Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963 in Newton, North Carolina) is a pianist and singer-songwriter of dual American and British citizenship. She was at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s and was noteworthy early in her career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument. She is known for her emotionally intense songs that cover a wide range of subjects including sexuality, religion and personal tragedy. Some of her charting singles include "Crucify", "Silent All These Years", "God", "Cornflake Girl", "Caught a Lite Sneeze", "Professional Widow", "Spark", "1000 Oceans", and "A Sorta Fairytale", her most commercially successful single in the U.S. to date.
As of 2005, Amos had sold 12 million records worldwide. Having a history of making eccentric and at times ribald comments during concerts and interviews, she has earned a reputation for being highly idiosyncratic. As a social commentator and sometimes activist, some of the topics she has been most vocal about include feminism, religion, and sexuality.
Musical beginnings (1963–1985)
When Amos was 2, her family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she began to play the piano. By age five, she had begun composing instrumental pieces on piano and, while living in Rockville, Maryland, she won a full scholarship to the Preparatory Division of the Peabody Conservatory of Music (still aged five). Her scholarship was discontinued at age 11 and she was asked to leave. Amos has asserted that she lost the scholarship because of her interest in rock and popular music, coupled with her dislike for reading from sheet music. Two years later, she began studying at Montgomery College and began playing at piano bars, chaperoned by her father, who was sending tapes of songs she had written to record companies.
Amos first came to local notice by winning a county teen talent contest in 1977, singing a song called "More Than Just a Friend". As a senior at Richard Montgomery High School, she co-wrote "Baltimore" with her brother Mike Amos for a competition involving the Baltimore Orioles. The song won the contest and became her first single, released as a 7" single pressed locally for family and friends during 1980 with another Amos-penned composition as a B-side, "Walking With You". Prior to this period she performed under her middle name, Ellen, but permanently adopted Tori after a friend's boyfriend told her it suited her. At age 21, Amos moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career after several years performing on the piano bar circuit of the East Coast.
Atlantic years (1986-2001)
Y Kant Tori Read
That same year, Amos formed a music group, Y Kant Tori Read, the name of which was a reference to her days at the Peabody Conservatory, where she was able to play songs on her piano by ear, but was never successful at sight reading. In addition to Amos, the group was composed of Steve Caton (who would later play guitars on all her subsequent albums until 1999), drummer Matt Sorum, bass player Brad Cobb and, for a short time, keyboardist Jim Tauber. A year later, Atlantic Records gave Amos a six record contract, and by July 1988, the band's self-titled debut album was released to poor reviews. The album is now out of print, and Amos has expressed no interest in reissuing it. After the commercial failure, Amos began working with other artists (including Stan Ridgway, Sandra Bernhard, and Al Stewart) as a backup vocalist. She also recorded a song called "Distant Storm" for the film China O'Brien; in the credits, the song is attributed to a band called Tess Makes Good. It was the only song recorded by the band, and its only commercial release was in the film.
Despite the disappointing reaction to Y Kant Tori Read, Amos still had to comply with her six record contract with Atlantic Records, who in 1989 wanted a new record by March 1990. When she presented them with her initial recordings, they were rejected on the grounds that such piano-based music would not sell in an early-'90s market of grunge, rock, rap, and dance music. Extensively reworked and expanded with the help of Steve Caton, Eric Rosse, Will MacGregor, Carlo Nuccio, and Dan Nebenzal, the record ended up full of raw, emotive songs recounting her religious upbringing, sexual awakening, struggle to establish her identity, and her sexual assault. The Atlantic executives changed their minds upon hearing the updated version, with the plan to promote her as an heir to Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, or alternatively as a female version of Elton John. Expecting the traditionally more open-minded UK market to warm to Amos and to create a "buzz" with which to return to the US, Atlantic relocated Amos to Britain in early 1991 to play small clubs in preparation for the launch of the new album, which was released under the title Little Earthquakes.
