Amos in 2007
|Birth name||Myra Ellen Amos|
August 22, 1963 |
Newton, North Carolina, U.S.
|Associated acts||Y Kant Tori Read|
Having already begun composing instrumental pieces on piano, Amos won a full scholarship to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University at age five, the youngest person ever to have been admitted. She was expelled at age eleven for what Rolling Stone described as "musical insubordination." Amos was the lead singer of the short-lived 1980s pop group Y Kant Tori Read before achieving her breakthrough as a solo artist in the early 1990s. Her songs focus on a broad range of topics, including sexuality, feminism, politics and religion.
Her charting singles include "Crucify", "Silent All These Years", "God", "Cornflake Girl", "Caught a Lite Sneeze", "Professional Widow", "Spark", "1000 Oceans", "Flavor", and "A Sorta Fairytale", her most commercially successful single in the U.S. to date. Amos has received five MTV VMA nominations, eight Grammy nominations, and has won an Echo award for her classical work.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 In print
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Discography
- 6 Tours
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life and education
Amos is the third child of Mary Ellen (Copeland) and the Rev. Edison McKinley Amos. She was born at the Old Catawba Hospital in Newton, North Carolina during a trip from their Georgetown home in Washington, D.C. Amos has said that her maternal grandparents each had an Eastern Cherokee grandparent of their own; of particular importance to her as a child was her maternal grandfather, Calvin Clinton Copeland, who was a great source of inspiration and guidance, offering a more pantheistic spiritual alternative to her father and paternal grandmother's traditional Christianity.
When she was two, her family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where her father had transplanted his Methodist ministry from its original base in Washington, D.C. Her older brother and sister took piano lessons, but Amos didn't need them. From the time she could reach the piano, she taught herself to play: when she was two, she could reproduce pieces of music she had only heard once, and, by age three, she was composing her own songs. She has described seeing music as structures of light since early childhood, an experience consistent with chromesthesia:
The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than thirty-five years, I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns, but try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever—after the initial excitement, you start to focus on each element's stunning original detail. For instance, the sound of the words with the sound of the chord progression combined with the rhythm manifests itself in a unique expression of the architecture of color-and-light. ... I started visiting this world when I was three, listening to a piece by Béla Bartók; I visited a configuration that day that wasn't on this earth. ... It was euphoric.
At five, she became the youngest student ever admitted to the preparatory division of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She studied classical piano at Peabody from 1968 to 1974. In 1974, when she was 11, her scholarship was discontinued 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.
In 1972, the Amos family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where her father became pastor of the Good Shepherd United Methodist church. At 13, Amos began playing at gay bars and piano bars, chaperoned by her father.
Amos won 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". Before this, she had performed under her middle name, Ellen, but permanently adopted Tori after a friend's boyfriend told her she looked like a Torrey pine, a tree native to the West Coast.
By the time Amos was 17, Amos had a stock of homemade demo tapes that her father regularly sent out to record companies and producers. Producer Narada Michael Walden responded favorably: he and Amos cut some tracks together, but none were released. Eventually, Atlantic Records responded to one of the tapes, and, when A&R man Jason Flom flew to Baltimore to audition her in person, the label was convinced and signed her.
Y Kant Tori Read (1986–88)
In 1986, Amos formed a musical group called Y Kant Tori Read, named for her difficulty sight reading. In addition to Amos, the group was composed of Steve Caton (who would later play guitars on all of her albums until 1999), drummer Matt Sorum, bass player Brad Cobb and, for a short time, keyboardist Jim Tauber. The band went through several iterations of songwriting and recording; Amos has said interference from record executives caused the band to lose its musical edge and direction during this time. Finally, in July 1988, the band's self-titled debut album, Y Kant Tori Read, was released. Although its producer, Joe Chiccarelli, stated that Amos was very happy with the album at the time, Amos has since criticized it, once remarking: "The only good thing about that album is my ankle high boots."
Following the album's commercial failure and the group's subsequent disbanding, 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.
Early solo career (1990–2001)
Despite the disappointing reaction to Y Kant Tori Read, Amos still had to comply with her six-record contract with Atlantic Records, which, in 1989, wanted a new record by March 1990. The initial recordings were declined by the label, which Amos felt was because the album had not been properly presented. The album was reworked and expanded under the guidance of Doug Morris and the musical talents of Steve Caton, Eric Rosse, Will MacGregor, Carlo Nuccio, and Dan Nebenzal, resulting in Little Earthquakes, an album recounting her religious upbringing, sexual awakening, struggle to establish her identity, and sexual assault. This album became her commercial and artistic breakthrough, entering the British charts in January 1992 at Number 15. Little Earthquakes was released in the United States in February 1992 and slowly but steadily began to attract listeners, gaining more attention with the video for the single "Silent All These Years".
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. The album was received with mostly favorable reviews and sold enough copies to chart at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, a significantly higher position than the preceding album's position at No. 54 on the same chart.
