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Times of Oman (Sultanate of Oman)
August 25, 2011

She talks to the flowers...

by Judson Bennett/Tony James Features

The striking red-haired woman and her 11-year-old daughter are a familiar sight in the sleepy Cornish seaside town of Bude but no one bothers them. "That's what I like about England," says 48-year-old Tori Amos. "The fact that I've sold 20 million records doesn't impress anyone! We're just the folks who live in the farm at the end of the lane..."

Hailed as the world's most original women singer/songwriter in pop, Tori and her sound engineer husband Mark Hawley have lived in remote north Cornwall since 1998. Now their daughter Natashya goes to the local school. "I take her and pick her up like any other mum," Tori says. "No one thinks it's any big deal."

But now Tori will be away from her beloved Cornwall for a while... Her new album, Night of Hunters, is out in September, followed by a European promotional which starts in Finland.

If that wasn't enough she's currently writing the music for The UK's National Theatre production of The Light Princess, due to premiere next year and is deeply involved in charities helping rape and domestic violence victims.

"I would be dishonest if I said I didn't like success, but I can't wait to get back to Cornwall, recharge my batteries and wander around alone on the cliffs talking to the flowers without being pointed out as some sort of nut!" Tori says.

It's a long way from Tori's upbringing in the backwaters of North Carolina with a Cherokee Indian grandmother who kept a tomahawk in her apron!

Although she's been compared with Kate Bush, and Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos is a one off...She believes there are pixies at the end of her garden, bakes her own bread in the 300-year-old farmhouse kitchen and spends hours thinking up new flavours for icecream...

"If people think I'm nuts that's their problem," she grins. "I don't think that sitting by myself playing the piano ten hours a day is anything unusual..." Tori started playing piano before she could walk and was studying classical piano at the renowned Peabody Institute in Baltimore when she was five. But she quickly discovered that she preferred pop to the classics.

"At six I was hooked on Jimi Hendrix, rather than Haydn," she remembers. I thought my father, a Methodist minister, would be furious, but he wasn't.

His attitude was that I should develop my talent in whatever way I thought best. So I started writing and singing my own pop songs.

The Reverend Amos was now determined that his daughter should become a major pop star. He has always been the driving force behind my musical career," Tori says.

"He would come with me to record companies and agents, wearing his clerical collar.

"He would tell them that if they didn't take me on they would be making the greatest mistake of their lives.He didn't actually say they wouldn't go to Heaven, but very nearly.

"We didn't actually get thrown into the street, but several times it came very close to it."

Tori's father was convinced the music world was a den of iniquity and refused to let his 16-year-old daughter perform anywhere there were men with a roving eye... "That's how I ended up playing in gay bars in Washington DC," Tori explains.

"Dad didn't have to worry about lecherous guys making passes at me. Even so, he stood guard next to the piano in his minister's uniform. And I was sitting there in my sister's polyester pants trying to appear grown-up. What a pair we must have looked!"

After years of trying to convince major record labels that her off-beat talent was worth encouraging, Tori was almost at the point of giving up when a scout from Atlantic Records heard her playing in a club.

The result was a debut album, Little Earthquakes, in l991, which sold more than a million world-wide and had fans and critics asking: "Who is this girl with the amazing voice?"

Even though she's based in Cornwall, Tori's songs are still rooted in America. Even her most traumatic memories are turned into haunting songs -- In "Me and a Gun," she sings about being raped at gunpoint aged 21.

"I can't believe how many fans seem to have been through similar experiences. They all say my song has helped them to cope," Tori says.

As a result she co-founded a rape victims' international network, which since its launch seven years ago has received over half a million calls. Last year Tori raised $300,000 to keep the organisation going.

"Rape is a terrible thing," she says. "I will never completely get over what happened to me and am constantly trying to understand what I've gone through. "Today I live a lovely life with a wonderful guy but many girls never recover. I just felt that I had to do something to help those who are still suffering a living nightmare."


[Wikipedia: Times of Oman]

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