Amos traveled to New Mexico with personal and professional partner Eric Rosse in 1993 to write and largely record her second solo record, Under the Pink. Amos continued to write about the events in her own life, but in a way that was not as lucid as the lyrics found on her solo debut album. Musically, Amos drew from the style of classical composers she had studied during her childhood, and put more focus on her solo piano rather than band instrumentation. The album was received with mostly favorable reviews and sold enough copies to chart at #12 on the Billboard 200, a significantly higher position than the preceding album's position at #54 on the same chart.
The end of Amos's personal and professional relationship with Eric Rosse served as the stimulus for her third solo album, Boys for Pele, released in January 1996. The album was recorded in an Irish church, in Delgany, County Wicklow, Ireland, with Amos taking advantage of the church recording setting to create an album ripe with baroque influences, lending it a darker sound and style. She added harpsichord, harmonium, and clavichord to her keyboard repertoire, and also included such anomalies as a gospel choir, bagpipes, church bells, and drum programming. The album garnered mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its intensity and uniqueness while others bemoaned its comparative impenetrability. Despite the album's erratic lyrical content and instrumentation, the latter of which kept it away from mainstream audiences, Boys for Pele is Amos's most successful simultaneous transatlantic release, reaching #2 on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Top 40 upon its release at the height of her fame.
Fueled by the desire to have her own recording studio to distance herself from record company executives, Amos had the barn of her home in Cornwall, England, converted into a state-of-the-art recording studio, Martian Engineering Studios. Amos enlisted principal band mates Steve Caton on guitars, Jon Evans on bass, and Matt Chamberlain on drums, with whom Amos would record her next two studio albums and embark on world tours.
From the Choirgirl Hotel and To Venus and Back, released in May 1998 and September 1999, respectively, differ greatly from previous albums as they are flush with musical technology, with Amos's trademark acoustic piano-based sound largely replaced with arrangements that include elements of electronica, dance music, vocal washes and sonic landscapes. The underlying themes of both albums deal with womanhood, and Amos's own miscarriages and marriage. Reviews for From the Choirgirl Hotel were mostly favorable and praised Amos's continued artistic originality. While not her highest chart debut, debut sales for From the Choirgirl Hotel are Amos's best to date, selling 153,000 copies in its first week. To Venus and Back, a two-disc release of original studio material and live material recorded from the previous world tour, received mostly positive reviews and included the first major-label single available for sale as a digital download.
Inspired by the songs she heard on the radio while looking after her newborn daughter, Amos hatched the idea to produce a cover album, recording songs written by men about women and reversing the gender roles to show a woman's perspective. That idea grew into Strange Little Girls, released in September 2001. The album is Amos's first concept album, with artwork featuring Amos photographed in character of the women portrayed in each song. Amos would later reveal that a stimulus for the album was to end her contract with Atlantic without giving them new original songs; Amos felt that since 1998, the label had not been properly promoting her and had trapped her in a contract by refusing to sell her to another label.
Epic Records years (2002–07)
With her Atlantic contract fulfilled after a 15-year stint, Amos signed to Epic in early 2002. In October, Amos released Scarlet's Walk, another concept album. Described as a "sonic novel", the album explores Amos's alter ego, Scarlet, and her cross-country trip following 9/11. Through the songs, Amos explores the history of America, American people, Native American history, pornography, masochism, homophobia and misogyny, but the political nature of the album is often tempered by the classic production and songwriting style, recalling the likes of Fleetwood Mac.
Not long after Amos was ensconced with her new label, she received unsettling news when Polly Anthony resigned as president of Epic Records in 2003. Anthony had been one of the primary reasons Amos signed with the label and as a result of her resignation, Amos formed the Bridge Entertainment Group, a company devoted to helping musicians in various ways during a time when the music industry is changing. Further trouble for Amos occurred the following year when her label, Epic/Sony Music Entertainment, merged with BMG Entertainment as a result of the industry's decline. Amos would later hint in interviews that during the creation of her next album, those in charge at the label following the aforementioned merger were interested "only in making money", the effects of which on the album have not been disclosed.
