Tori Amos: Records that changed my life
Singer-songwriter, pianist and composer Tori Amos tells us about the records that inspired her music and changed her outlook on life.
Jesus Christ Superstar
I’m a minister’s daughter so I was exposed to the Bible a lot but through more of a strict type of religious upbringing. My grandmother was a missionary preacher and then my dad—her son—became a minister. He wanted to be in medicine but left it to be a preacher. Therefore, growing up around conservative religious people, when I heard Jesus Christ Superstar—that was brought over by a babysitter—I was mindblown. I was absolutely mind-boggled about the story, about how it was told, about the voices, the sound of the record…it just blew my mind.
When it first came out, I was around eight and it helped to musically rebel in some way because it painted possibilities of how to write songs and how to tell stories. I’ve been exposed to musicals through my mother my whole life: Oklahoma, The Sound of Music—all of them. And yet, because Jesus Christ Superstar was a rock opera, and the fact that it was connected to a biblical context, it just spoke to me. I’d never been exposed to anything like this.
Led Zeppelin Boxed Set
That was a game-changer on every level. Somebody who had an older sister brought it over to me, I was probably around nine at that time. And you know, there was Led Zeppelin, II, III, IV and then Houses of the Holy but I picked the Boxed Set because I think there’s nothing like it. It came out a lot later, but all the songs that are incorporated on it are just so gorgeous.
There was something incredible about the ability of these four people to play together…to play music that didn’t feel at all demonic… I remember people in the church that served on different boards, they were terrified of them, and therefore vilified the band because teenage girls were running away to follow these guys. I mean, running away.
And, sure, you might think they were running away because they were infatuated but I suggest that Robert really carried the energy of a goddess, and was channelling that sort of divine feminine. And I think some of these teenage girls were starving for it, because they certainly weren’t getting it in the church, not the Methodist church.
by Joni Mitchell
What a songwriter, what a combination of songs! To this day, if I’m having one of those days, I just put this album on. And it’s like a wonderful blanket, it wraps you in west coast energy.
I heard it for the first time in the early Seventies—my brother exposed me to it. He was a big James Taylor fan, so he then got Blue and I began to see another way of writing songs.
Joni Mitchell was really using her high range and that spoke to me because I could sing high. Of course, you gravitate to people who can show you how to use your instrument. The thing about singers is that it's different to being a piano player, for example. When you sit down to a piano, it’s tuned. And, especially if you’re playing a decent piano, then you know what the instrument should sound like.
When the voice is your instrument, on the other hand, you have to build that instrument from the inside. And that’s quite tricky, especially when you’re a kid, because it takes time to develop that instrument.
About my new album Native Invader...
This album is responding to the energy of our time right now. I find it tragic that some families aren’t speaking to each other in America. I find it tragic that, even if people disagree, their ideologies are different, it still becomes so divisive that it’s tearing people apart. It's heartbreaking.
So the Muses were clear that we needed to create a record together, they very much showed me the way, that we needed to create a sonic secret garden; a sonic wildwood, which people could step into wherever they were—even at work sitting in their chair, and find some kind of sustenance in it, whatever it is you need, whether it’s resilience or anything else. That was our goal.
Native Invader by Tori Amos is out now on Decca Records
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