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Maybe California

Lyrics by Tori Amos

hey Mrs. see, please don't jump
"why not, nothing is making sense anymore to me
I don't know when I stopped making him smile.
Now the kids see me cry all the time."

From one mother to the other
They'll never get over this
for their lifetime all their wishes
will be dashed upon those cliffs.

So let's be, be strong you and me
The night is o-opening
Our angels are falling
and they will warm
they'll warm us
She asked, "Right Now?
Right Here?"
I'm feelin' soon,
soon my dear,
maybe california
maybe california.

As mothers we have our troubles
You'll leave them with emptiness
for their lifetime all their wishes
will be dashed upon those cliffs
those cliffs

So let's be strong you and me
the night is o- it is opening
our angels are falling
and they will warm
they will warm us
She asked, "Right Now?
Right Here?"
I'm feelin' soon so soon my dear,
maybe california
maybe california

Until then there will be
starlight shining down
for every tear in every town

Tori Quotes

The strange thing about the economic albatross is the effects that it's having [on] the definitions we used to have of what is a powerful person. We would equate somebody that had a job and was able to pay their mortgage as successful. And now we are having to really redefine what is success and what is power. Like "Maybe California," where a mother is contemplating suicide and you don't know why. You don't know. Is it because her husband lost his job and everything is falling apart? I was discovering this on my travels, some of the women weren't losing their jobs but the men were. And the effect that was having in the home; relationships were just completely unraveling. [Attitude - May 2009]

I never make records alone, I make them with teams of people. But I compose alone. And that's a very lonely process, although the songs are rich and depend on themselves. But in order to conjure them, I have to go through something in order to translate them. It can be excruciating. Mark will say, "I do not envy you. I used to envy you being able to write all these songs. It's trying to translate and understand them and feel all this feeling." With "Maybe California" I was just blue for weeks, because I allow the mothers and the feeling of wanting to remove yourself from a situation to take over my life. I had an experience that sort of made me hold that feeling. And I think sometimes to be a good composer you do walk a very dangerous line of having to feel things emotionally. If you're not a composer and just a player you don't have to take it there. But you have to excavate the unconscious to go to these dark caves and sometimes I know that Mark's there on the other side with his motorcycle and a hand that says, "You need to get outta here and jump on the back, I'm taking you out of this." [Wiener - May 2009]

Sometimes -- not every day -- you get a story. I never see them again. They needed to tell somebody. I'm not going to tell anybody that's going to hurt them... "There's nothing I can do to fix this thing that's driven a wedge between our marriage. I can't give my husband back his job, I can't give my husband back his belief in himself. I can't quit my job because it's the only way we're making any money. We're living shells in our home. And I just figure that if I just went away, if I just became nothing, if I just drove off that cliff, then they'd have to give him his job back and he'd find somebody else..."

At the core of the record there is a woman, a mother, who is ready to jump off a cliff. And I think it's the apex... And I began to really feel that, and understand it myself. We've all been in that place at different times for different reasons, where you have huge upheavals. And so that is the pivotal place, where you feel as if you're willing to leave everything you have because you feel so unable to fix something... Is it a part of herself? Is it another force? Or does she jump off that cliff? That has to be left to the person listening. Because within the whole record, there are different short stories of successes and failures and survival. [BBC News - May 8, 2009]

When the mothers start to shatter, then everything just comes undone. I was noticing on my travels that mothers hide things very well but it doesn't mean that they're not being pushed to the limit at this time too." [Reuters - May 8, 2009]

The song is about the mother's role in our new world, where so many men are losing their jobs and the women are not, because they're cheaper. What is that doing to a home? If the mothers start breaking down then everything starts breaking down. It's one thing to have young college girls cutting themselves, and that's tragic -- I talk about that in "Ophelia." The idea that the mothers could really be contemplating jumping off a bridge or a cliff -- that's coming out of a reality where a man is defined by being successful because he's a provider, and that's being taken away from so many homes. He's left there being stripped of this. And she can't give him that back. Wives and mothers live to make it better, and wives can't make this better.