Her third solo album, Boys for Pele, was released in January 1996. The album was recorded in an Irish church, in Delgany, County Wicklow, with Amos taking advantage of the church's acoustics. For this album, Amos used harpsichord, harmonium, and clavichord as well as the piano. 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 No. 1 on the UK Top 40 and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 upon its release.
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 converted into the state-of-the-art recording studio, Martian Engineering Studios.
From the Choirgirl Hotel and To Venus and Back, released in May 1998 and September 1999, respectively, differ greatly from previous albums as Amos's trademark acoustic piano-based sound is largely replaced with arrangements that include elements of electronica, dance music, and vocal washes. 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. 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.
Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Amos decided to record a cover album, taking songs written by men about women and reversing the gender roles to reflect a woman's perspective. That became 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 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 late 2001. In October 2002, Amos released Scarlet's Walk, another concept album. Described as a "sonic novel", the album explores Amos's alter ego, Scarlet, intertwined with her cross-country concert tour following 9/11. Through the songs, Amos explores such topics as the history of America, American people, Native American history, pornography, masochism, homophobia and misogyny. The album had a strong debut at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. Scarlet's Walk is Amos's last album to date to reach certified gold status from the RIAA.
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. 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 generally favorable reviews. 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 debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, placing her in an elite group of women who have secured five or more US Top 10 album debuts. While the newly merged label was present throughout the production process of The Beekeeper, Amos and her crew nearly completed her next project, American Doll Posse, before inviting the label to listen to it. American Doll Posse, another concept album, is 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 No. 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) through Epic Records.
Universal Republic (2008–11)
In May 2008, Amos announced that, due to creative and financial disagreements with Epic Records, she had negotiated an end to her contract with the record label, and 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, of two performances she gave at the Montreux Jazz Festival very early on in her career while promoting her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes. By December, after a chance encounter with chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Doug Morris, Amos signed a "joint venture" deal with Universal Republic Records.
Abnormally Attracted to Sin, Amos's tenth solo 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 Amos's seventh album to do so. Abnormally Attracted to Sin, admitted Amos, is a "personal album", not a conceptual one, with the album exploring themes of power, boundaries, and the subjective view of sin. Continuing her distribution deal with Universal Republic, Amos released Midwinter Graces, her first seasonal album, in November of the same year. The album features reworked versions of traditional carols, as well as original songs written by Amos.
During her contract with the label, Amos recorded vocals for two songs for David Byrne's collaboration album with Fatboy Slim, titled Here Lies Love, which was released in April 2010. In July of the same year, the DVD Tori Amos- Live from the Artists Den was released exclusively through Barnes & Noble.
After a brief tour from June to September 2010, Amos released the highly exclusive live album From Russia With Love in December the same year, recorded live in Moscow on September 3, 2010. The limited edition set included a signature edition Lomography Diana F+ camera, along with 2 lenses, a roll of film and 1 of 5 photographs taken of Tori during her time in Moscow. The set was released exclusively through toriamos.com and only 2000 copies were produced.
Universal Music (2012–present)
In September 2011, Amos released her first classical-style music album, Night of Hunters, featuring variations on a theme to pay tribute to composers such as Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Granados, Satie and Schubert, on the Deutsche Grammophon label, a division of Universal Music Group. Amos recorded the album with several musicians, including the Apollon Musagète string quartet.
To mark the 20th anniversary of her debut album, Little Earthquakes (1992), Amos released an album of songs from her back catalogue re-worked and re-recorded with the Metropole Orchestra. The album, titled Gold Dust, was released in October 2012 through Deutsche Grammophon.
On May 1, 2012, Amos announced the formation of her own record label, Transmission Galactic, which she intends to use to develop new artists.
In 2013, Amos collaborated with the Bullitts on the track "Wait Until Tomorrow" from their debut album, They Die by Dawn & Other Short Stories. She has also stated in an interview that a new album and tour will materialize in 2014 and that it will be a "return to contemporary music".
September 2013 saw the launch of Amos's musical project adaptation of George MacDonald's The Light Princess, along with book writer Samuel Adamson and Marianne Elliott. It premiered at London's Royal National Theatre and ended in February 2014. The Light Princess and its lead actress, Rosalie Craig, were nominated for Best Musical and Best Musical Performance respectively at the Evening Standard Award. Craig won the Best Musical Performance category.
Amos's 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines, was released on May 13, 2014, via Mercury Classics/Universal Music Classics in the US. Its first single, "Trouble's Lament", was released on March 28. The album was supported by the Unrepentant Geraldines Tour which began May 5, 2014, in Cork and continued across Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia, ending in Brisbane on November 21, 2014. In Sydney, Amos performed two orchestral concerts, reminiscent of the Gold Dust Orchestral Tour, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House.
