Throughout its emblematic catalog, Tori Amos has often drawn inspiration from travel, whether it be his frequent trips to Florida or other trips to America and the rest of the world. But like everyone else, the past two years have seen the inimitable artist stay in one place. For her, it was the wilderness of Cornwall, where she lives with her husband and collaborator Mark Hawley, and its cliffs, coastline and greenery played the role of muse instead of new landscapes.
The results are Ocean to Ocean, Amos’ 16th studio album, and a record of great beauty that goes through the loss of her mother Mary with the help of the natural world. She summons her spirit to the haunting “Speaking With Trees”, while the gentle ripples of the piano from “Flowers Burn To Gold” find her searching: “Where are you? / I’m scanning the sky / Voices in the sky. breeze / I scan the sea. “
The content of Ocean to Ocean were not necessarily always the form the musician saw her first album take in four years. She had worked on another set of songs before that, but in early 2021 she lost her delusions and started over again, returning to the ground to plant new seeds that would eventually grow and bloom in a personal and poetic ode to pain. , family and the world around us.
The third lockdown in the UK was when ‘Ocean To Ocean’ started to come together, but that time also put you in a discouraged place. What brought you to this place in this confinement?
[Everything going on for so long] was an aspect. I think [also] the horror spectacle of American democracy hanging by a thread with some elected officials simply not wanting to follow the law. Regardless of your side, I really don’t like a sore loser. It’s really not very interesting for me because I was on the side where the candidate I voted for lost, but I accepted it, that it is the will of the people because it is that is democracy. There is no wiggle room there. You respect the constitution or you don’t – it can’t be rules for when you lose and rules for when you win. What kind of a world is it?
You were working on a different album before “Ocean To Ocean” which you gave up because the 2020 election and the events of January 6th made you feel like you were becoming a different person. How did these events impact you?
There was so much that some of us believed was at stake. I remember talking to Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa [from the podcast Gaslit Nation] and they are very knowledgeable experts in their field. One of them made it clear to me at one point that people were talking about these two older male candidates, and she said, âLet’s be very clear. We are not voting for one old man against another. We are voting for a system of government. This is what we do.
After the events of not only January 6 and the insurgency, but how some of our leaders reacted to it and did not stand up for America’s democratic values, but their own best interests – I just raised my hand and I said:, I did what I can now. I can’t watch this one more day.
I didn’t like where I was going. I said, âNow I need to go to a world that people want to enter because they are fed up. They are fed up with disparity because the energy is so sleazy. I just felt like I needed to take a bath every time I took a newspaper or whenever I listened to the problems.
I had to let go and give up on this other album. I don’t know if he will have a life. I have no idea. But I needed silence and I needed to get out into Mother Nature because she was not in confinement and she was regenerating. She went from winter to spring. That’s when I just said, âI want to reflect what you are doing, Mother Earth.
How did Cornwell influence this new album?
Cornwall is its own ancient thing. Sometimes the cliffs look harsh but beautiful. But there is strength there. I felt protected walking on these cliffs and seeing the strength that the land holds and its interaction with water, ocean and rocks. Then entering a little inland, how the trees are shaped with the gusts of wind. And it became very, almost like her own story of “Tori, you can choose to be a part of this story and you are welcome to watch it and engage in it.”
Then it will change your frequency and your energy and it will change the music, but you have to do it. And you have to be prepared to admit where you are. It’s good to admit you’ve been in the mud. Just be honest about it. Because if you’re honest about it and write it from here, you can write yourself from there.
When you write to yourself from a dark place, is it something that you are aware of, or is it something that you only realize after the fact?
I think you realize that you are sitting with your demons. I tried to find places to talk about those thoughts, feelings, unresolved emotions, or hurts from the past that were cropping up, and then I found the piano and closed the door and tried not to take anyone else down that road until I was. ‘so that I can work it.
This album is about loss and how you deal with it. What did you learn about your pain management while doing this record?
I think it depends on the loss and where I am at the time, if I am able to deal with it and manage it, or if I think I have, and it comes back. My mother’s death was one of those things where there are good weeks and good days and then there are bad days. Not having her here during that time, not having her on the other end of the phone, I really missed her outlook on life, her approach because she is very wise, she was very loving and I really would have could use it. At one point my daughter said to me, âLook, I miss my grandmother too, but I miss my mother and I need to get my mother back. And it was really very, not shocking, but shocking.
it must be hard to hear that
You realize, âHow do I handle my losses? I am not a responsible parent. I don’t introduce myself – I’m somewhere else, but I’m not here. So how do I get here? And that means that sometimes you have to go talk to the trees and summon [my mom] Mary and find her and cry those tears and put your arms around the trees and sit on Mother Earth and just say, the loss of my mother has been so great and then Mother Earth says, “But I am. here and I’ll teach you. âIt’s these types of exchanges that I think started to convey and move to where I was back in the land of the living.
You are a very travel inspired artist and this is something that you have missed the past 18 months. You have a UK and European tour coming up next year …
It’s up to us sooner than we think. I think the weird thing I have found all this time is how some days seem to go on forever and ever. Yet all of a sudden it’s summer and fall and then the Christmas lights around Oxford Street come up. So I need to level up my chops. I did a lot of promotion and I didn’t practice a lot.
So it’s different from how I would approach these cycles over the past 30 years, I’ve almost gone into hibernation with the past 18 months. Because that was OK – we would say, âLet’s try to shoot for this date,â and then that date would be moved. Then at some point I think I started to become a bear and I’m like, “Here I am in my cave and I will come out when I come out”, but now there is no time for hibernation. if I really want to do this tour.
Next year is also the 30th anniversary of Small earthquakes. Have you been very lucky lately to sit down and reflect over the past 30 years of your career and what do you think?
I think it’s a privilege to still be here after 30 years. I think if you had told me at the time that we would be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Small earthquakes, I don’t know what I would have said. I wouldn’t have known that I would make records again and hoped to do it, but I would have had no idea. So yeah, being able to keep playing music is pretty exciting.
Buy or stream Tori Amos’ Ocean to Ocean, out now.