'From the Choirgirl Hotel' - Tori Amos singing from her spiritual roots

Web posted on: Friday, October 30, 1998 4:21:42 PM EST

A NewsStand: CNN & Entertainment Weekly report From Correspondent Rona Elliot

                  NEW YORK (CNN) -- Her songs don't get much radio airplay, and they
                  don't fit easily into the usual categories of rock, pop, or gospel. What Tori
                  Amos' music does do is inspire great devotion in her fans, who buy millions
                  of her records.

                  She has a new CD, "From the Choirgirl Hotel," and she's touring again.
                  Amos says she enjoys concerts for the opportunity to interact with fans.

                  "You're really there to kind of take people to the underworld," Amos says.
                  "That's what you do. And everybody has to be given the liberty to bring
                  whoever they want to bring ... the demons, the passionate sides to
                  themselves that they've cut out, whatever it is."

                  No trends

                  Listen to Tori Amos' songs and you get
                  a patchwork of mythology, feminism,
                  and personal experience. The
                  self-revelatory lyrics have prompted
                  comparisons to the woman many say
                  started all this, Joni Mitchell, who was
                  once described as a "confessional

                  "The word 'confession,' to me, means
                  needing to be absolved," says Amos.
                  "I'm not asking for forgiveness. I'm not
                  asking people to understand. I'd like to
                  think that I tell stories and sometimes
                  my life weaves through it."

                  Despite the fact that most of Amos'
                  offbeat songs are rarely played on the
                  radio, she has sold millions of records,
                  thanks to legions of loyal fans.

                  "The one thing I've never done is follow the trends on the radio," she says.
                  "I'm really just the Pied Piper. That's what I do."

                  Piano prodigy

                  Amos has always been different. She
                  was a piano prodigy at two. Her father is
                  a Methodist minister and she was raised
                  in a strict Christian household.

                  But Amos was encouraged to believe in
                  her God-given talent.

                  "Our whole life revolved around the
                  church, so that the only time I had a
                  break from all that was when I would
                  escape into the piano," Amos recalls. "So I created this whole other world
                  that they couldn't get into."

                  Today, her music reflects a very eclectic outlook on God and religion.

                  Where does her religious or spiritual experience fit into her creativity?

                  "My father is convinced that if I hadn't been a minister's daughter, I wouldn't
                  have anything to write about," Amos says.

                  'Sunset Strip hair metal'

                   As a child, Amos studied classical piano
                   at Baltimore's Peabody Institute. But by
                   the time she was 13, she was a rebel
                   who desperately wanted to compose
                   and perform her own music. So her
                   father did something unexpected -- he
                   took her to look for work at nightclubs
                   in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown section.

                  "I was in, you know, disco gear, polyester pants, and a polyester top, and
                  some platforms, and he would knock on these doors and he would say, 'Hi,
                  I'm Reverend Amos and this is my daughter, and she's really talented, and
                  will you give her a chance?'"

                  Someone finally did, and in 1988, she released her first record, "Y Kant Tori
                  Read?" It flopped.

                  "It was very L.A., Sunset Strip hair metal," recalls Craig Marks, executive
                  editor of Spin. "It was a very callow record company attempt to fit her in
                  with what they thought was the signature selling sound of the moment."

                  Amos worked for three years on her next CD. This time, she insisted on
                  doing things her own way -- original songs performed alone at the piano,
                  with no backup band.

                  "Little Earthquakes" was released in 1992 to international critical acclaim,
                  and sold more than 1 million copies. Her 1994 follow-up CD, "Under The
                  Pink," was even bigger.

                  'He's proud of me'

                  "My dad likes my success," Amos says.
                  "He enjoys it for a lot of reasons. Yes,
                  he's proud of me and so is my mom, but
                  I think that ... he likes it that I stir it up,
                  because he has questioned a lot of the
                  things that he preached about for so
                  many years."

                  But her success was shadowed by a
                  personal trauma: Amos had been raped
                  in 1985.

                  "The goal that my shrink had for me was that I could be intimate as a woman
                  again, eventually, and not be controlled by the way I was violated," she says.

                  Amos has talked openly about her experiences and founded RAINN, The
                  Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Her openness about her
                  personal life has led to an unusually intimate relationship with her fans.

                  "There's nothing that makes you feel better inside than love or
                  communicating," she says. "Sometimes it gets quite fiery on stage. That's
                  when it really becomes kismet -- those moments of freedom, freedom to
                  express yourself."

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