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Glasgow Evening Times (UK)
Thursday, December 19, 2002

American Odyssey

The events of 9/11 inspired Tori Amos to travel across the States in search of her coutry's soul.

Fraser Middleton reports.

Like most Americans, Tori Amos was deeply traumatised by the terrorist atrocities on September 11 last year. Unlike most, however, she used the experience to embark on a personal and musical journey of self-discovery. The result was October's compelling Scarlet's Walk album.

Enigmatic Amos, who plays the Clyde Auditorium on January 12, says 9/11 made her re-evaluate her life and radically changed her outlook on the world.

"There seems to have been two very distinct reactions from Americans to what happened. Most people have, unfortunately but understandably, reacted by becoming more insular than they were before, which is saying something.

"I think everyone felt that way in the immediate aftermath, but it had a different effect on me.

"Instead of having this feeling of revenge, which most people possessed, I was more interested in trying to understand why certain groups on the globe feel as overwhelmingly negative as they do towards America and its allies.

"Nothing will be solved by the US simply wiping out one religious or political faction or another. It's crucially important that a dialogue is started between the West and East before we all get caught up in some horrific pseudo holy war."

Tori, who turns 40 next year, also decided to start her own journey to the heart of her country - in both a physical and metaphorical sense - in the months that followed September 11.

She zig-zagged across the States, taking in cities, small towns, farmlands. Anything and everything. Tori said: "I did everything and nothing. I observed and took in all those aspects which make America what it is.

"The diversity of the country is stupefying and therein lies its great beauty. But something seems to have gone wrong somewhere along the line.

"Too many people are popular preaching hate and division. And until we address that, it's hard to see Americans trying to understand the world outside."

Scarlet's Walk is essentially a chronicle of Amos' lengthy road trip, but it also addresses 9/11 - one song is written from the perspective of a child passenger being flown to her death in New York that morning - and the trials and tribulations of native American Indians, a subject she has frequently touched upon during her recording career.

"I was brought up in North Carolina and the state is steeped in that history. The American government has not even begun apologising for what the native population endured.

"It's probably the internal subject I feel most strongly about and I write about it because it is part of our history, along with the slave trade, that Americans prefer to pretend never happened.

"We shouldn't allow ourselves to forget."

Born Myra Ellen Amos in August 1963, Tori - a boyfriend's nickname for her that she adopted as a teenager - was a child prodigy and began playing piano at the age of two.

By the age of five she'd enrolled at Baltimore's Peabody Institute, but after six years of study had her first fall-out with authority after being accused that she was playing by ear, rather than reading the music.

"I was an early starter when it came to not seeing eye to eye with people in high places," recalled Tori, with a grin.

"I was devastated at the time, but it was the making of me because it really toughened me up at an early age."

A bar-room singer in Washington DC during her late teens, Amos made her biggest career mistake when she glammed herself up - big hair, make-up, pouting pose and a Catwoman-esque figure-hugging PVC outfit - to front power-pop band, Y Kant Tori Read (a play on words referring to her expulsion from the music college) in 1988.

"It's the only time in my life that I haven't been me. I was getting too desperate to get a break in the business after having demo after demo rejected.

"It's not a period I remember with fondness, but we did get an album out and I learned a lot about the business - good and bad."

The Nineties heralded a new beginning for Amos and the advice of then Atlantic Records co-chairman Doug Morris, who advised her to move to the UK where he thought she would be best appreciated, was the soundest suggestion she could ever have received.

After playing the London circuit throughout 1991, Tori came to the attention of the UK music press with the release of her haunting debut EP, Me And A Gun, which addressed the emotive and disturbing topic of her rape by an armed 'fan'.

Exorcising personal demons through her music has been a constant theme since that release - 1998's From The Choirgirl Hotel album, for example, frequently touched on her miscarriage - and struck a chord with her core audience.

"I regard it as my way of connecting with the audience - I've had a lot of people write or come up to me after shows who have endured similar experiences. If my songs can help ease the pain for someone it's worth all the effort."

1992's Little Earthquakes album and the Under The Pink follow-up a year later cemented her position as the most intelligent female singer-songwriter of her generation.

"I hate being put on any pedastal," says Amos, "I was never that keen on being seen as the great white hope - I was just delighted to finally be able to make a living from music.

"After years of struggle a great weight just lifted from me and I suddenly felt self-justified."

Tori has been married to studio engineer Mark Hawley for five years - they have a daughter Nataysha, 2 - and the duo, who live and record in Cornwall, have a professional as well as personal relationship.

"It feels like I'm constantly having an affair with him. It's just delicious working with someone who constantly challenges you musically yet feels deeply passionate about you, too.

"I know it wouldn't work for many couples, but it just feels natural to me. Maybe it's because I write about personal issues. Recording is just an extension of me as a person."

Tori Amos plays the Clyde Auditorium on Sunday, January 12, 2003. Tel: 0870 040 4000

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