Tori Amos comes with a posse this year. But they don’t take up much room. Amos is traveling with her “American Doll Posse,” a collection of distinct characters and personalities that she voices on her latest album of the same name. Each of the five — with names such as Isabel (HisTORIcal), Pip (EpiraTORIal) and Santa (SanaTORIum) — comes with distinct characteristics; together, Amos says, they comprise the “divine” feminine model of the Greek pantheon.
Confused? That’s OK; even Amos — who in the past has spoken about receiving inspiration for muse-like fairies — acknowledges that it’s a high concept.
“Well, y’know, it is an art form,” explains Amos, 44, who refers to herself as the “producer” of this jumble of personae. “The me that you’re talking to now, I’m the ambassador for the girls. I’m not really invited when it’s the fun time; I have to get out of the way and become a container — or a canvas if that’s a better analogy — and allow the palette of the song and the essence behind it to come and express itself.
“I’m conscious of when it’s happening. But the person who’s talking to you now is not that energy that goes and does all that. I’m just the producer who figures out how to do it.
“I’m just glad I’m along for the ride.”
Amos — a North Carolina native born Myra Ellen Amos who now lives in Cornwall, England, with husband, recording engineer Mark Hawley, and their 6-year-old daughter Natashya — has been at the wheel of her musical ride since she was a toddler learning to play piano and then a 5-year-old studying at the prestigious Peabody Academy of Music. The daughter of a strict Methodist minister, she’s mixed classical training with pop leanings for a distinctive sound, both ethereal and earthy, since abandoning her early band, Y Kant Tori Read, and setting off on a solo career with 1992’s “Little Earthquakes.”
With the inspirational fairies riding shotgun, Amos has built a body of work that’s confessional and introspective, selling more than 15 million copies as she asked hard questions about religion, gen- der and sexuality and winning an intensely devoted fan and critical following.
Amos considers “American Doll Posse” — which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart in May and has since sold about 134,000 copies — “the greatest undertaking” of her creative life, a concept so involved and oblique that she didn’t even tell executives at her record company what she was up to for fear they wouldn’t understand it.
“It’s really about women across the board,” Amos explains. “Basically, ‘American Doll Posse’ is my version of allowing the dismembered feminine to remember itself. I went to the Greek tradition because I felt more people would be familiar with it than the Celtic or Norse traditions.”
One person who has no trouble with the concept, Amos says, is daughter Natashya, who’s come up with her own “baby posse” to complement mom’s assembly of characters.
“Tash got this quickly, but not everybody did,” Amos says. “I think little girls have an understand of role-playing in ways that sometimes (adults) have completely left behind. This is not so hard for the little girls to understand because they allow themselves to explore different sides of themselves as just part of their everyday life.”
Amos is doing her best to make the “American Doll Posse” make sense to everybody, however. She’s created blogs for each of the five characters on her Web site that will be updated throughout the course of her world tour. And one character — played by Amos in the appropriate guise — “opens” each show, with Amos following as herself to deliver “the big ol’ back catalog.”
“Once you take on board something like this ... it wasn’t just an afterthought,” Amos notes. “I was driven to do it, but I also knew it wasn’t just some little addition to what I do. This is ... all encompassing.”
But, Amos adds, she’s not complaining.
“It’s a privilege to be part of a cocreative musical experience with this universal music force or whatever you want to call it that all of us can tap into. I’ve never experienced anything in my life that is filled with such wonderment and power.
“You don’t feel human when it’s coming through you. The endorphins are beyond anything I can tell you. It’s a rush like no other when the songs are coming in, and you’re foolish if you don’t follow where they lead you.”
Tori Amos performs at 8 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 27) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $45 and $35. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www. olympiaentertainment.com.
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