Erstwhile Kinsale resident Tori Amos spoke to Ray D’Arcy on Wednesday from a recording studio in a barn about her new memoir, Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change and Courage. The book details the remarkable things that happened in Amos’s life, beginning with being expelled at 13 from the conservatory she’d been in since age 5. This prompted her minister father to try get her a job:
“And us going to the only place who’d give us a chance and he didn’t realise we were in a gay bar.”
For the following 7 years, Tori played regularly at this bar in Washington, DC, where she saw enough political comings and goings to colour her views for the rest of her life. But, Ray wondered, what did the people in the bar think of this preacher arriving each day to leave his teenage daughter to work in a gay bar in the US capital?
“They thought he was in a costume. Because the guys looked like a variation of, you know, could be a lumberjack, could be a congressman, could be a deacon from church. You know, all the looks were represented.”
Tori’s father took a lot of stick from his congregation for delivering his daughter to her workplace every day, but, she says, he figured that there weren’t many safer places for a teenage girl to work than a gay bar.
Meanwhile, Tori’s mother, who had worked in a record store and, Tori says, hadn’t planned on being a minister’s wife, brought her LPs with her:
“And when my father would go to church with his dog collar, the apron would come off and she was like the best DJ ever.”
Tori’s brother was ten years older than her, which meant he brought that “devil music” with him and Tori found herself hiding rock and roll from her father when she played:
“I’d be playing The Doors in between Mozart and disguising it so my father wouldn’t know that I was completely corrupt at 8.”
Mary, Tori’s mother, died last year and Amos told Ray that she went “into a place of grieving”.
“I don’t think we know how grief is going to affect us, whether it’s personal grief, like somebody you love and lose, or collective trauma, like we’re going through now in this cataclysm that we’re all living through.”
Ray was a big fan of Tori’s mother and her sayings, quoting one of his favourites that he says he’s going to keep with him for the rest of his life: “An important question that you must ask yourself – which one of my flaws has got out of the back seat and is now driving the car?”
One of Tori’s most powerful songs is Me and a Gun, which she wrote in her 20s about her sexual assault. The song has led to women sharing their stories of sexual assault and domestic violence down through the years with Tori and Ray and Tori spoke about victims not having access to support services during the current pandemic.
“During the past two, three months, that safety net hasn’t been there for most kids and that’s the deep concern about coming out of lockdown – how many haven’t had that support.”
To hear the terrific full conversation between Ray and Tori – including the singer’s thoughts on 9/11, the #MeToo movement and Donald Trump – go here.
Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change and Courage by Tori Amos is published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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