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A Prologue / Scarlet Stories / interviews
Commentary by Tori Amos
[listen/download Scarlet Stories]
My character, Scarlet, gets a call from Amber - Amber Waves - and it's clear that there's something going on with her that um, makes me wanna go to be with her. I think there's certainly people in your life that when they call, you go. They don't call often and they don't ask a lot. I don't even know if she asked um, for very much, but there was something in her voice that said to me that it was time to put everything aside and go be with her. Once I started spending time with her, I started to let things happen, maybe spur of the moment, maybe watching her, keeping my eye on her, and realizing that I had to get her out of the places and get her away from the people that were making her see herself in a certain way, where she wasn't a person anymore, she was an object. And this is compounded by the fact that we're going to the porn awards. Amber is so in over her head at this point because, you know, her spirit's not in her anymore, she can't convince herself that there isn't a piece of her soul being taken away now.
A Sorta Fairytale
I think that there is a place where she realizes that people come in and out of your life, sometimes for one day, sometimes for longer, and all of them make you what you are. You can't separate these people out of you. They form who you are, even the ones that you kind of say, "Well, you know, I don't know if I wanna be formed by them anymore." But you are in some way... you are, that's why maybe you don't have to look at them so harshly because they have affected you. At the end, though, you know, it's... us as individuals... with our... hmm... with our love for the land, for something untangible that, when soulmates come and go, you're never alone even when you're standing just you and your shoes, because she carry them with you.
Wednesday is a mixture of many things, mainly because she's at a place now where, she realizes that love is a bit complicated and... it's not just about a fantasy that you have of somebody. And so Wednesday is kind of involved and complicated because it's not a cut and dry sort of idea. It's not, 'I don't like this person.' It's not that simple. I think you might be really um, very taken with somebody and they might be very much in your life, but there are things that they do that are quite disrespectful or cross a line in a way that is um... very passive-aggressive, so you can't really talk about it. Manipulation makes her cry, especially when it's with people that you supposedly are close with. You see, covert activity you would think happens with the outside forces, not the inner circle, and Wednesday's very messy. It seems like a happy little song, but it's um... it's, as I said before, things aren't cut and dry.
Strange comes, I think, in the cold, in the ice, in the snow. There's a beauty to it that's always um... made me fall in love, I guess. I can fall in love in the snow [giggle]. I guess it's a good thing to remember. The ice is very sexy to me, and they're blowing this ice smoke back and forth. That's what, anyway, that's what it does for me. So, yeah, I could fall in love in the snow and have done many times and so, I guess Scarlet's falling in love in the snow here and she uh... she follows him. Maybe she's in love with a moment in time, as much as anything else. And maybe part of it is a memory of someone that she's breathing into him. But at a certain point she, she knows that um... she can't be the only one that has enough love here.
Sometimes you don't have to necessarily spend a lot of time with somebody to have exchanged a lot of yourself. And taking away parts of them that become a part of your body map, that sort of become... written, tattooed on you in some way. And it can't be seen visibly but it's felt internally. Carbon is this woman that Scarlet has gone to see. She's Carbon-made, she only wants to be unmade. There is a brilliance, though, to Carbon, as there's a brilliance to a diamond. But people chip away and chip away and chip away at this person, because of their brilliance. They wanted her, so they excavated her. So, there is not a lot left in some ways, but a whole another world has been created in all the ways for her to survive it. So Scarlet is having to deal with both these mm... people... who live in the one being of Carbon.
