Monthly Muse: Tori Amos, the Mother of Reinvention

ToriCarpetImage via

When I was eight years old, my parents gave me the gift of piano lessons. Predictably, and foolishly, I promptly gave up on daily practice for more pointless activities like tagging along after my teenage brother and his friends, and listening to Mariah Carey tapes until the ribbons crimped. Even after my brother started taking lessons, I still couldn’t find the inspiration — or discipline — to learn. Understanding time signatures was a fate worse than pre-algebra, and coupled with proper finger placement, sheet music started to resemble my math homework more than a chance to indulge creative expression.

Fast forward six years to the first time I heard a full album by Tori Amos: a local radio station was previewing Boys For Pele, and I had the privilege of experiencing it right before I went to sleep that night. It was the first time I heard the harpsichord used in a pop song. Shortly thereafter, I asked my parents to reinvest in piano lessons for their teenage daughter and her new-found appreciation for playing an instrument, sometimes I’d even sneak in a few notes of “Cornflake Girl” between scales.

Image via Nicolette’s Music Notes

Tori Amos made it cool to play the piano. You didn’t have to play the guitar, or the drums, or some other instrument that signified “rock” music. She’d throw her leg up on the piano, and you knew she was just as in charge of her “Böse” as any frontman with a Fender. To anyone familiar with her work, the flame-locked songwriter can be a polarizing figure due to her tendency to courageously address a wide range of difficult subject matter, but it’s that same courage that has also won her a devoted fan-base since her debut release of Little Earthquakes in 1991.

Amos has come a long way since Under the Pink‘s release twenty years ago, including the release of a slew of studio albums, a catalog of bootlegs, and a classical record that she recently recorded with her daughter. If that wasn’t enough, the former homecoming queen and minister’s daughter just finished working on her first foray into musical theater with The Light Princess. It’s an an exciting turn of events for the woman who can seemingly do anything. She’s already announced upcoming dates for her 2014 European tour, and in typical fashion, shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Have your own Tori story to share? Be sure to leave your experiences or feedback about your favorite song or album in the comments below! — Amy, Customer Care Lead Assistant 

ToriLiveImage via earwithfeet.tumblr


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  1. Avatar
    Sunita 01/14/2014 at 10:15 am #

    I love Tori Amos so much! She is the only artist that I make an effort to see when she goes on tour.

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    Cindy (ModCloth) 01/14/2014 at 11:54 am #

    Tori Amos got me through high school (and at least freshman year of college).

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      prettymindy 01/15/2014 at 11:55 am #

      She got me through Jr High, high school, and most of my 20s.

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    Triskele 01/15/2014 at 12:20 am #

    Nicely written. Tori is awesome. Even though the last few albums, with the exception of Night of Hunters, was not quite as astounding (though I must say that I still enjoyed some of the songs, just not the albums as a whole), I’m very much looking forward to the next album. Its a pity Africa is so far away from the UK, and that my finances are always non-existing, because I would have loved to go and see The Light Princess!!!

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    Jasmine 01/15/2014 at 5:25 am #

    Tori Amos has worked very hard to bring us a legacy of incredible music. She has taught me a lot about being a woman, about working through trauma and about the healing power of art. When I was 13 years old, I was sitting on my bed in my room, alone as usual, listening to the radio, a link to the outside world, and this gentle voice came piping through in between the rock bands and pop dance and spoke directly to me. And it said, if things are a bit s— for you, you’re not the only one, there is a place you can go. And I am now 35 and still listening. I don’t go in much for her public persona, but the music stands alone. It is incredible song writing. She understands narrative, and she chose to write a very distinctive narrative. I find that her music inspires my writing.

