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The News Tribune (US)
Tacoma, Washington, newspaper
July 10, 2009

Time for some piano interludes

TORI AMOS: She promises new arrangements of fan favorites, and a few surprises

by Ernest A. Jasmin; The News Tribune

Singer-songwriter Tori Amos has been a musical force for 17 years, since she unleashed her cerebral brand of piano pop on the masses with debut album "Little Earthquakes."

And now armed with studio album No. 10, "Abnormally Attracted to Sin," she's ready to kick off an ambitious new tour tonight at Seattle's WaMu Theater. Recently, she gave us a ring to talk about what fans should expect.

What kind of set list are you planning for us up here?

There are quite a few songs that (drummer) Matt (Chamberlain) and (bassist) Jon (Evans) had never played before. And so we looked back in the catalog and thought, 'Well, that could really work with strange ambient sounds.' So Matt's got all kinds of things on this tour, and so does Jon.

So it's a dynamic show. We're covering songs that might have only, in the past, been at the piano. But we thought, well, if we arrange it this way, it could be a new kind of approach to the song.

Can you point to a song that's an example of how you've flipped around the arrangement?

OK, "China," for example. I only would play that alone at the piano. But now we decided to do it in a different way. There's quite a few songs like that. ... I wanted to have another perspective on quite a few of these songs, and that side of it has been a lot of fun.

Who are you bringing out on the road with you?

It's just a trio this time. I figured we did the full band last time. I like every tour to be somewhat different. ... I think this (tour) covers a wider range of the catalog. And this album that I've just put out, to me it is not a concept album. It is a red-headed woman singing songs. And so I think that this tour is very song driven instead of production driven.

Over what period did you write these songs?

I see the record, really, in two phases. One of the phases was on the road during the last tour. And sometimes I write quite a bit on the road because there are triggers. When you are exposed to so much information and you're traveling so fast things do happen. ... And so I found that a lot of songs started to visit me on the road.

I guess last July and August I was in the States, and I had run into Doug (Morris, head of Universal Music) again. And quite a few things happened to me in the States. I had surgery, and just upheaval events happened, and all these songs came pouring out. So the second stage of recording happened after that.

Can you point to a song that was a launching point for this album?

Yes, I'd say "Give" was a launching point. That's why I made it first.

"Give" has an electronic element, and in (writing it) I recognized that all the keyboard work I'd been doing out on the road and developing was going to be a big part of the sound of the record. I'd been building sounds with Muse keyboards where if you mix a few sounds together you create your own original sound.

There are a lot of synthesizers on this record working alongside of the piano. I did that on "From the Choirgirl Hotel." ... But not since that record have there been so many different kinds of keyboards mixed together.

Early in your career people would compare you to people like Kate Bush and that sort of thing. But since "Little Earthquakes" came out, there's been a whole string of singer-songwriters writing piano pop. Do you see your influence in a lot of those?

I think that it's really positive that the piano has become accepted in the music industry. When "Little Earthquakes" came out it was a real fight, and it had taken a back seat after all the music in the '80s.

So folk music had been embraced again with guitar players, Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman, and they were heralding that right in. But the music industry was not really open to the piano being central with women. So I think it's exciting to see how many female artists are playing piano and having success with it. I think it's just great.

audio clips from the interview

clip 1: Tori talks about the new production, tinkering with song arrangements and dusting off deep album cuts.

clip 2: Tori on the "upheaval events" and synth experimentation that went into the "Abnormally Attracted to Sin" album.

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