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Entertainment Weekly (US)
November 13, 2002

'Scarlet' Woman

Tori Amos talks about her new album and more. The singer-songwriter tells about one woman's journey across America

By Liane Bonin

Tori Amos may have an earth mother rep, but even soulful singer-songwriters get pissed off. With her new album "Scarlet's Walk," Amos is taking a harsh look at the plight of Native Americans, corporate greed, and the aftermath of Sept. 11. talked to the 39-year-old mom (daughter Natashya recently turned 2) about living in England, impatient file-swappers, and Those Who Are They (don't worry, she'll explain).

"Scarlet's Walk" tells the story of one woman's journey across the United States, and you even included a map in the liner notes. Why a road trip?

Maybe it was because I was on tour last year. While my daughter, Tashya, was sleeping in her little bunk I was writing in the back of the bus, watching the road signs go by at two, three in the morning. You realize that stories don't stop when everybody goes to bed. And as I looked at the structures of the songs, they would be very much tied to a place. I worked with drummer Matt Chamberlain on rhythms that might have come from those places.

This album comes out just a year after "Strange Little Girls," even though you've been touring and changed labels. How did you pull that off?

I was getting seeds for this when I was pregnant with Tash, and I would play a lot of it for her when she was inside. I started to discover I was getting close to something. There were references in the work to America, and there was trouble brewing in that story. It was all a little daunting, so I put it away. I did the cover record ["Strange Little Girls"] instead, because after having a little girl, I had a response to this kind of late '90s malice towards gays and women. I needed to make a comment.

Have you heard from any of the men whose work you covered for "Strange Little Girls," like Eminem? He's not known for his sense of humor.

Of course I've gotten feedback, but I keep it between me and them, because it isn't about what they thought or not. That was about me responding to a lot of guys saying, "What is everyone going on about? These violent, hate-filled lyrics are only words." But maybe that album was a dress rehearsal in a way for this one, because the women seemed to become the anima of the songs, and maybe working with all of their music stepped up my game a little.

It seems like motherhood has had a big impact on your songwriting.

I think so, without even knowing it. With motherhood, it's not all about you anymore. It's about whether you can hold a space, pass the torch, and answer the right questions so there's a world left that your daughter might not be completely intimidated by.

The album also deals with the aftermath of Sept. 11. More than a year later, how do you think we're coping?

It seems to me that fires are being lit across the land, and a generation now has the opportunity to rise. I'm talking about a new way of thinking. We're asking "Is our country in safe hands?" After Sept. 11 we realized that we'd been so busy with our own lives, that maybe we had lost what we cared about. Now with the country at a crossroads politically, we're wondering where we're steering the ship.

Do you have a different perspective on American politics from living in England?

The one thing that keeps coming back to me is that the information you can get about our country outside of it is so much more articulated than the information you can get inside of it. If that doesn't make you question the land of the free! They don't need to burn books here, because they're distracting everybody just fine without it.

Several years ago you said your mission was exposing the dark side of Christianity. Do you have a new mission now?

I think now it's about playing a chess game with Those Who Are They. This is my country, too, and I will not be emotionally blackmailed. If you ask questions about what They are doing about our country, you're accused of betraying her. You're called un-American. I find that offensive, and I won't tolerate it.

How are you tolerating tracks from your album being leaked to the Internet prior to release?

It was only specific tracks, not the whole album. Within 24 hours of sending out the first six tracks to the media, they were on the Internet. So the betrayal was from within. I closed ranks and said, fine. Forget about how Epic thinks they're going to deal with this. This is how we're going to deal with this. We put the albums in nuclear glued gizmos so that if you tried to open the Discman, the CD would dissolve on impact and break and send you to the hospital. I came up with that idea. How do you like that one?

Why was it so important to you to keep the album from being file-shared?

Because the songs weren't ready to be out there. I wanted people to see what the whole story was and have the artifact of the album, which lets them access Scarlet's Web (CD-only bonus material) which has the backstory. Instead of moaning like everyone else about how technology can trip you up, I love the idea of using the CD to create resorts in people's heads. You don't have to be a victim of technology. You can make it the key to a world.

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