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The Press Assocation (UK)
November 10, 2003
The Press Association is a news wire service that provides news and features to newspapers and magazines in Britain.
TORI GOES BACK TO THE FUTURE
By Wil Marlow, PA Features
Tori Amos has revisited a lot of her past recently. The flame-haired singer-songwriter has spent the last few months compiling a 'best of' album that gives a typically unique look at her wildly successful career, and it's been an enlightening experience for her.
"I didn't realise it before but I'm able to see what really happened in my life by listening to these songs," says Amos. "You can't really trust your memory sometimes so I rely on the songs to tell me where I was." She's sitting in a studio that she's not visited for about 10 years - Olympic Studios in west London where she mixed her second album Under The Pink - and the return to old ground has added to her retrospective mood. But the best of offering, Tales Of A Librarian, is as much about the future as it is the past. Rather than doing a straightforward greatest hits set, Amos has compiled the album in the manner of a librarian, selecting and 'reconditioning' particular songs from her vast body of work and presenting it as a cohesive package.
Amos didn't want a disparate collection of her best known songs put out there, she wanted to create something that could be looked back on in 20 years time, in particular by her three-year-old daughter Natashya, and listened to as an accurate document of her life as well as her work. "I liked the idea of a sonic biography of this woman," says Amos. She regularly refers to herself in the third person. "I thought how fantastic it would be to have something similar from a Roman woman 2,000 years ago when Rome was at its zenith. Did she know that it was changing? Did she do anything as an artist? I'd love to have that disc."
Amos was born 40 years ago to a Methodist minister father and part-Cherokee mother in North Carolina. She began playing the piano when she was two and, as she grew up in the restrictive confines of her religious community, she found writing songs the best way to express herself.
"Being a minister's daughter in the late 60s, I knew that if I didn't start composing and talk about what I was seeing, then within six months time, everyone would have forgotten the incidents that happened at church," she recalls.
"That was a time when a lot of people would brush things under the carpet. Certain girls would just leave the church and 'go visit an aunt or uncle' and you never knew why.
"It wasn't talked about that they were pregnant, it wasn't dealt with. Nothing was dealt with. That certain powerful men in the church were copping feels from choirgirls was not discussed, so writing was how I tracked it."
Ever since the release of her debut album Little Earthquakes in 1992, Amos has been known for her remarkably personal, if sometimes obscure, lyrics, not least in the case of Me And A Gun which recounted her terrifying rape ordeal at the hands of a fan when she was 22.
The unflinching honesty has continued throughout - her third album Boys For Pele was written in the wake of the end of her seven year relationship with her producer Eric Rosse, and its follow-up, from the choirgirl hotel (cor), had many references to the three miscarriages she had when trying for children with her husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley.
Has it been painful returning to these songs? "On the whole no because I like where I am now," she says. "I wouldn't want to be 26 for anything. Of course there are things I wish I had physically that I had when I was 26, but I'm talking about here inside, that's where I'm happy."
Amos married Hawley in 1998 and the couple moved into a large farmhouse near Bude in Cornwall. Cornwall was Hawley's choice as he had spent many a childhood holiday there, but the land of stone circles and ley lines appealed to Amos's pagan sensibilities as well.
"There is a huge thing that changed for me over the years," she says, unprompted. "When I was listening to the music I began to pick up on it, it's the kind of men I became attracted to.
"When I was younger, I was seduced by the idea of someone who had power over other people. But then I realised I didn't want to be a cartoon character, I didn't want to be drawn in.
"I began to see the good in men that didn't need to have power over anybody else. They didn't want to steal your energy or your dreams and make you dependent on them emotionally. So I drew one of those men into my life."
In 2000, after Amos and her husband had given up on ever having children, she fell pregnant and gave birth by Caesarean section to their daughter Natashya. Amos says she will be the only child they have.
"On a health level I don't know whether having another child would be good for the child or for me," she says. "I really think that Tash was a gift. When you're at that Vegas table and you're winning, it's better to walk away."
Marriage and motherhood has certainly changed Amos. Her last album, last year's Scarlet's Walk, was much more outward looking, telling other people's stories rather than her own. But she says she hasn't mellowed because that word makes her sound less concerned about things.
What concerns her these days is her daughter and, while Natashya might be having what some might call a liberal upbringing, Amos is fiercely protective of her, describing herself as "a lioness".
"She's been exposed to a lot as a little kid," admits Amos. "She was touring at the age of 12 and a half months and she does get exposed to thoughts and concepts and ideas and other things that maybe people wouldn't think would be right for their kid.
"But as a mum that's lived a bit, I also made choices not to expose her to certain things, like inappropriate movies or TV shows, or behaviour that's going on with the crew on tour that I know is occurring. We just avoid that bus that night.
"I live in a world where it's much more open so it's much more easy to clock, whereas when I was growing up in the church it was harder because things were hidden and it was harder to put your finger on what was a safe place."
With the past 11 years of Amos's career now collated and archived for her family and fans to go back to at their leisure, Amos is looking to the future. With 12 million worldwide album sales under her belt, she is no rush to get new material out and for her next opus she is continuing her librarian methods of working.
"I do a lot of research and collect a lot of information," she says. "And I'm going to spend a lot of time composing the next work. I think it's always good to go away for a while so people can miss you again."
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