Tori Amos has been undergoing a musical renaissance over the past few years, generating a holiday album (Midwinter Graces), a classical song cycle with lyrics (Night of Hunters), orchestral versions of her songs (Gold Dust ), and a musical, The Light Princess, inspired by a Scottish fairy tale. Unrepentant Geraldines, her 14th studio album and first solo pop/rock release in five years, mines diverse musical territory, including Southern blues, Celtic folk, and a touch of jazz, while visual artists like Maclise, Cezanne, and Rossetti became further creative fuel. All of this on top of motherhood and social advocacy, themes that figure prominently in the new album.
A track like “Promise,” for example—a mother/daughter love song pledging mutual support throughout their lives—features vocals by her only child, 13-year-old Tash (short for Natashya), who first sang with her mother on Night of Hunters. In a recent interview, Amos tells me Tash is eager to follow in her footsteps, requesting to enroll in a performing-arts boarding school at age 11 and live her own life—even though the child received a similar education growing up with a singer/songwriter and a producer/engineer (Amos’ husband, Mark Hawley) for parents.
“She knows how you have to be really disciplined in the music business to be touring and doing the promo schedule,” explains Amos. “She knows it is sometimes 17 or 18 interviews a day. She knows in the old days, it was six shows a week. She understands how the music business works.”
After over two decades in the business, Amos, who recently turned 50, is wise and aware of its games, another valuable quality she’s handing down. “If you’re a producer, you’re not going to make money off me because I see you coming, honey,” Amos says. “I was taught by some of the best. I decided at a certain point I was going to take control of my life. I’m not an engineer, I’ll bring the engineers in. I’ll hire a team. Peter Gabriel talked to me about how to do it in the ’90s. Tash has been given that information, and therefore she sees how things operate. Being talented is one thing, but [so is] being proactive and in control of your destiny, because you’re responsible. That’s part of the education of her being on the road since she was 1 year old.”
Road warrior that she is, Amos is touring solo this time, with only a piano and a Hammond organ in tow—and not longtime studio and touring bandmates Jon Evans (bass) and Matt Chamberlain (drums). “I love them so much,” Amos says. “Matt’s out with Soundgarden this summer and he’ll have a great time, and Jon is great. I talk to them. They’re part of the family, and yet you’ve got to keep going.”
Amos, who has a home studio with Hawley at their residence in rural England, kept things similarly intimate recording Geraldines, with she and Hawley its only key players. “I was in the middle of these other projects with orchestras, so I had no idea when I was going to get time [to record new songs]. I would jump on a train and get down to Cornwall and just make a song.”
None of this has kept Amos from her involvement with RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), for which she has been a spokesperson for two decades. “I [recently] talked to Scott Berkowitz,” Amos says of the organization’s founder, who runs the operation from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. She thinks an important step has been made with the recently published First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. “I think what is really concerning is when you think that one in five women on a college campus will be sexually assaulted. It’s harrowing.”
As ever, Amos contributes to this conversation with her music. The title Unrepentant Geraldines, in fact, refers to unapologetic women, a trending topic currently being explored in a number of national ads, like Pantene’s “Not Sorry” and Always’ “Like a Girl” campaigns.
Amos is quick to add, regarding female empowerment, that men are part of the solution. “A lot of young men are being encouraged to be proactive because of what the Obama approach is,” she says, referring to recent White House PSAs encouraging men to speak up, step in, and prevent sexual assaults from happening. “[It] is really necessary because there a lot of men out there that are strong and loving and protective. I think they always haven’t been included or know how to be included in this conversation, but have to be part of the conversation because they’re needed.”
Tori Amos With Trevor Moss, Hannah-Lou. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 682-1414, stgpresents.org/paramount. $52. 8 p.m. Thurs., July 17.