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774 ABC Melbourne (Australia, radio)
July 10, 2014

Libbi Gorr interviews Tori Amos

Libbi: It's a distinctive voice with that unique blend of sublime musicality and piercing social comment. Yes, Tori Amos joins you on the wireless this morning. The woman who sold over 12 million albums worldwide, hot on the heels of her 14th studio album and top-ten Billboard release Unrepentant Geraldines. She has just announced an extension of her world tour, confirming she is coming to Australia in November. Welcome, Tori Amos!

Tori: Hello, Libbi! So good to hear your voice!

Libbi: This is really extraordinary, I had no idea that you were accepted into a proper musical, like, training course at the age of five. You're a prodigy.

Tori: Well, at the time... at the time, I was. But then I failed at eleven and that was when my parents were quite upset. My father was really shocked, 'cause I got thrown out. But, you know, to be honest with you, it's the best thing that ever happened. So, I encourage everybody: If you get thrown out of a conservatory, it doesn't have to be the end for you. It can just be a different road up the mountain.

Libbi: Why were you expelled from the conservatory?

Tori: I had a viewpoint at the time that, I wanted them to teach composition, contemporary composition, not just classical composition and not jazz composition. And so, at the time, I wanted them to analyze for us and show us, break down Beatles songs. And there was a professor there that said the Beatles wouldn't be around, nobody would know who they were in 30 years. And I threw up my hands and I said, "I don't think there's any negotiation, there's no point going forward." So, I was kind of seen as a bit of a smart aleck, a smart mouth.

Libbi: Someone who saw a future for the Beatles and shooed Mozart and Dizzy Gilespie, I guess, just made their own road in life. Do you feel like your work is being your kind of platform to be an activist? I mean, you put so much into topics like sexuality, feminism, religion. Is that a safer way to be a political voice, do you think, in the world for a woman?

Tori: I think what it does is it can break down barriers, so that people will actually listen and discuss it. Music has this ability to reach out through the speakers or through the headphones, to somebody who might not be interested in that topic. They might not be interested in how, say, um, violence is pervasive even in domestic situations, still in the 21st century. And yet, through music, people can open up to a subject that they might say, "You know, I'm tired, I don't want to talk about it again." And yet, if it touches someone's heart, then they're open to thinking about it and discussing it. And that's, I think, what music has the ability to do.

Libbi: Is it a responsibility to do it or sometimes do you just let yourself off the hook and entertain, enjoy that flighty shallowness?

Tori: Well, in an hour-and-a-half, two-hour show, it's really important to have a balance, because I'm a preacher's daughter and my grandmother was a missionary preacher-teacher, and at a certain point you realize, nobody wants to get preached at. People want to laugh, they want to laugh with you, they want you to laugh at yourself. Laughter is important. And then tears, there's a time for tears and there is a time for, um, being brassy and wild and feeling, I don't know, full of life. All these moments, I think, are part of an hour-and-a-half show for it to be a good show.

Libbi: And yet, I think, it's consistent to say that your work 'cause let's face it, 14 albums, huge body of work if your grandmother was a preacher and you are the daughter of a preacher man, in a way, that's what you do, too, isn't it? Spiritual uplift, cathartic experience.

Tori: Yes, but I hope I don't tell people how, how to believe, or what... how to believe. Being brought up in a very Christian household, it was just presumed that you would believe exactly what everybody else believes. And so, the idea of spirituality is that you hold a space for other people to find their own beliefs. No need to get somebody to agree with you. There is no need for that.

Libbi: Tell us, this last album, it's called the Unrepentant Geraldines, just tell me, who is Geraldine? And how many of them are there?

Tori: Anybody can be a Geraldine, if they want. I'm definitely an unrepentant Geraldine and I've been reading a lot around the world. I think it's, I think it's a woman or a guy guys can be Geraldines, too, we're accepting them who realizes that they don't have to apologize for changing their mind. You can learn something different this week than you thought you knew last week, and we don't have to just hang on to it because we're saving face, to be right. Having a teenager, my goodness, you begin to realize what you thought last week, you see it's different this week. And how, how they can really bring a game-changer on you has been fascinating for me. I have a teenager daughter called Tash, she's 13 and she has gotten me to see all kinds of things that I haven't seen, say, the week before. Therefore, I'd say to you that we can change. Growing is changing, that's just what it is. And you can change at 50. And we don't have to apologize for changing.

Libbi: Tori Amos, thank you so much! I'm so glad you're coming to Australia to tour. The date in Melbourne is Saturday, November the 15th. If you come a week and a half earlier, you'll make the Melbourne Cup. Tickets are on sale from Monday the 14th of July and you will get a very rousing welcome with an opening prize from this Melbourne, here at 774 ABC Melbourne. Thank you, Tori!

Tori: Thank you so much. See you soon.


[transcribed by Nathalie Krall-Kaschinsky]

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