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July 1, 2014
Music Interview: The unbeatable Tori Amos
Currently delighting fans old and new with her amazing Unrepentant Geraldines tour, the force that is Tori Amos is as formidable as ever. We caught up with the singer-songwriter during her stay in Italy.
When Swide last spoke with Tori Amos, it was during the release of 2011's classically influenced album 'Night of Hunters' and since then the artist released the wonderful 'Gold Dust' and we now has 2014's 'Unrepentant Geraldines', which hears her make a return to her 90s sound, both vocally and musically. The record touches upon themes of family, religion, and aging, and includes a delicate duet with her 13-year old daughter Natashya. It is also these themes that Tori Amos discusses in our interview, below.
"Unrepentant Geraldines" is your first album of unreleased songs in a long time. How was this comeback to pop music born?
I had a conversation with my daughter and she knew I wasn't having a great prospective about being 49 and she told me "If you don't get your head around this and rock this out, what is the message you're telling me, what do I have to look for? Are you telling me that you're not as strong as you were 20 years ago? Because I think you are. I think you're stronger and I think you have to remember that. And you need to prove it to yourself and in order to do this you've got to do it by yourself". It was a challenge from my teenage daughter and it was the best medicine I could have. Because you know, 49 wasn't so great, but 50 is pretty fucking amazing. But you have to go do it, you have to go face it and I trained for it, I worked, preparing myself. You know, there's a projection, particularly in America, about age, and in Hollywood particular roles are created for women, in the movies, at my age. In my own business it's different. You can't go to the "Helen Mirren rock'n'roll tour". It doesn't work like that. If you are a narrator, a teller, you have to have a voice and it must be potent.
So, do you feel the same kind of strength, compared to 20 years ago?
It's different and it needs to be different. It's a different type of strength. You ask different questions. There's also a whole new generation coming to the shows now, lots of young people which are trying to find their way, with a lot of questions and a lot of stories. Twenty years ago it was a different world, with different music in the streets, I was exploring different paths. And I wasn't a mother yet, 20 years ago... that changed everything.
How were your new songs born?
I think, while I was working on other projects, these were songs to survive, to deal with what was happening just around me. I was working with an orchestra, all these amazing musicians, with collaborations very rich of ideas. It was a very different type of exposure to how different people work. Things were very busy with these projects and working in the theatre world. I didn't have to show these songs to anybody – I didn't have a contract for a pop album – and I didn't. Imagine it... you're working with all these people and you find out that writing songs is the only way you have to survive this whole new experience and life changes. One day my husband came in and said: "What in the world are you playing?" and I said "I don't know". He said "Well you need to keep playing that". It was the song "Weatherman" and it was the realization for me that there was something there.
How came the idea to sing with your daughter, in this album?
It's the third time we do it. It's part of our family life that she and I sing together quite a bit. She also plays a little bit, but she's more a singer, a storyteller. So part of our relationship happens through music and it seemed just right to make it part of this album.
What kind of music advice would you give her?
Go into music business!
Why? Wouldn't you like to be an actor?
No: I don't want to become an actor. I just think the music business is a very difficult game to play and if you really care about somebody you wouldn't wish it on anybody. You have to love it, but the thing is: you're the one who's financially responsible, so if it's not working... if a movie fails, you pay your attorney and your agent and you banked it. If it doesn't work, in our business, you re-mortgage your house. It's a different life. And I chose this life and I don't have one second of regret, but everyone who wants to choose this life, I look him in the eye and say: "Do you love music more than absolutely any other form of expression?". Because if you don't, the person that does will outlast you, so you have to love it
Do you think your daughter will become a musician?
If she chooses this, I want her to embrace this, but also: eyes wide open! No fantasies. You need to see that the choices you make have consequences. Not everybody going into this has a life at 50 years old. You know, a lot of people get destroyed by it.
What can you tell us about your experience as a parent?
It's an incredible humbling day to day learning experience. Because sometimes you just don't have the answers and I think it's very tough for them, the kids. I see a lot of girls dealing with peer pressure and the stuff imposed by magazines... and as a parent you're learning all along the way. They inspire us but sometimes you don't have any answers. So the song "Rose Dover" is a way to communicate, that's how we communicate through music, my daughter and I.
"Unrepentant Geraldines": why did you choose this title, for the album?
Geraldine was an Irish woman in a painting and she looked like a renaissance lady. And I started to think of how women, for so many centuries, have been apologetic for what they've been thinking... and at a certain point you have not to be apologetic. You think what you think. You believe what you believe. There's a lot of shame that gets attached to what you're thinking, therefore there's a lot of hiding, hiding behind masks. This record is very much about peeling these masks.
What's the most important gift you had for this important 50th birthday?
Oh I just had it. I didn't jump off a bridge. Well, what I'd say is that it's different for everybody, but a lot of people don't talk about it. Women have told about me about the fact that people don't talk about it... you can become invisible at a certain age. It's different for each woman the way to approach this... you have to find the self respect. Only you can give it to yourself. Nobody can really give that to you. You have to find it for yourself.
Do you have any ideas about your next projects? What will you do next?
"The Light Princes", the musical, is coming out as a recording. We just recorded the orchestra in London, then we're recording the actors in between the tours. It will be out next year. One of my favourite records is "Jesus Christ Superstar" and I want to make it like this. Many theatrical companies don't go and make a proper record, they do it in 24 hours... and I didn't want to do that because hearing that record really changed my relationship with musical theatre. I really want to make a real record of it. So that's what I'll be up to next year.
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