I think Crazy provides, yes, stability. He's consistent and he's quite understanding of madness. He's not afraid of it, and he's in control of it, so I think in a way that's very um... seductive to Scarlet at this time, because things have been unravelling and they haven't been consistent and people who she thought was one way were maybe not that way and maybe she had certain beliefs that, 'if you love somebody, you can, you're gonna like them, too,' and that isn't necessarily true. They go for quite a spin, they go up through the (Tee-Tans?) and up over Bear Tooth Pass, back into Montana yet again and um... you know, go around Crazy Horse's stomping ground and then they come through (Cody?) and swoop back um... through Jackson Hole. They, they were there already, had a hot tub. And then they tip through Idaho for a moment and get into Utah and then that gorgeous canyon country. We're there alone and being alone in the desert with a man is something that Scarlet seems to like doing. It's kinda handy because um... there's nobody else around to distract him. All focus is on them relating to each other.
The Southwest has this affect on her where... she looks deeper into things, and she's able to hear the ancestors more clearly. And she's been to a place where, a long time ago, there was a massacre that happened to the Apache, to mostly women and children. And there's a voice that she begins to hear, of an old woman that's sitting by a fire. She's hearing it in her dreamtime and she's hearing it more and more with every day. And she starts to follow this trail, this voice, this story that she's picking up historically. So on some level, I guess, the aboriginal idea of songlines has begun to sort of... wrap itself around, that another culture is sort of supporting this concept, that a song... is determining where she goes. But if you don't know the song, you can't get in to the next... landspace. That's how songlines work.
don't make me come to Vegas
I don't know if any of you all have nieces, but um, Scarlet has a niece that just has pulled in this loser creature. And so, here she is, dealing with, 'oh great,' and get this phone call from um, niecy-poo's mom. And we don't get into, you know, too much, but um, of Scarlet's family and anything else, it's all a bit ambiguous. But you know that there's something happening with this beloved niece. And she's uh, you know, I guess you could say being defecated on by this sort of voyeur... person. So, it's one of those moments where, even if you have a resolve to not go to a place and do something, there's something that pulls at you, especially when you remember somebody as a little girl. Oh, you just cannot let them become moldy cream cheese for somebody. It's just, you get an extra sort of ounce of fire. So that's sort of where she is, it's a little moment of being a vigilante, I guess.
Well she's in Texas, she's in Austin. She's in a very liberal place in Texas where she had met people that introduced her to people that, I guess you could say, are questioning... the political integrity of 'The Good Guys' - quote, unquote - 'The Good Guys,' meaning us, I guess, those that are called 'The Good Guys.' And so this is very much um, a Central American question. There is a revolutionary-type character that is educating her in some of the transgressions that have happened and some of the factual things that have happened and also his point of view, all at the same time. And he's very much about action, and he's very passionate about it. And she's seeing somebody passionate about something, and so she begins to really understand that she's got to know what it is that she believes in and where she's willing to go with this. Because he knows what he believes in, there's no question about that. And he stands by what he believes in. Really, Sweet Sangria is their time together. It's really about... them, as a unity.
Here she goes... trundling across the country, making her way somewhere, not quite sure where it's leading her. But she goes to the Mississippi, and not far out of Memphis is where there's a national monument, there's this acknowledgement of where a lot of the Cherokees died, didn't make it to Indian territority on the Trail of Tears, where a lot of them perished. And in Your Cloud, so much of it is about segregation, even of a raindrop, the separation of that, the tearing apart of a tear. Extracting that, cutting that apart, the division. It's about separating that which you cannot separate, not really. There will be strands, there will be molecules. And taking those people from their land, the land of the ancestors. Taking a child away from its mother. That doesn't mean that there aren't pieces of that child still in that mother just because it's been, you know, delivered from her womb. Because a couple separates doesn't mean that there aren't pieces of him still in her.
She picks herself up from division and she moves on into Deleware and then on up through New Jersey, and she's following a different sort of questioning now, with Pancake, and it's about power. She's on the East Coast. She's going through arguments in her head. She's reading as much as she can, and she's taking in information. She's going and listening to people speak. She's very much where the 'learning centers' - quote, unquote - are. And she's um, drawn to hearing how people see the world. There's someone in this who... has a lot of power. And she's drawn to this person who speaks, and who's able to rally people. But he doesn't seem to really walk it. And there're other people, then, that she begins to look at more closely. Whether they're leaders or whether they're... people she knows. People who say one thing and yet, it just doesn't feel right, and there's so much at stake. She believes, at a certain point, America's soul is at stake. The moral compass has been manipulated, and that's what she's discovering.
