Little Earthquakes (1992) was the first Tori Amos album that featured her signature style, and the album went gold in both the U.S. and U.K. Her next few albums established Amos as "the 90s' most essential musician besides Kurt Cobain" and "the wizard queen of alternative rock." Frustrated with corporate record labels, Amos converted her barn into a recording studio and launched her own label.
Songwriter and musician Tori Amos was born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963, in Newton, North Carolina, to parents Mary Ellen and Edison McKinley Amos. Before she turned three years old, Amos fell in love with the family's piano, even though she couldn't quite yet reach the keys. "I would grab a phone book and somehow crawl up and sit," she recalled later. "And my mom said she would find me there, just happy as a clam, playing that piano." As a young girl growing up in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Rockville, Maryland, Amos was heavily influenced by her family's musical tastes, from her mom's beloved Broadway show tunes to the Beatles and Rolling Stones albums her brother brought home from the record shop. At the age of five, her performance of the musical score Oliver! helped make her the youngest person ever admitted to the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.
In search of her first professional gig, a 13-year-old Amos enlisted the help of her minister father, who went calling on bars dressed in his clerical collar and with a Bible in hand. The unlikely pair landed Amos an unlikely first gig at Mr. Henry's, a D.C. gay bar. Amos continued to perform locally throughout her teenage years.
At the age of 21, Amos headed west to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of a recording career under her new, adopted name: Tori. She landed a record deal with Atlantic in 1987. At the label's urging, Amos marketed herself as an 80s rocker girl, replete with permed hair and a back-up band called Y Kant Tori Read. When her first album received very little attention, Amos fought the label to create an album that more accurately reflected her own musical style. The result, Little Earthquakes (1992), was the first Tori Amos album that would feature the artist's signature style. Her hard work paid off, and the album went gold in both the U.S. and U.K. with hits like "Crucify" and "Silent All These Years."
Helping Victims of Sexual Assault
Little Earthquakes also included the song "Me and a Gun," a deeply personal account of Amos's kidnapping and rape at knifepoint in Los Angeles years earlier. The song gave strength to countless other survivors of sexual assault, many of whom approached Amos after her shows to share their experiences. With them in mind in June 1994, Amos co-founded the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a crisis hotline for sexual assault victims. The hotline received its 1 millionth caller in 2006, and has frequently been cited as one of the top charities in the U.S.
Amos released the albums Under the Pink (1994), which included the international hit "Cornflake Girl," and Boys for Pele (1996). In the latter release, the chart topping single "Caught a Lite Sneeze" has the unique distinction of being the first song ever available as a free download on the internet. These albums, with their dense, metaphoric lyrics, feminist themes and complex piano melodies, established Amos (in the words of various reviewers) as "the 90s' most essential musician besides Kurt Cobain" and "the wizard queen of alternative rock."
Creation of Her Own Studio
Growing increasingly frustrated with corporate record labels, Amos converted the barn of her home in Cornwall, England, into a recording studio and founded her own business, Martian Recording Studios. She transformed her classic solo-piano sound to a more varied one, and began recording with a band and experimenting with electronic production. In 1998, she released From the Choirgirl Hotel, her bestselling album to date.
In her later albums, Amos continued to experiment musically. In 2001's Strange Little Girls she covered songs like the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" from a female perspective. Her 2002 album Scarlet's Walk (the first released under her new label, Epic) drew on themes ranging from Native American history to pornography, and included the single "A Sorta Fairytale," her most successfully commercial single to date. For her 2007 album American Doll Posse, Amos performed songs from the perspectives of five different female personalities conceived for the album.
After being released from her contract with Epic, Amos signed on a joint venture deal with Universal Republic Records and released her tenth studio album, Abnormally Addicted to Sin in 2009 to generally positive reviews. She continued to release albums of various genres and collaborations, and in 2012 announced the creation of her own record label called Transmission Galactic, which would help develop new artists.
In 1998, Amos married Mark Hawley, an English sound engineer. She gave birth to their daughter, Natashya, in 2000. Amos and her husband divide their time between England, Ireland and the U.S. She continues to write and record music, always striving to push the boundaries of what people expect of the musical artist.
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