Some of them would come up to me and say, "If I just try harder, or if I just jump off that bridge, then they'll have to give him his job back as he'll be a single parent." The things people would stop me with in a coffee shop, or in the street over my time of travelling. I would say, "Stop, do you know what you're saying?" It began to hit me because we've all been in that place where you think, "If I just take myself out of the equation" -- it may not be suicide -- but "if I keep on driving and get out of their life then it will be okay." It is an escape but at the time when you don't feel like there's anything you can do, and maybe if you're out of the way it could get better. Because there's no solution. This is a political statement. In "Maybe California" it needs to be told from the personal. [Polari - May 9, 2009]

All of us as mothers are pushed to the edge sometimes and need another hand or some higher self to reach out to remind us that, more than anything, we want to be with the ones we love, even if we can't make it all okay. I think it's the hardest when we can't make things okay, when we can't give the husband his job back, when we can't make the hurts go away. Yet the truth is, we're irreplaceable as mothers. Nobody can fill our shoes. I felt like that was something we all needed to pass around to each other, because sometimes we suffer in silence and keep our downs in private. I tend to keep them there. These have been some dark times in the last year, but we're not alone. All of us have to reground ourselves and remember that success is sometimes being able to survive tumultuous times and to be a safe port in a storm. If you're a working mother and your partner's being laid off, you have to redefine what success is, what power is, what a provider is, and still find your self worth in all that. This is not a time of economic abundance, but it can be a time of spiritual abundance. We just have to create out of the destruction and find different ways, and mothers are amazing conjurers.

I've had a rough year. A lot of people have for different reasons. It's a year of change. Yet through these challenges, there have been times when it's the songs that have been there for me and reached out to me... I don't want to go into detail. It's just been challenging and I've had to make a lot of changes. Change doesn't have to be a negative thing. Sometimes you just have to upgrade your own system and your way of thinking. You have to look at the situation with pragmatism and know that you're capable of anything. But the universe never deals you a problem you can't handle. If it's on your plate then it's your time to learn this at Earth school. If we know that, then we go, "Okay, I'm ready for the next class." [Babble - May 12, 2009]

You offered a free download of "Maybe California" as a "Mother's Day gift." What's the tie-in?

The song came out of the story of a mom who thought that if she took herself out of the picture, then maybe it could all move on. She was willing to make that sacrifice. It touched me in a very deep way. It's not the only time I heard these kinds of crazy thoughts -- that if I take myself out of the equation, they'll have to give him a job because he'll be the only parent left, and it'll all be okay. But it won't be, because you'll be gone.

So this was a mother who had contemplated killing herself, and told you about how she changed her mind?

She was contemplating it -- in the midst of it.

Someone you know personally?

People come up to me. I don't know them. They tell me their stories... I never saw her again. [New York Post - May 17, 2009]

She's a woman who's tempted to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. And it's really up to you to decide if another woman has talked her out of it. Or a spirit, or herself. Or if she does jump off that cliff. [ChordStrike - May 27, 2009]

I think a lot of people have come close to feeling like she does in the song, and when that song came to me, it was at a time when I was seeing mothers -- not just one -- ask the question that if they weren't there anymore, would it just be the better answer for the family? And when I started to really understand the gravity of what that meant... because these aren't women who are crazy; these are just women pushed to a point that can't fix the tragedies that happen to families, where they've lost everything and can't put their kids through college and the husband's lost the job, and it goes on... I was traveling a lot during the middle of making Abnormally Attracted to Sin, and there were a couple of different phases of the writing, and there is a phase when songs like "Ophelia," "Maybe California," and "Starling," where there is great suffering, and it's hard to sometimes find that strength when no one is stepping in and offering you that hand at that time. You wonder what is it that's going to step in? And for me, it's always the songs that step in, so this song was influenced by watching women getting so close to jumping over the edge and having to come to terms with that, and looking in my own life, sometimes you have to look -- how close are we all? I think some of us... it just depends on the day. I think you'd like to think that you're a bit further away. Then maybe she found herself on the road that day. [Buzzine - July 2009]

Live Versions

"Maybe California"
May 6, 2009 - Vienna, Austria
FM4 Radio Session

"Maybe California" (with orchestra)
October 8, 2010 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

"Maybe California" (with quartet)
December 18, 2011 - Los Angeles, California

"Maybe California"
May 28, 2014 - Brussels, Belgium

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