansel and Gretel. "Little girls can be very sexual," says Tori. "But there's an innocence, a vulnerability there, which can't be abused."

"Crucify" chillingly transmits a sense of visceral anxiety: "I got a bowling ball in my stomach/I got a desert in my mouth." Yet "LITTLE EARTHQUAKES" is never an ugly experience, but a sensual one. The roseate hues of "Girl" are there to be indulged, until the chorus line rips through: "She's been everybody else's girl/Maybe one day she'll be her own."

The beautiful yet ominous "Silent All These Years" is a good starting point for understanding Tori Amos. She's a new name, but she's been fermenting and maturing for a long time. She's repossessed herself, and her music is unnerving, discomforting, yet absolutely compelling. "Little Earthquakes" documents the rumblings of a soul.




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