Amos released two more albums with the label, The Beekeeper (2005) and American Doll Posse (2007). Both albums received mixed reviews, some of which stated that the albums suffered from being too long. The Beekeeper was conceptually influenced by the ancient art of beekeeping, which she considered a source of female inspiration and empowerment. Through extensive study, Amos also wove in the stories of the Gnostic gospels and the removal of women from a position of power within the Christian church to create an album based largely on religion and politics. The album's debut at #5 on the Billboard 200 is a milestone for Amos, placing her in an elite group of women to have secured five or more US Top 10 album debuts. American Doll Posse, another concept album, was fashioned around a group of girls (the "posse") who are used as a theme of alter-egos of Amos's. Musically and stylistically, the album saw Amos return to a more confrontational nature. Like its predecessor, American Doll Posse debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200.
During her tenure with Epic Records, Amos also released a retrospective collection titled Tales of a Librarian (2003) through her former label, Atlantic Records; a two-disc DVD set Fade to Red (2006) containing most of Amos's solo music videos, released through the Warner Bros. reissue imprint Rhino; a five disc box set titled A Piano: The Collection (2006), celebrating Amos's 15 year solo career through remastered album tracks, remixes, alternate mixes, demos, and a string of unreleased songs from album recording sessions, also released through Rhino; and numerous official bootlegs from two world tours, The Original Bootlegs (2005) and Legs & Boots (2007).
Universal Republic years (2008— )
In May 2008, Amos announced that she had negotiated an end to her contract with Epic Records and that she would be operating independently of major record labels on future work. In September of the same year, Amos released a live album and DVD, Live at Montreux 1991/1992, through Eagle Rock Entertainment. By December, Amos signed a "joint venture" deal with Universal Republic Records where Amos would have artistic independence over her work.
Abnormally Attracted to Sin, Amos's tenth studio album and her first album released through Universal Republic, was released in May 2009 to mostly positive reviews. The album debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, making it the artist's seventh album to do so.
Other concurrent projects, Amos writing the music for Samuel Adamson's musical adaptation of the George MacDonald story The Light Princess for the Royal National Theatre and recording a duet with David Byrne, former lead singer of Talking Heads, for his album Here Lies Love, are expected to debut sometime in 2009. Amos is currently on tour in support of Abnormally Attracted to Sin and will be playing cities across America, Europe and Australia. Amos will also be releasing an album of Solstice/winter songs titled Midwinter Graces on the 10th of November 2009.
To date, Amos has released ten studio albums throughout her solo career, eight of which were self-produced.
- Little Earthquakes (1992)
- Under The Pink (1994)
- Boys For Pele (1996)
- From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998)
- To Venus and Back (1999)
- Strange Little Girls (2001)
- Scarlet's Walk (2002)
- The Beekeeper (2005)
- American Doll Posse (2007)
- Abnormally Attracted to Sin (2009)
Additionally, Amos has released over 30 singles, over 60 B-sides, and has contributed to nine film soundtracks, including Higher Learning (1995), Great Expectations (1998) and Mission: Impossible II (2000) among others.
Amos, who has been performing in bars and clubs from as early as 1976, and under her professional name as early as 1991, remains one of the most active touring artists in the world, having performed more than 1,000 shows since her first world tour in 1992. In 2003, Amos was voted fifth best touring act by the readers of Rolling Stone magazine. Her concerts are notable for their changing set lists from night to night.
- Little Earthquakes Tour
- Amos's first world tour began on January 29, 1992 in London and ended on November 30, 1992 in Auckland. She performed solo with a Yamaha CP-80 unless the venue was able to provide a piano. The tour included 142 concerts around the globe.
- Under the Pink Tour
- Amos's second world tour began on February 24, 1994 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and ended on December 13, 1994 in Perth, Western Australia. Amos performed solo each night on her iconic Bösendorfer piano, and on a pianino during "Bells for Her". The tour included 181 concerts.
