Let Tori Amos Bee your Keeper, motivator

Jason LeRoy

All these microphones around me … Which one shall I choose? Tori Amos seduced a group of college journalists in a recent phone interview to promote her latest album, The Beekeeper.

Credit: Jason LeRoy

Three years after Scarlet’s Walk, Tori Amos is back with The Beekeeper. Similar to Walk, Amos’ new album is an epic concept album in which her narrator goes on a journey of discovery and reconciliation. While her last album was about getting in touch with her Native American roots, Beekeeper finds Amos dealing with her childhood as the daughter of a minister while tackling the ways Christianity is manifesting itself in American culture. Amos had a conference call with college journalists to discuss her music.

Q: How do you decide what the theme or common thread of your albums is going to be?

A: Sometimes the songs have to start visiting me, and I have to start composing before I really know what the subject matter is going to be as a theme. I didn’t set out on this album to have the minister’s daughter rise out of the ashes and become an important voice.

While I was at my home in Cornwall, England, I saw a lot of news coverage on BBC, which I would say is pretty objective. I was troubled by how certain leaders were using Jesus’ teachings to justify their agenda. In this case, it was violence. Therefore, the minister’s daughter in me said, “Hold on. I can deal with a lot of interpretations, but that’s not one of them.”

Q: Is it difficult to remain true to your ideals while being successful?

A: There are times in the music industry when writing and being a female composer on women’s issues means more than just what you’re going to wear and how many times you’re coming to cum and in what positions. It’s been difficult in the last few years for musicians, especially women, to get the media’s support.

But you have to stay true to who you are, knowing that otherwise you will have regrets in the morning. It’s no different than if you sleep with someone you don’t like. You’re not going to feel good about yourself the next day. If you make music you don’t respect, you’re just not going to be able to wash that man out of your hair.

Q: The Beekeeper sounds very different from your other albums because it is less intense musically. How do you make those sort of decisions?

A: It’s no different than Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. These very puritanical people would buy them and say, “Oh, what pretty flowers. Why don’t we hang them up?” But when they began to understand the sexuality of these flowers, they were shocked to have them hanging in their space. I wanted the music of my album to be seductive but the content to be ferocious.

Q: Did you release your new book with Ann Powers, Piece by Piece, just to promote your new album, or was it to communicate with your fans?

A: The book was really about process. It was about how to let people in on my creative process. Also, there is always an ulterior motive behind what I do. I believe that when there is destruction everywhere, the only way to combat that is to create.

Lots of people seem demoralized by the changes that are occurring. Instead of banging your head against the wall, you have to put the pen to the paper, whatever your creative force might be. It can’t be so that the only message people are hearing is Uncle Sam saying, “We want you.” They have to hear the creative forces saying, “We want you, too.”

I want to motivate people so they will feel the fire within their being, pick up their pen and write.

Q: What are the concepts behind The Beekeeper?

A: The songs are broken up into six different gardens, which reflect the hexagonal shape of a beehive. I also really like the parallel to the creation story in Genesis, where it took six days for God to create the world.

I was really inspired by the idea of creating a virtual garden for people to step into, but not one where woman was blamed for the fall. Rather, it’s a garden where we’re encouraged to find knowledge and look inside ourselves instead of being shamed for asking those questions.

I think it’s fascinating that Christianity has become something that Jesus wouldn’t recognize, frankly. There is such a shaming of sexuality with so many women in the Christian church. How are they supposed to find a sacred sexiness in their own being?

This album is really about searching for that missing piece of the feminine, without which women seem to move from one extreme to the other, from Mary Magdalene to the Virgin Mary.

Not many women have a healthy sexuality and spirituality. It only came together for me when I was becoming a mother and turning 40. Once I was able to marry the two Marys in my own being, I was able to move on.

Even though I’m not in the Christian church anymore, I needed to heal that part of my being. That is what I’ve had to research and understand. The Beekeeper is a sonic installation. Each song is a piece of a mosaic the protagonist needs to pull together so she can find completeness.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].