On her tenth studio album release, the self-produced Abnormally Attracted to Sin
(Universal Republic 2009), Tori Amos spins a few more stories about the menagerie of characters she's been collecting since her 1992 debut, Little Earthquakes
. She explores the lives of women on different spiritual and emotional paths: from the wantonness of the seductress and the voyeur to the innocence of the choir girl.
"From traveling the world, I've learned that women are torn between stepping into their spiritual self or their sexual self," Amos says. "You have to almost segregate the two from each other. This work was about redefining what sin means to people, and I invested myself in the idea of 'erotic spirituality.'"
On the cover of the album, fashion photographer Karen Collins portrays Amos as a sexually empowered being, self-composed and dominant; accompanying press images depict her as poised between passivity and aggression, caressing, in the photo included with this story, every vampire's favorite erogenous zone.
While her new album is slightly less concerned with politics than prior releases, Amos's songs remain personal and filled with metaphors of divinity. Abnormally Attracted to Sin
compiles observations of the pressures people - specifically women - place on themselves and that are placed on them. Amos's work might be considered one long song about self-definition, about becoming a fully-realized, authentic woman apart from oppression. The haunting "Maybe California" calls out to mothers, like Amos, to save themselves from a despair attendant with sacrificing one's identity to one's family.
"When that song came to me, it was at a time when I was seeing mothers - not just one - asking, 'If I wasn't here anymore, would it be better for my family?' I began understanding the gravity of that statement," Amos says. "These are women who lost everything - whose kids couldn't go to college, whose husbands had lost their jobs. So many women are so close to jumping over the edge. In songs like 'Ophelia,' 'Maybe California' and 'Starling,' there is great suffering. You have to wonder what it is that's going to step in... . For me, it's always the songs that step in."
Amos has thrown a few more breadcrumbs of herself to fans through a multimedia Web site (www.torisecretsite.com) that features some of her "visualettes," a series of 16 short films by director Christian Lamb, each of which corresponds to a track from Abnormally Attracted to Sin
. Amos calls them "the road chronicles," and they were shot on the road in HD and Super 8 during American Doll Posse tour in 2007.
Amos says that, in many instances, art has become just as important to her work as music. "It's central to my composing. I look to the visual artist quite a bit," Amos says. "I can 'hear' things when I see. I also think it pushes me further to interpret something that isn't my art form, and I bring it into my art form."
Amos describes her new album as a "sonic steam bath," inspired by her most recent visits to California and Lamb's short films. His videos will be released on DVD with the deluxe version of Abnormally Attracted to Sin
Amos was able to once again step into the role of producer for her new album.
"I understand now how hard everything is in post-production, and I understand how not to always take the obvious route in songwriting," she says. "I enjoy being in the studio and writing with teams of people. You begin to find the right answer when there are different points of view."
As for working with her husband, Mark Hawler, who was a sound engineer for the album, Amos says it's important to keep personal lives outside of the studio and behind closed doors. "We met as professionals first, and we can step into that role more quickly than we can step into the other," Amos says. "In order to have a good relationship as lovers, parents and professionals in the studio, we have to remember not to 'go below the belt.'"
Amos says her family is tightly knit, even on the road, on which Amos has spent quite a bit of time during her career. Her pre-teen daughter, Natashya "Tash" Lórein Hawley, has already seen the world four times.
"She travels with us on tour," Amos says. "Tash is also forming her own view of the world. She's being brought up in an open environment, allowing her to pursue her beliefs. She knows, on one hand, that people might call her parents liberal, but at the same time, there's a lot of solid structure in her life. Things are disciplined out here."
Though busy caring for her daughter and touring for her new album, Amos also makes time for creative avenues outside her solo career. For the past few years, she has been composing the score for a musical based on George MacDonald's 1864 fairy tale The Light Princess
, which follows a young girl's rite of passage into womanhood.
"It's in a draft form that's just been turned in," she says. "While working with Samuel Adamson, the playwright, I've been co-creating my other projects. They really influence each other."
She expects to complete the musical, commissioned by the National Theatre, by 2010. In the meantime, she's concentrating on the Sinful Attraction Tour and releasing a non-traditional holiday album in late fall.
As for handling the stress of so many creative projects underfoot, Amos says she's happy: "I have my days just like anybody else, but I like being able to be a full-time musician and a mom."