I can't see New York
She thinks she's got it all figured out, and then she goes to Boston airport, and that is when the thread leaves her and follows another woman on a different plane. And Scarlet takes a little plane, and she gets into New York, and she gets into New York City, where she sees this plane tht this other woman is on, that the thread followed and tied itself to. She sees this plane uh, crash, above New York City. And the thread comes back to her while she's on the ground, and then the panic and the chaos that happens. She's able to see and hear what this woman went through before she died. So she takes that thread with her. And she doesn't want to leave New York, I think it's almost like um... feeling a friend that's wounded, not wanting to leave their side. At a certain point, though, she goes. It's time for her to go.
In a strange, strange time, when the masks are down, she hooks up with Mrs. Jesus. And he is quite a, I guess you could say, a blast from the past. But um, she needed a ride, and he had one to offer. And he's very much, I guess you could say, one of those men that is probably more aware of women than a lot of women. And... gentle... and fierce... and has a lot of qualities that I think she would like to have in herself. Physically, he's not a woman, but he seems to be able to understand women. And he's in touch with certain things. Mrs. Jesus is in a pretty good space. He's able to shed some light on um, religious fanaticism. And he's able to shed some light on, you know, people using Christianity for their own means, what that looks like. The Chrisitianity that was sown in America, some of it gave people religious freedom as we know, and some of it took religious freedoms away from the Native people, where they weren't even allowed to speak their language for a long time. So, you know, these things that are part of our history... her story, America's story, is something that is imperative for her to know, for Scarlet to know. If she's gonna truly accept America for who she is, you know, you have to know the truth.
Once she gets to Chicago, she's meeting up with people, mostly women, who have lost a gay friend. And in his death, she's kind of seeing what it brings out in people, and who some of these women really are. Not who she thought they were. Disillusionment can um... and in some cases she kind of knew all along that some of them... some of it didn't surprise her. But she's seeing... what, again, what people are really made up of. And, you know, this isn't the outside now, this is not the enemy. The terrorists, you know, the terrorism just happened back in New York City. This is something, these were friends, acquaintances maybe, in some cases. And the betrayal is there. So the idea of betraytal, you know, there are all sorts, there are all kinds of betraytal. And I think she's trying to come to terms with that inside. The betrayal of an outside force, where then you become defensive and nationalistic, and then the betray that, wow, you're completely stripped bare because it's from the inside, it's an inside job. I really liked the idea that Scarlet takes a taxi... all the way, all the way down. Because, let's face it, the people, she doesn't want to hitch a ride with anybody she knows, are you kidding me? I kind of love the idea that all these things can happen in this stranger's car. It's always fascinated me, you know, the things that I say in taxi cabs... over the years, all over the world. So that's a little bit of my own kind of... read on it.
Another Girl's Paradise
She's on this idea of women, now. And, when I think being around all these women who have all these different kind of... perceptions of each other and, you could say, some of them are intimidated by each other and some of them are envious and some of them... really kind of like the other one, but are afraid of being rejected, so they don't know how to approach them. And there's all that going on. So busy, like bees. And she makes her way into the warmth of Florida. She takes her time, she's driving now. She's on her own. And she's thinking about women and women and women's relationships with each other and what it brings up. And so, she sort of um, goes to the land for this one. This one place that's where a lot of people come to soak in, to feel sensual and warm and healed and delicious. So she's in Florida and goes to another land where people go to feel delicious - another paradise. And she finds that there's room enough for both of them, that they're both very different. And Desire is very much a part of all this. And at the end of the day, Desire will do what she does best, which is make you desire that which is not yours. She moves on to Hawaii and then comes back to Florida, not feeling like she needs to betray one or the other, that she can value both of them, that there's room enough for both of them. I think there's healing all along the way, in different parets of this. But that's really for the reader and the listener to sense, because it's in the music, a lot of that. Those are clues, but it takes you, I think, to her real feelings. The music is always the place where the clues are.