- Dew Drop Inn Tour
- The third world tour began on February 23, 1996 in Ipswich, England, and ended on November 11, 1996 in Boulder, Colorado. Amos performed each night on piano, harpsichord, and harmonium, with Steve Caton on guitar on some songs. The tour included 187 concerts.
- Plugged '98 Tour
- Amos's first band tour. Amos, on piano and Kurzweil keyboard, was joined by Steve Caton on guitar, Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Jon Evans on bass. The tour began on April 18, 1998 in Fort Lauderdale and ended on December 3, 1998 in East Lansing, Michigan, including 137 concerts.
- Five and a Half Weeks Tour / To Dallas and Back
- Amos's fifth tour was North America-only. The first part of the tour was co-headlining with Alanis Morissette and featured the same band and equipment line-up as in 1998. Amos and the band continued for eight shows before Amos embarked on a series of solo shows. The tour began on August 18, 1999 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and ended on December 9, 1999 in Denver, Colorado, including 46 concerts.
- Strange Little Tour
- This tour was Amos's first since becoming a mother in 2000 and her first tour fully solo since 1994 (Steve Caton was present on some songs in 1996). It saw Amos perform on piano, Rhodes piano, and Wurlitzer electric piano, and though the tour was in support of her covers album, the set lists were not strictly covers-oriented. Having brought her one-year-old daughter on the road with her, this tour was also one of Amos's shortest ventures, lasting just three months. It began on August 30, 2001 in London and ended on December 17, 2001 in Milan, including 55 concerts.
- On Scarlet's Walk / Lottapianos Tour
- Amos's seventh tour saw her reunited with Matt Chamberlain and Jon Evans, but not Steve Caton. The first part of the tour, which featured Amos on piano, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer, was six months long and Amos went out again in the summer of 2003 for a tour with Ben Folds opening. The tour began on November 7, 2002 in Tampa, Florida and ended on September 4, 2003 in West Palm Beach, Florida, featuring 124 concerts. The final show of the tour was filmed and released as part of a DVD/CD set titled Welcome to Sunny Florida (the set also included a studio EP titled Scarlet's Hidden Treasures, an extension of the Scarlet's Walk album).
- Original Sinsuality Tour / Summer of Sin
- This tour began on April 1, 2005 in Clearwater, Florida, with Amos on piano, two Hammond B-3 organs, and Rhodes. The tour also encompassed Australia for the first time since 1994. Amos announced at a concert on this tour that she would never stop touring but would scale down the tours. Amos returned to the road in August and September for the Summer of Sin North America leg, ending on September 17, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. The tour featured "Tori's Piano Bar", where fans could nominate cover songs on Amos's website which she would then choose from to play in a special section of each show. One of the songs chosen was the Kylie Minogue hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head", which Amos dedicated to her the day after Minogue's breast cancer was announced to the public. Other songs performed by Amos include The Doors' "People are Strange", Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game", Madonna's "Live to Tell" and "Like a Prayer", Björk's "Hyperballad", Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" (which she debuted in Austin, Texas, just after the events of Hurricane Katrina), Kate Bush's "And Dream of Sheep" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over", dedicating it to drummer Paul Hester who had died a week before. The entire concert tour featured 82 concerts, and six full-length concerts were released as The Original Bootlegs.
- American Doll Posse World Tour
- This was Amos's first tour with a full band since her 1999 Five and a Half Weeks Tour, accompanied by long-time band mates Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain, with guitarist Dan Phelps rounding out Amos's new band. Amos's equipment included her piano, a Hammond B-3 organ, and two Yamaha S90 ES keyboards. The tour kicked off with its European leg in Rome, Italy on May 28, 2007, which lasted through July, concluding in Israel; the Australian leg took place during September; the North American leg lasted from October to December 16, 2007, when the tour concluded in Los Angeles, CA. Amos opened each show dressed as one of the four non-Tori personae from the album, then Amos would emerge as herself to perform for the remaining two-thirds of the show. The entire concert tour featured 93 concerts, and 27 full-length concerts of the North American tour were released as official bootlegs in the Legs and Boots series.
