Tori Amos: "I sing to the lizards for hours at a time"
Places inspire me. I love being here at the beach house. It’s in a small town on the east coast of Florida, near West Palm Beach. I’ve written a lot of records here – it feels like home. I pop into the UPS to say “Hi”, and I know all the people at the grocery store.
I like it hot. I like the lizards. I married a British person but my idea of life is being close to the lizards. There are lots of them here and they’re beautiful. If you leave the door open to bring in the shopping, even for a minute, quite a few get in the house. Trying to get them out is really difficult but you have to because they can’t make it for long inside. My husband has a rule: we cannot kill spiders. In England he’s great at collecting spiders. He’s the lizard catcher here.
The house sits on stilts because when the hurricanes or tropical storms come it can flood very quickly. It feels like living in a tree house. There have been a few tropical storms this season but no hurricanes yet. I’m knocking on wood there won’t be. Well, I’m not, I’m knocking on wicker.
Being a mom is the most important thing for me. My daughter turns 12 this month. She’s at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, in London. I miss her terribly when she’s away from home but I travel a lot so, in a way, it’s good she’s got her own life. I am not a stage mom. Often these people are not in the industry but want their child in the industry. I was the opposite.
Performing is fun but you have to be physically fit. Doing a two-hour programme without stopping takes practice and preparation. I sit here and watch the lizards outside and sing to them for hours at a time. Believe it or not there’s this song, Cloud On My Tongue, that they really like. We have a redwood deck at the back where they show up really well. You can see them gathering. You know that if it works for the lizards, it might work at the Royal Albert Hall.
I’m talking almost daily to my orchestral arranger, John Philip Shenale, going through arrangements of songs for my tour. If you come from a jazz background you’re brought up with the idea of improvisation. When you’re playing with an orchestra they don’t jam, they play what’s on the page. If you need to breathe, you’re doomed – they keep going no matter what. A song’s architecture is like a building’s, so just now I’m building jams in on the page. It’s sonic architecture.
People spend most of their lives collecting stories for their first record, but when you’re on your 13th, you have to push yourself to have experiences. Why do you think there are so many musicians going from relationship to relationship, ruining their lives? Sometimes they do it because there they find the muse.
Tori Amos’ latest album, Gold Dust, is released October 1 (Deutsche Grammophon) and she plays the Royal Albert Hall on October 3
Illustration: Matt Hollings
Interview by Steven MacKenzie