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Birmingham Post (UK)
May 9, 2014

Tori Amos photo by Amarpaul Kalirai/Mercury Classics

Cornwall girl puts accent on pop again

Singer Tori Amos tells Adrian Caffery about sharing the microphone with her daughter and why the West Country will be glad to see the back of her.

Rain-lashed Cornwall is confident of a change in fortunes this summer -- all because Tori Amos will be away on tour.

The American singer-songwriter and her English husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, set up home in the county 20 years ago, converting an outbuilding into a recording studio.

They also have homes in Florida and Ireland.

But it was as Cornwall suffered one of its wettest ever winters that Tori was ensconced in her West Country hang-out, recording new album Unrepentant Geraldines.

According to the locals, that's no coincidence.

"They've clocked that when I'm away the weather improves," chuckles Tori. "I'm going to be gone for quite a while, nearly 80 shows, so I think they're hoping for a good summer.''

Tori says her team were so focused on meeting deadlines for the album that apart from "the odd power surge and things like that" the storms went almost unnoticed.

I ask the piano maestro if she shared the same sense of pride as many in Cornwall when the Government recently granted the county minority status.

This formally recognised Cornwall's unique culture and language, giving it the same protection as the UK's other Celts -- the Scots, Welsh and Irish.

"Look, everybody knows I'm just a guest," she says, despite her 20-year residency. "I like the Cornish people and have a lot of time for them. They have a sense a humour."

But can she understand the locals?

The BBC's recent adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel Jamaica Inn attracted 2,200 complaints over the often incomprehensible West Country accents.

Tori, whose 2005 song "Jamaica Inn" was partly inspired by the tale of murderous ship wreckers, says: "Yes, I can understand them -- well, ish.

"It's easier if Tash is around as she's a good a translator. She's a proper Brit like her dad, although she doesn't have a Cornish accent."

Tash (Natashya) is Tori and Mark's 13-year-old daughter, who has sung on two of her mother's albums, the seasonal Midwinter Graces (2009) and the classical Night of Hunters (2011).

They share vocals again on the new album, on a track called "Promise," which Tash also had a hand in writing.

"Tash and I were talking about girls who don't get along with their mums. It's not that they're bad mums or bad daughters, it's just that sometimes there's a language barrier.

"So 'Promise' is a duet between a mother and daughter who are promising each other what they won't do and what they will do to help maintain a good relationship."

Tori's six-week tour of Europe, which started this week and stops at Birmingham on May 12, is her first without Tash in tow.

"She first joined us on the road when she was just a baby, three weeks after 9/11, and she's been on every tour since," says Tori.

But the budding songwriter, guitarist and pianist has been boarding at London's famous Sylvia Young Theatre School for the last two years and will be studying when the tour bus rolls out.

"Tash left us when she was 11," jokes Tori.

"She basically said 'mum and dad, you'll be fine without me, you'll work it out, we'll miss each other very much but I'm sure you'll recover'. And she's off!"

Tash will, however, be linking up with her folks on the American leg of the tour in July.

Tori hit the big time when her first solo album Little Earthquakes was released in 1992, spawning the singles Silent All These Years, Winter and Crucify. Her follow-up, Under the Pink, was just as successful on the back of the hit single Cornflake Girl and she's gone on to sell 12 million albums worldwide.

Unrepentant Geraldines, to be released on May 12, will be Tori's first mainstream album since early 2009.

Since then, she's recorded the aforementioned Midwinter Graces and Night of Hunters, plus 2012's Gold Dust, a collection of classical re-workings of 14 songs.

Tori also co-wrote the critically acclaimed musical The Light Princess for the National Theatre (an original cast recording will be out early next year).

"The songs on Unrepentant Geraldines were written while I was immersed in the projects I was doing with the orchestra and the National Theatre,'' says Tori.

"I wasn't under contract to make a pop record so I kept them to myself until now. I called them my 'secret sonic selfies'."

They'll be showcased in her one-woman shows, which will also feature a couple of covers requested by fans -- different every night and rehearsed at sound-checks.

The covers might have a local link so in Birmingham, for instance, it might by something originally recorded by Duran Duran or Black Sabbath.

Or, more likely, Led Zeppelin as Tori has admitted to having had a crush on Robert Plant.

The red-head turned 50 in August but is using the milestone as motivation.

"Getting to 50 is the challenging bit but once you're there -- and it might take more than a day -- you get your super powers to make it to the next half century.

"I think my goal on this tour is to do a great show, as well as I've ever been able to do, not a great show for someone who's 50," she says.

So what advice would an older and wiser Tori give her younger piano bar-playing self?

"That there are all kinds of magical people out there and you never know when you're going to bump into them.

"It's not always the most 'important' person in the room who is the most fascinating."

Tori Amos plays Symphony Hall, Birmingham ( ) on Monday, May 12 and Nottingham Royal Concert Hall ( ) on Wednesday, May 14.


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