On September 8, Tori Amos will release her 15th solo album, Native Invader. In getting to this point, the acclaimed singer-songwriter has faced numerous obstacles professionally and personally, in particularly a debut album that was so disparaged and ignored, it would have killed the hopes of virtually any other artist. But Tori Amos persevered and became one of her generation's most fearless and determined musicians.
Feminist, activist, child prodigy and hero to many, she has lived an extraordinary life, as detailed in the Timeline for this month's issue of Exclaim! Here are five noteworthy facts you may not know about Tori Amos.
1. Contrary to popular belief, Kate Bush was not Tori Amos's biggest musical influence — Led Zeppelin was. She began listening to them at age 5.
"I just remember listening to them and feeling my body move and going to the piano and moving my body at the piano," she writes in her 2005 memoir, Tori Amos: Piece By Piece. "What their work taught me was how to stay in rhythm, feeling my body move to this rhythm and trying to create a continuation at the piano, just knowing that I had to take this power into my world… The powerful men in the Church didn't want Led Zeppelin records in the house."
2. Tori's first real gigs were in lounges and gay clubs, thanks to her father, a church minister.
"At 14 I started performing on the lounge circuit and learning my repertoire," she writes in Piece By Piece. "That was my father's idea, and though it may forever seem strange that a minister sent his teenage daughter into gay clubs to sing and play, thank God he did. There was nowhere else that would accept me as a performer. The gay community embraced me just as I was working through my own sexuality and gave me a safe place to deal with that."
"I found myself working with women who were in their late 20s, and chatting to gay men all night, interrogating them about their sex lives," she tells Melody Maker in 1991. "I got to see a different side of things. Then I'd go to junior high the next morning and it was a totally different experience. I learned to create these different sides to me to deal with it all."
3. After her disastrous debut album, Y Kant Tori Read, sells only a few thousand copies, Tori gives up the glam façade and begins writing honest and earnest songs on piano. At first, her label Atlantic rejects Little Earthquakes, her breakthrough album, which will sell over two million copies in the U.S. alone.
The initial version of the album is rejected by Atlantic, however, she replaces some tracks with new ones and they deem it worthy of release. In 1994, she tells Dutch magazine Nieuwe Revu, "At first the boss of my American record company hated Little Earthquakes. Half of the staff hoped I'd be a white Neneh Cherry, the other half wanted to make me into a female Elton John. It took a long time before they wanted to accept who I was, and realize I could make them money that way."
4. Tori and Trent Reznor became close friends in the early '90s, and contributed to each other's albums: Under the Pink and Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, respectively. However, their relationship became strained, and according to Reznor, the root of the problem was Courtney Love.
In July 1996, Tori releases the harpsichord-heavy single "Professional Widow," containing the word "starfucker" which many interpret as a dig at Courtney Love, who reportedly messed up Tori's friendship with Reznor. (He keeps the mystery alive in 1999 when he releases a song called "Starfuckers, Inc.") In an interview with Spin, Reznor addresses the situation, confessing, "We're not that close now. Some malicious meddling on the part of Courtney Love. But I still feel the same feelings for Tori." Tori does claim that she has never met Love and based the song on imagining herself as Lady MacBeth. However, during a 2003 TV interview, when a co-host introduces the song and says it is based on Love, Tori interjects with, "Allegedly." On her next album, From The Choirgirl Hotel, she includes the song "She's Your Cocaine," which is widely considered to be about the rift with Courtney Love over her friendship with Reznor.
5. Tori Amos has strong ties to the comic book world. She is close friends with Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman, who was named her daughter's "fairygodfather." Fans speculate that Gaiman created the character of Delirium based on Tori, however he denies that. In 2008, Gaiman wrote the introduction for Comic Book Tattoo, an anthology graphic novel of 51 stories inspired by the music of Tori Amos, published by Image Comics. She even attended Comic-Con to promote it.
Regarding his character Delirium being based on Tori, Gaiman shoots down the idea in an interview with The Face. "Delirium existed long before I met Tori," he explains. "I have, however, cheerfully and shamelessly stolen some of the things Tori's said to me and given them to Delirium."
About Comic Book Tattoo, Tori writes on her website, "I have been surprised, excited and pleasantly shocked by these comics that are extensions of the songs that I have loved and therefore welcome these amazing stories of pictures and words because they are uncompromisingly inspiring. It shows you thought is a powerful formidable essence and can have a breathtaking domino effect."
Native Invader comes out September 8 on Decca. You can purchase, download or stream it here.