by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
It's no secret that Tori Amos' fans, many of whom are Gay men, adore her. They have shrines dedicated to her. They name their pets and stuffed animals after her. They compose poems and paintings for her, even if an opportunity to show them to her in person never presents itself. Yes, Tori Amos fans are deeply loyal. They know her every move, like this year's uniquely conceived project Night of Hunters, the latest in a string of concept albums that have made Amos more of an innovator than a recording artist. The multi-Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter will introduce songs from her new CD when she performs live December 14 at the Paramount Theatre - visit www.stgpresents.org for ticket information. From an unknown location she described as sunny, lovely, and fabulous, this is what the acclaimed diva had to say when our phone lines crossed recently.
Albert Rodriguez: Your new album, Night of Hunters, is a departure from other music you've done. How long did you spend planning and putting it together?
Tori Amos: I was approached by Deutsche Grammophon and once they approached me, and I agreed, it began immediately. Dr. Alexander Buhr, who is a German musicologist there, began sending me endless amounts of classical music, and he was truly a collaborator on the project. It was his idea for me to do a 21st-century song cycle based on a classical theme. And so I put the theme together and he helped me to get the musicians, which was essential. And the sound team, which includes my husband Mark [Hawley], was insistent that it be an acoustic record, that it not be a prog-rock sort of thing or a merging of electronica and classical. So once we were clear about certain aspects of it, I was building pretty much immediately, building structures. I was on tour at the time, so it was all happening during that summer tour - not this past summer, but the year before.
Rodriguez: When these songs are brought to life, will you be playing them in a cycle?
Amos: No, because I feel like the live shows work best when I'm able to change the set lists every night. The show starts the same, but other than that I need it to be able to add to the repertoire and do some of the songs from the catalog, and quite a few of them have been arranged for string quartet and piano. There are two segments within the show where I just play alone, usually requests that I had that day I get at the meet 'n' greet before the show.
Rodriguez: Speaking of a varied set list, how do you determine what songs to play at each city?
Amos: There's usually a narrative happening within every show, and sometimes that's driven by what's happened in that city - for example, when I played Oslo recently. Clearly, you have to be very aware that that city is still healing from the tragedy that happened in July. And, it was important that we address some love, the issues that had been covered up, the feeling of invasion, and the sense of loss. So, that show was specific about that place. Yet, some shows are driven by just the mood of the day, the requests of the people, and how you can link songs so that people can take the journey every night. That's really the goal of the show, that when you come you are able to - without leaving your chair - cross through dimensions and really have an emotional experience.
Rodriguez: What's a good estimate of how many songs are on your set list for this tour?
Amos: The show is about two hours. I play an hour and a half, then we get into encores and that's a very different energy because it becomes very festive usually, and people want to move that energy around. I think once you feel that power in the room, the energy, everybody really wants to move with it. The set is designed so that when we get to the encores, it does become a different expression - more celebratory.
Rodriguez: A common conversation among Gay men is, 'Who's your favorite diva?' Madonna, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga routinely come up. But time and time again, your name does as well. You have such loyalty within the LGBT community, especially Gay men. How do you feel about this loyalty that's stretched so many years between you and your Gay male fans?
Amos: I think this comes from Gay men who took it upon themselves - when I was a teenager and I was working in the clubs in Washington, D.C. - to teach me and talk to me about how to present yourself as a woman and not as an object. It was very much the Gay men in my lifetime who taught me that. There's a synergy.
Rodriguez: We're heading in the right direction with Gay marriage. In the past year, it became legal in New York. Did you celebrate the news in any way?
Amos: Yeah, absolutely. Champagne. It was fantastic, very thrilling! And yet, we have more states.
Rodriguez: An issue that has also come up in the last year, and one you've spoken and written about, is teen suicide - when Gay youth take their lives as a result of bullying. How do you think we can get past this, or deal with it?
Amos: There have to be places - and maybe there are - where teenagers who are considering this & they need to know about these forums, where they can talk to people who will actually talk to them. Sometimes I feel like these teenagers need to have mentors, people who will take the time to communicate with them because it can be such a dark place, you could feel so isolated, especially if you're not in a supportive environment, whether that means the town you're in, or unfortunately there might be someone in your family who's not supportive. How can they get in touch with these people who will say those words that will make them want to wake up the next day and make different choices in their life? I don't know the answer, Albert. I'm really putting more questions out to the community to think about.
Rodriguez: One thing you mention on your website that helps deal with the issue (at least temporarily), is music. It helps soothe the pain.
Amos: Well, for me, music's been a healer, the antidote for the poison. I realize that it's different for different people, but for me, music would go into the soul, talk about the wound, reveal the wound, so that you grieve within. You have to open that wound up. And then there's the grieving process. Certain musicians resonate with the grieving process and certain musicians are more about celebrating once you get through the grieving process. I think there's music for different times in your life, for your development or your emotional journey. The songs, 'girls' - that's what I call the songs - they have always been there for me since I was 2, and they have never let me down.
Rodriguez: Do you like what you see on the pop music scene right now? I know you have a daughter who might listen to music on the radio or online.
Amos: Sometimes. Sometimes it's very exciting. Sometimes it's the same song that she played me four months ago. Some music is very derivative. & It's the same chord progression, exactly the same. And others are fresh. But in every generation you have insightful creators and you have cliché creators, every generation - that's just how it is. And this generation has a mixture just like mine did.
Rodriguez: We're in such an intense political and financial climate right now in this country, such as with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Amos: I think there needs to be an Occupy Washington, and I don't mean the state! The lawmakers, the people who are making the decisions down there, they're the ones who are failing us as people. So, that's my opinion.
Rodriguez: How can we make it better?
Amos: Go to the voting booths, and those people who aren't willing to do what's right for the good of the country, we shouldn't be voting for them, whatever party they're in. The fact that they couldn't come up with an answer is unforgiveable.
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