According to a press release, Unrepentant Geraldines was a "return to her core identity as a creator of contemporary songs of exquisite beauty following a series of more classically-inspired and innovative musical projects of the last four years. [It is] both one further step in the artistic evolution of one of the most successful and influential artists of her generation, and a return to the inspiring and personal music that Amos is known for all around the world."
The 2-CD set The Light Princess (Original Cast Recording) was released on October 9, 2015 via Universal/Mercury Classics. Apart from the original cast performances, the recording also includes two songs from the musical ("Highness in the Sky" and "Darkest Hour') performed by Tori Amos.
Released in conjunction with The Beekeeper, Amos co-authored an autobiography with rock music journalist Ann Powers titled Piece by Piece (2005). The book's subject is 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.
Additionally, Amos and her music have been the subject of numerous official and unofficial books, as well as academic critique, including Tori Amos: Lyrics (2001) and an earlier biography, Tori Amos: All These Years (1996).
Tori Amos: In the Studio (2011) by Jake Brown features an in-depth look at Amos's career, discography and recording process.
Amos married English sound engineer Mark Hawley on February 22, 1998. Their only child, a daughter named Natashya "Tash" Lórien Hawley, was born on September 5, 2000, a few weeks after Tori's 37th birthday. The family divides its time among Sewall's Point in Florida, Kinsale (County Cork) in Ireland, and Bude, Cornwall in the U.K.
Early in her professional career, Amos befriended author Neil Gaiman, who became a fan after she referred to 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 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. Gaiman is godfather to her daughter and a poem written for her birth, Blueberry Girl, was published as a children's book of the same name in 2009.
In June 1994, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a toll-free help line in the US connecting callers with their local rape crisis center, was founded. Amos, herself a rape survivor, answered the ceremonial first call to launch the hotline. She was the first national spokesperson for the organization and has continued to be closely associated with RAINN. On August 18, 2013, a concert in honor of her 50th birthday was held, an event which raised money for RAINN.
- 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)
- Midwinter Graces (2009)
- Night of Hunters (2011)
- Gold Dust (2012)
- Unrepentant Geraldines (2014)
Amos, who has been performing in bars and clubs from as early as 1976 and under her professional name as early as 1991 has 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-70 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 and ended on December 13, 1994 in Perth, Western Australia. Amos performed solo each night on her iconic Bösendorfer piano, and on a prepared piano 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. Amos performed each night on piano, harpsichord, and harmonium, with Steve Caton on guitar on some songs. The tour included 187 concerts.
- 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.
- 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, including 46 concerts.
- 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.
- 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, Kurzweil, 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 and ended on September 4, 2003 in West Palm Beach, 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).
- 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. 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", Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", 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.
- This was Amos's first tour with a full band since her 1999 Five and a Half Weeks Tour, accompanied by long-time bandmates 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. 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.
- For her tenth tour, 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 North American and European band tour began on July 10, 2009 in Seattle, Washington and ended in Warsaw on October 10, 2009. A solo leg through Australia began in Melbourne on November 12, 2009 and ended in Brisbane on November 24, 2009. The entire tour featured 63 concerts.
- Amos's eleventh tour was her first with a string quartet, Apollon Musagète, (Amos's equipment includes her piano and a Yamaha S90 ES keyboard) and her first time touring in South Africa. It kicked off on September 28, 2011 in Finland, Helsinki Ice Hall and ended on December 22, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.
- Tori Amos kicked off her 2012 tour in Rotterdam on October 1.
- Tori Amos began her 2014 world tour on May 5, 2014 in Cork, Ireland, and concluded it in Brisbane, Australia on November 21, after playing 73 concerts.
Awards and nominations
|1995||Under The Pink||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
|1997||Boys for Pele||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
|1999||From the Choirgirl Hotel||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
|"Raspberry Swirl"||Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|2000||To Venus and Back||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
|"Bliss"||Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|2002||Strange Little Girls||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
|"Strange Little Girl"||Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
- In 2003, the Tori Amos album Scarlet's Walk (deluxe edition) was nominated in the category "Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Packaging", this nomination went to the art directors Dave Bett and Sherri Lee.
- Also in 2003, "Timo on Tori (Don't Make Me Come To Vegas) a remix of the Tori Amos song Don't Make Me Come to Vegas was nominated in the category "Best Remixed Recording, Non Classical" this nomination went to the remixers Mark Buttrich and Timo Maas.
|1993||—||International Breakthrough Act||Nominated|
|1995||—||Best International Female||Nominated|
|1992||—||Best New Act||Won|
|1992||"Silent All These Years"||Best Female Video||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography in a Video||Nominated|
|Best New Artist in a Video||Nominated|
|2012||Night of Hunters||Klassik Ohne Grenzen (crossover classical) prize||Won|
|2014||The Light Princess (Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson)||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Tori Amos (composer) for The Light Princess||The Dewynters London Newcomer of the Year||Nominated|
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