Tori Amos: ‘I prefer ladies’ soccer. The guys are all right, but ladies come out with bloody noses.’ It’s gladiatorial’

The singer-songwriter, 58, on feminine energy, alien life forms, her mum the DJ, and living in the Cornish part of Devon

When I look in the mirror, I hope to see bits of my mother because she was my bestie. I was lucky to have the mum I had. People have told me, when your mother dies, you either mourn the mother you had or you mourn the mother that you wish you had. I found that very profound.

I was homecoming queen, but only because there were a lot of nerds in my year. They became Silicon Valley dudes. I was their friend, so I think I might’ve gotten their vote. I certainly didn’t get the jock vote. But I got the nerds.

It’s tough being the wife of an Arsenal fan. Can I be honest? I prefer ladies’ soccer. The guys are all right – I don’t want to rain on their parade. But when they fall, we all know it’s theatre. The ladies come out with bloody noses; it’s gladiatorial. I really enjoy ladies’ football.

My father was in the ministry. Once my mum heard him leave for work, she would take off her minister’s wife apron and put on the Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole records she’d kept from when she’s worked in a record shop. She was the most marvellous DJ and would dance around. As a young girl, she’d have me learn songs.

My brother would come home from school and have me learn his Beatles and Doors records on the piano. My dad would come back from church, sit with his dog collar, and I would play him what people in the church called “devil music” – but in a classical music style. My father thought I was practising for church.

I don’t know why I refer to my songs as girls. I don’t know if it’s motherly. They’re not at all childlike. They’re energy forces, like the ancient, feminine energy…

I find my energy from all kinds of things. Definitely from the Earth, but also the galaxy. There are forces out there I don’t understand. When I look at the stars and think of all those gazillions of suns and all that light and energy, I think, “Wow, that’s kind of electric.”

I can’t imagine we are the only intelligent life. I think they’re avoiding us. If they’re wise, I don’t think they’d want to engage right now.

It’s a fascinating study to crawl into somebody else’s song structure and learn how they solved certain musical problems in a non-clichéd way. What’s tricky is to learn how to groove. You’ve got to play from the kundalini. People say: “Why is she wiggling around on that piano stool?” If you’re not moving your hips, then you haven’t captured the groove

The Americans call me “Exile in Cornwall” – as in Exile on Main Street. I try to explain that Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s just a bit remote. Our postcode is Devon but Devon is 30 minutes away. If you ask the local farmer, she’ll tell you we’re not Devonian. She tests us: what comes first, jam or cream? If you don’t say jam, she may take out her shotgun.

I think you Brits are really good at moaning when things aren’t that bad. When you have a beautiful day and it’s 90 degrees, somebody will say [does British accent]: “It’s boiling!” I giggle to myself and think: “You don’t want to be in Arizona in the summer, my friend.”

Tori Amos’s LP Ocean to Ocean is out now


Rich Pelley

The GuardianTramp

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