“You write different stuff when you’re thirteen than you do when you’re twenty-eight,” says singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who is the latter. “But I’ll tell you, I was more on at thirteen than I sometimes was at twenty-one!” Amos has been playing the piano virtually all her life and writing songs for almost as long, but as a young adult she began to question her artistic aspirations. “I think I really got afraid of it,” she says, “afraid of playing, afraid of showing my guts. I just kind of went somewhere else for a while.”
She didn’t stay away for long, though. While her 1988 album debut, a bid for a hard-rock following called Y Kant Tori Read, was a critical and commercial flop, Amos emerged this year with Little Earthquakes, a collection of introspective piano-laced ballads that are better suited to her ethereal voice. They’re also truer to her musical origins – influenced by a father who is a Methodist preacher and a mother who harbors a fondness for show tunes and other pop standards.
The subject matter on Little Earthquakes ranges from the general romantic frustration suggested on “Crucify” to the shockingly specific sexual violence recounted on “Me and a Gun.” “Even if I’m just observing something,” Amos explains, “I’m involved in it, because I’m seeing it from my perspective.”
Having already won over critics and fans in England, Amos will face American audiences in April. While she looks forward to performing live and describes her performance style as “confrontational,” Amos admits she’s not immune to stage fright. “You can become so small, so intimidated,” Amos says. “But then you crawl through the wall you’ve created for yourself, and you come out on the other side as this really big giant. And you go, ‘God, they don’t make any decent clothes in this size!'”
This story appears in the April 30th, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.