Calling from a “magical” tour stop in London, Tori Amos is upbeat, dubbing her fans “peeps” and promising they’ll leave her shows sprinkled in gold dust.
Her demeanor changes from jovial to sad when she talks about her mother, the inspiration behind her 15th album, Native Invader. Maryellen Amos suffered a severe stroke in January that left her unable to speak.
“I was on the floor in tears sometimes,” Amos says. “I was just at the foot of the couch, on the floor thinking it was just emotional whiplash.
“I realized that Mary, my mother, had been attacked by this stroke that took over her. The correlation became Mother Earth, our resources were being attacked by a force. My mother was so connected to her father, who was part Cherokee Nation and part European. She always had such a reverence for the Earth and our resources.”
Because her mother couldn’t speak, Amos tried to remember the things she told her. She wanted to honor her by making a record that was like “the sonic secret garden.”
“I wanted a place of refuge where people can go in traumatic times, where they can step into the music and feel energized. That was the goal.”
Maryellen played a deeper role with Amos’ Native Invader. She took a road trip through North Carolina’s Smokey Mountains to reconnect with the stories of her mother’s family. The election also inspired her.
Amos is soon peppy again, stressing the importance of sharing her life with fans.
“I have found, with the public—let’s call them the ‘peeps’—I don’t know their experiences,” Amos says. “People have come up to me all over Europe saying ‘I work in stroke rehab. We’re working on new techniques. Can you tell me what’s been going on with Mary?’
“I really value the people who come to the shows and share the music, and I value their stories and their experiences. People have made friends with each other who have come to the shows. That really means a lot to me.”
Amos is set to play a one-woman show on Wednesday, November 29, at the Mesa Arts Center.
“It’s demanding,” she says. “You can’t really rely on the band to cover you if you’re tired. You have to know how to pace yourself. You have to make sure you don’t drop your narrative.
“When you’re with a band, they can jam while you get your water and have a little sip or put your lip gloss on—you have to have lip gloss. When you’re singing by yourself, you have to keep it moving, sister.”
Amos is about more than the music. She cofounded RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), which is the United States’ largest anti-sexual assault organization. She’s mortified with the number of women who have revealed their accounts of sexual assaults by the likes of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“It’s horrifying, and it’s been going on a long time,” Amos says quietly. “People have been protecting Harvey Weinstein and people like him. That is where we are right now.
“We, as a community, and the public have to be involved. We can choose not to tolerate this in the workplace anymore. This is a moment here. This is a chink in the armor. I’m not just talking about one man. A lot of people were involved to make all of this happen for so many years. Their careers were destroyed. Their lives were destroyed. Their souls were destroyed. These women are brave.”
Tori Amos, Mesa Arts Center 1 E. Main Street, Mesa, 480.644.6500, mesaartscenter.com, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 29, $37-$87.