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    Catherine 01/15/2014 at 7:41 am #

    Tori’s music was there for me when I needed it the most, weaving in and out of my life since the Boys for Pele / From the Choirgirl Hotel era. I first discovered Tori when I happened to catch her performance of Blood Roses (or Caught a Lite Sneeze…one of the harpsichord songs) on MTV Unplugged. It was the harpsichord that intrigued me. Then a friend let me borrow her copy of Choirgirl, and something about the sounds and emotions of “Spark” just really struck a chord, even though at 16 I knew nothing about heartache and loss. She’s kinda stuck with me ever since, albeit in the background, for half my life until I really started paying more attention when I did experience a great loss. The music worked its way back into my life and saw me through that difficult time, and continues to inspire me in my creative work today. When I need a bit of emotion or magic to help with a project or to recharge my mind, I listen to Tori.

    I don’t know about you but I am ready for a harpsichord comeback!

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    Susan 01/15/2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Tori has a really special place in my heart, too. I heard her for the first time in 8th grade when a dear friend lent me her copy of Under the Pink. I was hooked immediately! My obsession built in high school (I even learned & performed “Hey Jupiter” for my school’s talent show) but really peaked during my college years. I think I saw her 4 or 5 times during the Scarlet’s Walk tour. I’ll never forget the night that I saw her in spring 2003. She played at an old, beautiful theater in Erie, PA that was rumored to be haunted. The setlist was amazing – including a heartbreaking cover of “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles. On the drive home from the concert, we heard that we had just declared the start of war in Iraq.

    I’ve enjoyed her more recent albums less and less – and haven’t really listened to her at all lately. But this post is making me think that it’s definitely time to make a “best of Tori” rdio playlist!

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    LJ 01/16/2014 at 9:29 am #

    This is so lovely to see. Nice surprise. I have been a big Tori Amos fan ever since I was introduced to her music back in 1996. I remember looking every time I got paid from my part-time job during high school to make sure there weren’t any singles, EPs, or new bootlegs I needed to buy. I’ve always loved the passion in her music. So powerful.

    I agree with some of the other comments that I prefer some of her older music as well as some of the b-sides she’s done over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to attend 23 shows over the year and have met some wonderful people I now call my friends from those shows (and I’m obsessed enough that it’s all documented online: I can’t wait to see what she has in store with her upcoming album and the upcoming US tour. No matter what I think of the new albums, the one thing that’s for sure is that it’s always magical live.

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      creativelydesigneduk 01/17/2014 at 4:15 am #

      I enjoyed your blog post, LJ! I’ve only seen Tori a few times – once in Seattle, and once in London for a talk about the Light Princess – and I’ll be going to the concert in London this May. She’s amazing live, I agree…a true artist. I’ve always wondered, how does one get in on a meet and greet?

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        Lara Ruth 01/17/2014 at 7:39 am #

        Meet and greets are super easy. Just requires commiting a fair amount of time and a touch of luck. Going in, you have to be aware that there’s a chance you could wait and wait the whole day and she never comes out. Usually that’s only if she has press or radio appearances close to the show time that doesn’t leave her enough time to do one. The luck is in your finding the location. Some are set up in an organized fashion to ensure that those there earliest are closest to meet her and some are a bit more chaotic. I find them fun either way because you meet so many wonderful people (many of which are now good friends of mine) and then hopefully the whole thing ends in a M&G. Hope you get your chance in London!

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    Amy K. (ModCloth) 01/16/2014 at 12:19 pm #

    What great stories! Thank you all for taking the time to share your memories here. I’ve seen Tori twice — once with her band (Chiorgirl Hotel) and once without (Strange Little Girls) — and each time was amazing. Part of the fun is seeing which covers she’ll perform — I remember the night of the Strange Little Girls show, she played The Cure’s “Lovesong”, which was absolutely chilling live. I definitely credit her with opening me up to music and creative expression in a way that I’m not sure other musical acts could have at the time. Though I can relate to listening to her music less often, every time I see her perform I can’t help but feel it.

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    Kelly G 01/16/2014 at 7:32 pm #

    She’s a legend, and my favorite musician since I bought “Little Earthquakes” on one of those BMG 8-CDs-for-a-penny deals (for people who remember such things). My relationship with her music is now old enough to legally drink! Her music has gotten me through good times and bad, and her honesty and courage are always inspiring.

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