I've got a natural tendency to turn off alarm clocks and get back in bed. Three weeks ago, two screeching alarms were set for 7:30 a.m., but they both fell prey to my hand. I woke up two hours later, my cell phone ringing (for several reasons, it sounds like a synthesized siren with an aggravated, exaggerated shrillness) and someone from the Independent's office in Durham telling me I had a call. "Tori Amos and her publicist are on the phone for you."
Ten seconds later, I plopped in my chair, the glow of a laptop screen my only light. No glasses, no contacts, no shower, no caffeine: I, grumpy and just out of bed, only had one question waiting for Amos, who--when she perked in with a "Hey, Grayson!"--sounded as if she'd been awake for hours.
"Oh, hey, so where are you at?"
"I'm in Miami, getting ready for the tour. People have a hard time breathing in this heat. I mean, it's 105 degrees and in this humidity. It's a several hour show, and it's just me up there. I can't run out of breath. So, I'm walking around, getting a tan, singing to the lizards."
"But shouldn't you be used to the heat, being a North Carolina native?"
From there, the conversation is consumed with the Old North State and Newton, the town where Amos was born in 1963. She moved to Maryland shortly thereafter, but--each summer until she was 12--she would spend four months of the year back in Newton. On Saturday, Aug. 13, she makes another summer return to North Carolina.
On touring: "When I come to a town for a show, I try to be a blank canvas, completely empty and just gather what I need to gather through the surroundings and the city and see how people there are reacting to the world. People react very differently as a mass consciousness in different places ... I take that information, and I design the show based on the people. When I come to a place, I don't write the set until an hour before the people come. I attribute that totally to my childhood and being in training with my grandfather, who was fantastic but relentless about it."
On her grandfather's teachings: "He taught me so much. He won't let me use the stage for self-gratification even now, or he'll beat me with grit. [As a child] as soon as I knew I was going to see my Nanny and Poppa in North Carolina, I was faster than a roadrunner to get there and be with him. The whole world was in Newton for me. I didn't need anything else. I drove through town when I was home, and their house is gone. It was made into a parking lot."
On returning to North Carolina after her brother's death in December: "There's great emotion when you come back to a place where so much has happened, where so many feelings exist. But at the same time, the ancestors are there, the Eastern Cherokee Nation was there. And my brother was not afraid to die. I never thought a lot about death being imminent, but he was an anesthetist so he thought about it everyday. That he chose to live in North Carolina is very telling, and that he died there is very telling. We all choose where we live our lives."
On playing for North Carolina crowds: "I'm trusting that they know that I know that they know what I'm talking about. Some people don't understand my references, like when I'm talking about a fierce calm that exists in women there. When I say I carry a tomahawk underneath my skirt with a laced handle and high heels, people don't understand in the North. We can sometimes accomplish things by not being the most obvious threat in the room, just standing in the Oval Office because you are so lovely. And that's when you put your point across."
Tori Amos plays Booth Amphitheatre in Cary on Saturday, Aug. 13 with The Ditty Bops and The Like. Tickets are $24.50-42.50, and the show starts at 7 p.m.