I think she's ready, now. I think that she's been preparing for this, and breaking herself down, letting herself sore, and shedding ideas and ways of being, to be able to take this in. You know, this is a climax for her. Well she's been through St. Augustine, which was one of the early settlements from the Spanish, and she's walked those streets. And um, she's been to the early settlements in Massachusetts and she's been on the cape and she knows the influences and their trials. And so now that she is working her way up, you know, through Savannah, and there's a balmy sweetness she has with Savannah. She moves into Charleston and she's picking up the threads of the early settlers that came and... what their needs were. And she's trying to find compassion for all that as she then goes to walk the walk, which is, yes, a breeze through Jonesboro. And she then moves up through the Cherokee sacred land, what was their capital, and she moves through where the Trail of Tears began for the Cherokee people. And this is explored in Scarlet's Web. And I think that as she walks this walk and is able to feel it with every step and in her cells, there is a humbling of soul and there is a commitment that she makes to a voice, whether you call it the ancestors, to a belief, to a spiritual path, just something that is ringing true for her. She couldn't follow Sweet Sangria, she couldn't follow his path, but this is something that is true to her... this walk in Scarlet's Walk. This is her map. He found his and was living it, and she is finding hers and is ready to live it. In a way, there is an honoring of my ancestors in this, that escaped the Trail of Tears - well I should say survived it, nobody escaped it, but survived it - and put their roots down around the Smoky Mountains and from Chattanooga to the Carolinas. And I think that the stories that got passed down through the generations, they have taken root inside of my self. And there is a coming home with this song, there is a deep coming home. And there is also a commitment to being a night watchman for the sacred land and this place that we call America. Being a caretaker along with many many many other people that are being called this time to light the torch within themselves, to know that what we do now in these... very troubled times, what we do in them will affect the next generation in such a complete way. It doesn't mean there's not time for giggles or anything else, you can do that. But it is something that takes her... right through her skin, through her organs, through her bones, and it grabs her and shakes her and holds her and says, 'Do you know where you stand as you walk?'
Going and visiting Virginia, there is a sweetness and a sadness because she's able to hear this voice that goes back hundreds of years, she's able to go back in time with this voice. And she's able to really see, sort of, the um, the innocence of America at that time, as a teenager. She sees some of it in Scarlet's Walk, but it gets very mature, that voice in Scarlet's Walk, it's all-knowing America when she talks to Scarlet about what happened. But in Virginia, you know, she's a young girl. And I guess Scarlet is trying to go back in time and talk to America as that teenager and say, 'Hey, you know, you might not wanna be so trusting,' or, 'Hey, you know, you might wanna think about this before you stop speaking your language here, here and here and give it all up and renounce what your soul knew as true.' Oh, all those things that you want to tell somebody who's a teenager.
Gold Dust is very much about being other people and feeling how they feel and feeling how you felt at another time when you've been another place. And it really isn't your past because somehow these frames are written on your body and they've made you what you are. Nothing is gone... it's just, on your body map. And this project has been very much about finding, I guess, my body map. I think if you're going to um, really write a work about a road trip and about America and who she is, then you have to go see her in, um, all her glory and all her uh... bad fast-food joints and good truck stops and everything in between. You know, you can't just go to the coast and then fly, do the fly-over-country trip. You really have to experience it. And the crazy thing about it is, the gold that we found, you find it so much when you're not even thinking that you're in it. And you turn around and you see this pair of eyes and somebody puts a bowl of chili in front of you and... it's Heaven, it doesn't get any better than that.
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