- Sinful Attraction Tour
- This is Amos's tenth tour in support of her most recent album Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Amos returned to the trio format of her 2002 and 2003 tours with bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain while expanding her lineup of keyboards by adding three M-Audio MIDI controllers to her ensemble of her piano, a Hammond B-3 organ, and a Yamaha S90 ES keyboard. The tour began on 10 July, 2009 in Seattle, Washington and will run though late fall, spanning both North America and Europe. A solo leg through Australia will begin in Melbourne on November 12, and Amos been quoted as saying that the solo leg would extend through New Zealand and North America, but this has not been officially confirmed.
|1992||MTV VMAs||Best Female Video||"Silent All These Years"||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography in a Video||Nominated|
|Best New Artist In a Video||Nominated|
|1995||Grammy Awards||Best Alternative Music Album||Under The Pink||Nominated|
|1997||Best Alternative Music Album||Boys for Pele||Nominated|
|1999||Best Alternative Music Album||From the Choirgirl Hotel||Nominated|
|Female Rock Vocal Performance||"Raspberry Swirl"||Nominated|
|2000||Best Alternative Music Album||To Venus and Back||Nominated|
|Female Rock Vocal Performance||"Bliss"||Nominated|
|2002||Best Alternative Music Album||Strange Little Girls||Nominated|
|Female Rock Vocal Performance||"Strange Little Girl"||Nominated|
|2003||Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Packaging*||Scarlet's Walk (deluxe edition)||Nominated|
|Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical*||"Timo on Tori (Don't Make Me Come to Vegas)"||Nominated|
*This nomination was not for Amos's work.
Released in conjunction with The Beekeeper, Amos co-authored an autobiography with rock music journalist Ann Powers entitled Piece by Piece (2005). The book delves deeply into Amos's interest in mythology and religion, exploring her songwriting process, rise to fame, and her relationship with Atlantic Records.
Image Comics released Comic Book Tattoo (2008), a collection of comic stories, each based on or inspired by songs recorded by Amos. Editor Rantz Hoseley worked with Amos to gather 80 different artists for the book, including Pia Guerra, David Mack, and Leah Moore.
Other publications include Tori Amos: Lyrics (2001) and an earlier biography, Tori Amos: All These Years (1996). Additionally, Amos and her music have been the subject of numerous official and unofficial books, as well as academic criticism.
Amos is the third child of Rev. Dr. Edison and Mary Ellen Amos. She was born at the Old Catawba Hospital in Newton, North Carolina, during a trip from their home in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.. Her maternal grandparents were of mixed European and Eastern Cherokee ancestry; of particular importance to her as a child was her grandfather, Calvin Clinton Copeland, who was a great source of inspiration and guidance to her as a young child, offering a more pantheistic spiritual alternative to her father and paternal grandmother's traditional Christianity.
Early in her professional career, Amos befriended author Neil Gaiman, who became a fan after she referenced him in the song "Tear In Your Hand" and also in print interviews. Although created before the two met, the character Delirium from Gaiman's The Sandman series (or even her sister Death) is inspired by Amos; Gaiman has stated that "they steal shamelessly from each other". She wrote the foreword to his collection Death: The High Cost of Living; he in turn wrote the introduction to Comic Book Tattoo.
In June 1994, Amos co-founded RAINN, The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a toll-free help line in the US connecting callers with their local rape crisis center. Amos, herself a survivor of sexual assault, was seen as unlocking the silence of her assault through her music; thus "Unlock the Silence" went on to become a year-long campaign for RAINN when Amos became a national spokesperson for the organization. By the summer of 2006, RAINN had received its one millionth caller and the organization's success has led to it ranking in "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth, and one of the "Top 10 Best Charities" by Marie Claire.
Notes and references
Biography from Wikipedia