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The Observer (UK)
September 29, 2012

This much I know: Tori Amos

The musician, 49, on playing the piano at two and a half, rage and big ears

Words Shahesta Shaitly. Photograph Suki Dhanda.

I was two and a half when I first climbed up and sat at a piano. According to my mother, I just started playing with both hands. I got into the Peabody Conservatory for Music in Baltimore at five and was kicked out at 11 for wanting to do my own thing.

I'm a conduit for telling people's stories. It's a privilege. When people talk to me, it's usually to say something about one of my songs, but in the telling of their story, a new song is being created - even if it's just a seed of an idea.

I have built my world through Native American mythology. Growing up in a strict Methodist household in Maryland [her father was a pastor], there was no room for me to explore spirituality. When I got older, I chose to look at Christianity as another myth.

Some of the biggest advocates for feminism seem to believe that in order to feel powerful you have to make another woman subservient, and that is not what feminism is about at all.

My ears are huge. If there's ever a problem with a plane I'm on, they could just put me on the wing and I'll land the sucker.

Making 13 albums in the past 20 years requires a particular discipline. There's a time to take a holiday and there's a time to take a pilgrimage and write.

Neil Gaiman is my spiritual brother and my daughter's godfather. He spends a lot of time at my beach house in Florida - he wrote American Gods there and he's just finished another.

A lot of ageing men in the music industry are still making albums: Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen. But there are very few women of that age still making records on major labels outside of the country music genre.

I had three miscarriages before my daughter Tasha. We spent a lot of time staring into space trying to figure out what went wrong before she came along.

Sometimes you have to rip your skin off when writing a song to get to a subject matter that grabs people in the heart. I don't see it as suffering for my art.

I don't rage any more. I've learned how to focus my anger. I used to let fly all the time before, but there's a more powerful way to make your point.

I spent a lot of time breaking the law in the late 80s: ecstasy and ayahuasca were mind-expanding drugs for me that I did in a respectful setting. I was part of a group of people who were all trying to grow and we took drugs in context.

I'd like to make music for the rest of my life. My daughter's plan for me is that at 83 I'll still be in a heel, straddling two pianos. Fully clothed though - there's a "no boob" rule these days.

Tori Amos's new album Gold Dust is released on 1 October. She performs at the Royal Albert Hall on 3 October (

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