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The New Age (South Africa)
November 17, 2011

A sorta fairytale

by Clayton Swanepoel

There have been thousands of articles written about global music icon Tori Amos. And most of them start in a pretty similar fashion. Along the lines of "I can remember the first time I heard Tori".

And the truth is that I could bore you with stories of how I came to be a Tori Amos fan. Let's face it though, you don't really care. And frankly it's not important.

So perhaps a good place to start instead is the day I actually met Tori Amos.

Monday morning rolled round and I was up by 5am. Transcendental meditation. Go to gym. Eat breakfast. Soil your pants, you're meeting Tori Amos today. OK, maybe I didn't do the last one but I was on edge and more excited than I was on my first day of school.

I arrived at the D'Oreale Grande at Emperor's Palace, raring to go. Minutes before meeting Tori I realised I had forgotten my interview notes. Hallelujah for BBM because my editor sent them to me and I was back on track in no time.

Sitting waiting for Tori to arrive felt like an eternity. My heart was racing and I swear I forgot how to speak English at one stage.

Then the moment arrived. Like an angel from the hotel foyer she walked towards me. I would say she was smaller than I expected but I don't think her size ever occurred to me.

I'm not sure who said hello first but there was an exchange and I had an impulse to curtsey but managed to hold myself back.

The interview got under way and looking into Tori's beautiful blue green eyes all I could think was good thing I'm recording this interview because I'm pretty sure I won't remember this later.

I fired away with my questions and wanted to know what her favourite thing about South Africa was so far. "Well," she said, "Meeting the people. I did a meet and greet on the first day and quite a few people showed up. We spent more than an hour meeting people at the stage door. You get a sense of people and their lives. I don't know how you can play to people unless you get a sense of who you're playing for. It's about the people for me." Two shows into the South African leg of her Night of Hunters tour it was clear that we'd made an impression on the singer.

"The shows have been very special, very emotional." Something I think would go without saying for an Amos concert. "Yes, but this is a very open, very warm group of people and because I haven't ever played here. It's been so long coming, 20 years, that I think the emotion is different."

Having been in the industry I wondered what advice she'd give herself back at the start of her career. "I'd say don't do it," she responded almost immediately and I felt my heart drop to my stomach. Really? "Yeah, I'd say don't do it."

"I had a false sense of what the industry was. It's not a protective industry," she says, "You really have no idea who your friends are."

"You get dropped from your label if you don't have success. You cannot be kept if you don't make a profit. Wake up. I'm sorry, but the music industry is not running a charity," she says, like a caution to anyone wanting to enter this field.

I only get this quote from the listen back as I drift off into thoughts of a nightmare world without Tori. A world without mentions of cornflake girls, orange knickers and Mr Zebra. I snap back and move along swiftly.

Amos' new album, Night of Hunters, sees her first foray away from the world of contemporary pop. The album is a technical triumph and being alternative classic, the process was a little different.

"Well there was more freedom in some ways than when you're making a pop contemporary record," she says,

"Stylistically, with a contemporary record, no different than fashion: you need to be forward thinking. You need to look at what is occurring sonically. What other records are making statements about. This kind of work is about architecture, structure, and you have a lot more room in alternative classic to build than you do in the pop field."

This album is about the narrative that has different rules, "The rules for something like this are about understanding what makes up a song cycle versus what makes up a Scarlet's Walk, which is a journey and loosely, songs are connected and it's a concept."

Amos' only child, Natashya Hawley, performs on the album as well. And I was blown away by her voice. This doesn't mean that Amos is immediately into the idea that she'll be a performer. "People are born with a voice or they're not, OK," she says. And her daughter has such a voice. Knowing what Tori knows about the music biz, it seems there are times when she would just prefer her to be a veterinarian.

At this point I got the signal to wrap up and I pushed to get just two more questions in. What is one question she never gets asked but wishes people would?

"Well sometimes, very rarely, people talk about the humour in the work," she says, "It's always very heavy. Of course I understand, but there is humour but rarely do we talk about that side of it."

And the flipside of that: what is the one question that everyone asks that she wishes they didn't? "I'm not sure. I think I block it out of my mind. I have a form of selection and that's how I can keep doing this for 20 years."

As the interview wraps up, I lose my professional composure and my fan side comes out. "Yeah, of course," she responds to a request for a photo and autograph. And then she complimented my cologne. I kid you not.

Then before I leave she asks: "What are you hoping to hear tonight?" and I draw a blank and after a few seconds I say, "Scarlet's Walk."

That night the show is even better than I could have imagined. Amos is the definition of a musical genius. The crowd hung on her every word.

Then halfway through she said she was going to play a special request. The crowd began yelling out song titles. She humoured them for a bit and then started playing "Scarlet's Walk." And yes, I'm going to shamelessly claim that one.

Driving home, I can't help but feel grateful that time travel isn't possible and that Tori will never be able to tell herself not to make the magic she does.


[Wikipedia: The New Age]

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