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The Guardian (UK)
Monday, January 4, 2010

'I like high drama' ... Tori Amos. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

Portrait of the artist: Tori Amos, musician

'My father was a minister and banned rock music at home. So I played the Stones on piano when he was out'

Interview by Nosheen Iqbal

What got you started?

I started playing the piano when I was about two, and got a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore when I was five. But I left when I was 11.

What was your big breakthrough?

Leaving Peabody. My older brother Michael was into rock music, which my father hated. He was a minister, so it was banned in our house. But Michael would sneak the records in, and I'd play the Stones and Little Richard on the piano with him before dad came home. That, for me, was the beginning.

Which female artists inspire you?

I can't name names: I'd be too worried about missing someone out. I remember reading an interview with one of my idols about 15 years ago, and she was asked something similar. She named all these other female artists - everyone around at the time who you could have mentioned - but not me. I was devastated.

Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?

My daughter Natashya. She's almost 10 now, but I still get a real kick of guilt when I'm on tour and can't be the kind of mother who's there putting her to bed each night. She's a great cheerleader, though: she gives me pep talks.

Is pop having a feminist moment?

Ha! Yes - it's great that there are lots of female artists around right now, but ask me again 10 years down the line. There is a phenomenal amount of pressure on women in this industry: they are considered vintage by the time they hit their mid-30s. Meanwhile, the men considered the world's most beautiful creatures are hitting 50 - Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt are both 46.

What work of art would you most like to own?

I've got tonnes of aboriginal and Native American art, but I'd like even more. I've found some inspiring stuff by aboriginal women in New Zealand.

What's the worst thing anyone's ever said about you?

That I don't know how to laugh. That came from a journalist some years ago.

If you could have written any song, which would it have been?

"Let It Be" by the Beatles.

Who would you most like to work with?

I usually get asked if I'll ever work with Kate Bush. I'm not sure who I'd pluck out of thin air - though I am working on a musical [of the George MacDonald story The Light Princess] with playwright Sam Adamson.

Is there an art form you don't relate to?

Opera, which is weird, because I like high drama.

Do you care about fame?

Sure I do. The "if anyone else likes my music, it's a bonus" line is bullshit. If I was writing songs just for me I'd only play them in my living room, alone.

In Short

Born: North Carolina, 1963

Career: Has released 11 solo albums, the latest of which, Midwinter Graces, is out now on Universal/Island.

High point: "Now. I'm 46 and I have a husband who still wants me every day. That's pretty great, right?"

Low point: "The late 90s. I felt sidelined by the industry, by the preoccupation with finding something newer, younger."


Graeme Robertson photo outtakes

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