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Canoe (Canada)
August 6, 2014

Tori Amos embraces getting older with 'Unrepentant Geraldines'

by Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

Nobody said it was going to be easy turning 50.

Just ask veteran singer-songwriter-pianist Tori Amos who was inspired to take her one-woman act on the road to support her Top 10 debuting 2014 album, Unrepentant Geraldines, because of hitting her mid-century mark this year.

It all sprang out of a conversation Amos was having with her 14-year-old daughter, Natashya "Tash" Hawley, the product of her 16-year-marriage to English sound engineer Mark Hawley, who also sings a duet with her mother on the new track, Promise.

"She kind of said, 'If you don't figure this out then your message is just terrible. Then you're saying, you're done,'" said Amos. "And I said, 'Well, I'm not saying I'm done.' And she goes, 'Well, you need to be able to prove it to yourself that you can go out there and rock as hard as you did when you were 30.'"

Amos' new disc also deals with the significant birthday benchmark, specifically on the song, 16 Shades of Blues, whose lyrics go: "50 is the new black."

"I didn't know that when I was 49 okay?" she said. "It's powerful if you really allow yourself to feel all the things you have to feel to go there. Some of them are very painful and tough -- to realize you're half gone. You got to really get that... There's a definite awareness that we're not going to be on the planet that long but it's not as if we have to start checking out and as my mother, who is 84, was telling me, 'There's a huge difference between 84 and 50 and if I were 50 there would be no stopping me!'"

We caught up with Amos down the line from Vancouver recently where she played one of her two Canadian dates -- the other is Toronto's Massey Hall on Friday night -- to talk about growing old gracefully or not.

How has the Unrepentant Geraldines tour being going?

It's tricky to hold the stage by yourself with no eye candy and cute boys and stuff or drummers or bass players. It is! To make the decision when I, for instance, do four shows back to back at an hour, 40 to two hours, and pump it hard, and I thought, 'Well, I can if I focus.' So that was the decision and I'm happy I've done it because it's exhilarating and the people coming to the shows have so much energy, they're sort of my band, the audience.

I've heard your covers this time out have included a mashup of Miley Cryus' Rooting for My Baby and Sinead O'Connor's Three Babies?

With Miley and Sinead, very important that they were together because it wasn't just about doing Miley. The statement was Miley and Sinead together 'cause Tash was listening to the Miley record and that's how I heard the song and I was in Ireland and I thought, 'Right, Sinead, must be done.' And then you kind of think, 'cause somebody asked me about this, and I just said, there's a place where great artists can live on the same stage maybe in a certain way. And it was done out of respect, if you see what I mean, it wasn't just look, 'Let's be down with the kids and do Drake.' There has to be reason for all this stuff...

What do you think of Miley Cyrus' controversial image makeover given you once breastfed a pig in the liner notes for your 1995 album Boys for Pele?

The question I've had to get to is our issue when the woman is quote-unquoting 'exploiting herself' and she's 'the bank' (making the money) is that our problem? Because we don't seem to have problems when men exploit the women whether it's rap or rock and the men are making 'bank.' And this is where I've had to get to whether it's done artfully or not. I have no comment. Meaning, what I'm saying to you is, 'It doesn't matter.' As a feminist I have had to get to the questioning place because it's funny some people don't have issues if it's Beyonce doing it, nobody seems to have an issue, but that's because we're getting our issues confused. And maybe that's because you like her artform.

What about covering Not Gonna Get Us by faux-lesbian duo T.A.T.U. song during a Moscow gig given the government's current anti-LGBT stance?

That was my way of saying, 'Okay, Putin's coming onto this stage tomorrow morning, which he did, and I'm going to be the last one to be on it before he takes stage, so I'm going to leave a little message here and he'll never know what it is, ever, ever, ever but that's fine, millions of people will. The people that will need to know will know...But the reason I did the song was because the song would put forth -- over the years -- a message (given) they've been on stage making out with each other and in videos, so I felt the message was supportive of intimacy of women.

And did you sing in English or in Russian or in both?

Both. I had phonetic lessons by my bodyguard.

What kind of music is Tash into?

Iggy Azalea. But see Tash is ghetto and when I say that she believes that her dad and I stole her from a Cuban family, okay? She likes some songs from Miley but she's down the R&B path.

Tash sang previously 'in character' as Anabelle on three songs on your classically-inspired 2010 album, Night of Hunters, but on Promise she's more front and centre vocally. Is this her chosen career path?

Gosh, I don't know. She's got a pro-Tools rig that she's learning on computer yes 'cause (her dad's) an engineer. She's got a guitar, she plays that, she plays piano, she's writing her songs, yes. But I'm saying, 'Whatever you do you'll be out of a job when you're 25 so you better think about what you're gonna do for your next plan. Even if you decide to do this, the chances of you doing this at 50 in your generation are small sister.' And she says, 'Yeah, I got it mom. You come from that older generation where you can still have a career.' I say, 'Yeah, if you're lucky and you work your ass off, yeah, you can maybe but not everybody Tash, there are a lot of the people from the '90s who are out.'

Do you think you'll grow old gracefully?

(The song) Promise is really the back story of everything we're talking about here was (Tash saying) 'Look mom, you've got to get your head around this. But if you try to dress like you're 25, you're doomed.' The song came from mothers and daughters kind of having an honest chat about stuff and yes, that includes girls doing whatever (on film, in videos, on the net, in live performances) and coming to a place where we don't have to agree with something or like something. This is (from) a woman though who nursed a pig. What I'm saying to you is, 'In life, do you do things that are shocking or do you do things that are subversive.' In my life I want it to be about subversive. I didn't want to shock to shock for shock's sake.

Do you think it's different for women than men as they grow older in the music industry?

Fewer women, 50 and older, who are songwriter-singers, are being signed with major record deals than men. That's a fact, not an opinion. And (my record label peeps) will tell you why -- supply and demand. 'We'll supply what the public demands and so far the pubic really hasn't sort of breaking down our door for what women 50 and over want to say.' Mow maybe they're fans but it's not like Springsteen. So I just looked at them and said, 'Well, that sucks.' And they just said, 'Well, go make some demand. Go do something. Stop complaining.' Now I can't tell you I'm doing that but I'm having to do it for myself; however, I'm doing it. And you can't be nursing pigs at 50, we agree on that. You cannot be shocking in that way. So when you ask about what is the message at 50, there are things you can't do that you can do when you're in your twenties.

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson


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