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Lowell Sun (US)
Lowell, Massachusetts
Sunday, November 8, 1998

Heeding Her Own Voice
Tori Amos draws on her own experience for Lowell concert

By David Perry, Sun Staff

"God, I love this place," says Tori Amos a few hours before performing in Madison, Wisconsin. "I walked around for two hours. It's a college town and it's very liberal and there's just so much going on. You just feel it in the air."

Amos is on the last leg of an eight-month tour in support of her from the choirgirl hotel album, and she's recording dates - including her Nov. 17 stop at Lowell's Tongas Arena - for a live recording due in late 1999.

It's been a big year for Amos, who is making her first jaunt with a full band, hitting arenas for the first time and enjoying it all.

"It's definitely Plugged, and I called the tour that for a reason. It's not me by the fireside singing in your ear by the piano. There is a portion where the guys go offstage and I do something with just the piano. But this tour is really about the rhythm."

And Amos' recordings - which have spawned legions of diehard fans who hang on her every word - are about the rhythms of her life. Since her 1991 breakthrough solo debut, Little Earthquakes, her writing has delved into her psyche and laid it all bare. Hers is a mix of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, which foresaw Alanis Morisette, Jewel, Paula Cole, and others.

She remembers touring radio stations with copies of Little Earthquakes and being told "sorry, we already play a female - Natalie Merchant who was still with 10,000 Maniacs. And Sarah McLachlan told me when she went to radio the next year, it was, sorry, we're already playing two females - Natalie and Tori."

This Newton, N.C.-born daughter of a Methodist minister doesn't mince words - "Me and a Gun" was about when she was raped in her early 20s (she has since co-founded the victim's support group RAINN - the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and she's a brazenly sexual performer, at least as much as one can be while pounding on a Bosendorfer.

She's never run away from anything, but the line on Amos has long been that either you love her or you don't.

"In the end, any writer I've really liked I kind of feel the same way about. If you're putting challenging stuff out there, you're not going to try to walk both sides of the fence. If the work is strong, people choose to like it or not. I mean, I really love red wine, but some people just can't go there. And it's not like the wine isn't good."

There have been some changes in the rhythm of Amos' personal life. Last February, she married Mark Hawley, the father of a child she miscarried in late 1996. The miscarriage figured prominently on the songs on choirgirl hotel.

"It's not like I knew it would happen, or that I called my manager a day later and said, 'Hey, book the studio time, I know what the record's gonna be about,'" she says. "But the songs did just sort of start coming. I was just sitting there, kind of shocked and heartbroken, and the songs came. It was probably three weeks after, and 'Pandora' was the first. Then 'Spark' and 'Playboy Mommy.'

"But the big thing about the miscarriage is that it freed me from religious subservience. It was, hey, the wolf will show up at your door. And whenever anybody said something like it's all for the better, I just wanted to say, Thank God you're not a poet."

In the end, after the sadness, she was moved by the experience.

"I really still feel connected with her (the baby), still feel close to her, and I started appreciating the life force in another way."

Amos, a classical-music prodigy, began playing piano at age 2, and by 5 she was studying at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory. As a teen, she was playing bars and nightclubs.

In the mid '80s, she formed the pop-metal band Y Kant Tori Read, and their one album went nowhere, though collectors pay hundreds of dollars for copies. She says now she "wasn't strong enough" in insisting upon the album's direction.

When she tried to sell her vocals and piano demos, all she got was rejection.

Finally, she regathered herself and recorded Little Earthquakes, insisting it be released without additional recording.

"And I haven't compromised a bit since that day."

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