It’s been 20 years since Tori Amos released her debut ‘Little Earthquakes’, in which she hammered down boundaries with her piano rock and raw, confessional poetry. Since 1992, she’s put out 13 studio albums. You can listen to ‘Gold Dust’, her 14th, for the first time below. The album is a re-imagining of a selection of her songs in an orchestral setting with the Amsterdam-based Metropole Orchestra. Her track-listing doesn’t read like a collection of her Greatest Hits, although it includes a couple of her best-known (‘Precious Things’, ‘Silent All These Years’).
Why were they chosen? Well, it’s partly autobiographical in structure. ‘Jackie’s Strength’ is about her relationship with her mother. ‘Winter’ is about her father and grandfather. ‘Snow Cherries from France’, one of her favourites, is about falling in love with her husband. “I thought it was important to do the album with songs that have been part of the story. We’re collecting our sonic pictures of the last 20 years and creating a memory box,” she explained.
‘Gold Dust’ will be a way for new listeners to discover Amos’ music and also a precious treat for old fans – of which Amos has many. The front rows at her concerts seat Toriphiles more emotionally involved that any I’ve ever seen, evoking images of what Lisztomania might have looked like in the 19th century.
I spoke to Amos recently. You’ll be able to watch the video on NME.com soon but in the meantime, here’s a few choice quotes:
On Confessional Songwriting
I don’t see making records as going to a priest. Do you think that men who write songs that investigate emotion are asked if they’re confessional singer-songwriters? No. The media say they are ‘tapped-in poets’ (I’m rolling my eyes). The guys are allowed to investigate internally without it being pejorative. And I’ll be very honest with you: if there’s something I’d want to confess, I’d call a shrink. I don’t see writing as confessional. I see it as following a trail of blood. I track it. I’m a hunter. That’s better. I’m always hunting for the story and the frequency and the emotions
A commercial path is a very different sort of goal than wanting to write things because of their subject matter, whether it’s trendy or not. I chose that path and that means you really can’t be casual about it. Every cell has to be vibrant and focussed – there’s a discipline to making records
On The Piano
Their [the music industry’s] attitude to piano has changed. At the time I thought: they cannot see this instrument the way that I see it it. They have an image of it and it’s a passive image. It’s not Dionysus, it’s not Jimi Hendrix. So I thought OK, put on the heels and straddle that piano stool and bring up the energy from mother earth and go in and play for those guys
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Some of the female artists coming out in the last ten years don’t have long careers. There’s a culture, it seems, for the next thing. People are fascinated by the next contestant on the next show but what happens to the contestants who were on the show before? We’re not a culture that necessarily wants to grow with our female artists and that’s disconcerting. When I was growing up I wanted to grow with Joni Mitchell, I wanted to know what she was talking about 20 years, 30 years from then. Now it doesn’t look like it’s the same. It looks like people are more interested in what someone new has to say. I don’t think the patriarchy are fighting this, fighting that some of the poets that are really talking about issues aren’t staying around long. That concerns me
In my day an artist was able to perform and be a good musician and deliver. That’s why you were there. But now it can be based on looks. You can take anybody and put them in the studio and make them sound good. Sometimes they go for the actor who’s cute, or the model. They can’t make you Joni Mitchell but they can really fix you up. In the old days not everybody looked like models. We were allowed to be OK, passable, but now the record labels look for a certain image
There will be a new work probably in 2014 and it won’t be a classical. I’ve done that now, I’ve done the orchestral record. I also have a commitment to The Light Princess (her new musical at the National Theatre)