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The AU Review (Australia, www)
July 10, 2014
TORI AMOS (US) ON 'UNREPENTANT GERALDINES', TOURING AND TURNING 50 AS A WOMAN IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
by Sosefina Fuamoli
This morning, Live Nation announced that the incomparable Tori Amos is to bring her stunning live show and new album Unrepentant Geraldines to Australia near the end of the year. Last month, I was able to speak with the American singer-songwriter while she was in Europe as part of her album's world tour, where she had currently faced some difficulties in bringing her music to fans in Eastern Europe. Incredibly open and passionate about her music and the fans who've made connections to it possible, Amos remains positive about it all, despite obstacles which inevitable rear their heads.
"It was a crazy situation." Amos says, from Istanbul. "We were in Russia and we were set to play Kiev last night and then a few days ago, the Russian promoter who did all three shows: St Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev, he cancelled the show. I don't cancel, Sosefina, I don't. I'm not known for doing that. I don't play for Government anywhere, I play for people. The Kiev people had asked me to come, they'd come to visit me in Europe and said, 'Please come', and so I wasn't going to cancel!"
"The Russian promoter cancelled because of you know, the unrest there; we were set to fly in the day the [Ukranian military] plane was shot down. Anyway, they cancelled it and we have a show tomorrow in Bucharest, so we had to decide where we were going to go. I was not going to stay in Moscow, because I was going to sing songs that honoured the LGBTQ community and I did and I fucking well did! You can't go to Moscow and censor yourself! What's the point? That said, I needed to get out... so we got up early and got out. The Moscow show, the stage I played on, you won't believe...Putin was the next person, that morning, was talking at a conference on the same stage I was on the night before!"
Where the balance between being open and opinionated about your beliefs and scaling back when in a hostile setting needs to be struck can often be hazy, as we've seen in various cases around the world in recent times. As an artist, it can be argued that creative opinions are already going to be judged on face value by authoritative bodies and looking at the state of affairs in countries including Russia at present, Amos comments on her recent presence in the area as a musician and activist.
"I think, at 50 years old, you say to yourself, 'You've got to stand by what you believe in'." she admits. "It doesn't mean you have to be so provocative that you say something...I wasn't going to say anything about him, because that's just foolish, in a country where he's the most powerful man probably in the world right now, as far as power goes. That's foolish. On the other hand, to not sing songs that I sing...they gave me a visa to go in there, so you have to think, 'Okay. I'm not singing a Disney catalogue, here, and they know that.' Or they don't! You have to stand by what you believe in and I think that's what the title, Unrepentant Geraldines, means. Not just talking about it, but walking the walk."
The record, Amos' 14th studio album, marked a creative and personal change in her life. Turning 50 in any context is obviously going to bring some thoughts, revelations, intense feelings with it, but as Amos remarks, being a female in the music industry reaching this age can be as much of a negative as it is a cause for celebration.
"This Unrepentant Geraldines was written over five years and it was a big change in my life." Amos reflects. "I think turning 50 and what that means on many levels...until you're there, you don't really know. I had no idea. It's sort of a cultural marking point for women professionally. There are a lot of men who are turning 50, Johnny Depp is a month older than I am, and he's still at the height of his magical male lead powers, if you get what I'm saying. That's a desired male. I was looking at the reality that in the music business, those front line contracts are offered more to male songwriters, 50 and up, than they are to female songwriters. That's just the truth. I was having to negotiate, 'How am I going to find my path up the mountain?' and it was very challenging for me. 49 was not easy."
"Tash [Amos' daughter] said to me, 'Look. We've talked about it, we've talked about the challenges and now, go rock. Go out there on your own. For once, no orchestra, no band, go be...' she looked me in the eye and goes, 'What is the message you're telling me, Mum? That that's it? That even if you live to 80, that that is it?' She goes, 'That's a terrible message!' and I looked at her and she says, 'You cannot go and be 'great for 50', you just need to go and be great. I know you can do it and I know that you can be as strong as you were 20 years ago, so just go and do it.' I looked at her and I kind of went, 'Oh my God!' She was so emotional about it and so upset! I thought, 'Alright. Alright, okay Tash! I see what I need to go do. I need to empower myself and grab it with both hands.'"
On the way females within the arts and entertainment industries, music in particular, are currently being perceived and treated as professionals at various points in their career, Amos notes a change in trends and how crucial it is for such professionals to be forging ahead and bucking the waves.
"I think there is a responsibility that you begin to feel, as a female in the industry and a feminist in the industry." Amos admits. "We have to forge ahead. What I would say to is that there are a lot of women out there who are amazing and capable, but they're not given the opportunities because there is an ageist mass perception. I mean, the record labels will say to you, 'Look, it's supply and demand. We will supply anything, but where's the demand?' and that is a curious question. That's something that I've been hoping to expand, the demand for the experiences and the perception that you gain with age, that you can't have at 17."
Unrepentant Geraldines, released back in May, has already struck a chord with Amos' large and passionate fan base (it is her eighth record to debut in the Top 10 of US Billboard's 200 chart). Being able to interpret the material on live stages of all sizes in countries across the globe to receptions which, at their core, are brimming with the same positivity and enthusiasm, Amos notes that regardless of how long she's been on the road, each show is its own learning experience.
"I'm learning every day when I'm out at the stage door, from people talking to me about what the songs mean to them. That's when you start to really understand...it's so close to the bone. Not until you travel and you hear other people's impressions and how it relates to their lives, can you begin to see what the songs really mean."
"Every night's a buzz," she continues. "You try and make each show unique and doing that stage door really is a gift. I'm lucky that people will stand out there and take time out of their day to talk to me about what their impression is and how they see things. That affects the show, each show is very dependent on the relationship between the songs and the people and in my impression of the songs. The songs take on meaning with each show because of the context, because the narrative is changing to reflect that city and those people who are there that day."
Come November, Australian fans will be able to bask in Amos' musical radiance as she performs solo for the majority of the tour, which is set to visit all the major capitals. She's excited about the prospect of bringing Unrepentant Geraldines Down Under, especially the opportunity she's been offered in Sydney.
"The Sydney Symphony has invited me to play with them, so when I'm in Sydney at the Opera House, I'm playing with the Sydney Symphony, which I'm so excited about! The music brings me the energy; it's the songs that bring it to...you start resonating with the frequency of the music. You become alive, I do anyway."
TORI AMOS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Tickets on sale 10am July 18th
Live Nation pre-sale: 1pm July 14th - 5pm July 15th
Ticket Agent pre-sale: 1pm July 16th - 5pm July 17th
November 11th - Sydney Opera House, SYDNEY
Accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
November 15th - Palais Theatre, MELBOURNE
November 16th - Her Majesty's Theatre, ADELAIDE
November 18th - Riverside Theatre, PERTH
November 21st - QPAC Concert Hall, BRISBANE
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