As imaginatively extravagant as ever, Tori Amos didn't skimp when creating her new album, Abnormally Attracted To Sin. Eighteen new songs ("It is a double album"), as emotionally intense as the hits which established her as a serious talent, presents listeners with an experience that's as thrilling as it is challenging.
"I was investigating the idea of power," explains Tori, now 45. "How we think and how you can reclaim the right to think for yourself. World changes have affected everybody in different ways. Lives are being turned upside down. People that you know are getting fired. People are moving. Friends are being torn apart,having to go where they can get work."
I'm thinking the new album is more personal than simply worrying about the recession. And I'm right.
"It's almost as if time is speeding up and so many events happen so quickly," says Tori. "In the last year and a half, I've made a lot of changes in my life in all kinds of ways. So I was investigating the idea of power and if you define power as having a job and being a provider and having all those things, then there are a lot of people out there who aren't feeling very comfortable right now."
"Or if you define power as somebody who can abuse their authority and have power over people and put them through hell, well I don't think they're very powerful but they can create a lot of damage," states Tori with her mix of defiance and charm. "The record is investigating who we are attracted to and what we attract in our lives. And how do we survive some of these, er... little earthquakes," says Tori, citing one of her best known records.
Sexual politics and the abuse of power have long been the main engines of Tori's explorations.
From her debut single Me And A Gun, in which she dealt magnificently with her rape trauma, to Playboy Mommy, prompted by repeated miscarriages, Tori Amos has continually turned the base metal of psychic and physical distress into visionary artistic redemption.
With Irish blood on her father's side, this red-haired woman inherits an added tenacity and integrity from her mother's Cherokee roots. An interest in shamanic belief systems can be detected in her music to date.
Born in North Carolina, Tori grew up in a devout Christian home where her father was a Methodist minister. When she was 13, she cut loose, playing local bars and moved to Los Angeles when she was 21. Rock'n'roll had won her soul.
The great powerhouse of nature, and rock'n'roll, is sex, of course. Which brings me back to Tori's new album. "I wanted to look at how you can uncover what you believe in as a spiritual, sexual creature," she says. "You don't need the approval of your family, or of their religion. You can think, 'Wait a minute, I'm a spiritual being. Just because I like gold handcuffs doesn't mean I'm not a spiritual being.'"
After years of disappointment, Tori eventually gave birth to a daughter. Natashya Lórien will be nine in September.
"She's going to be on her fifth world tour," says mum proudly. "I learn a lot from her. She was 12 months and three weeks when she began her first tour. We went out a couple of weeks later on the Strange Little Girls tour. She was a baby. She's grown up around it."
Married to British sound engineer Mark Hawley, Tori had been living in Cornwall. I take it she's very much part of the community these days?
"It might seem that way, but I'm an American," she declares. "I wrote the album in the States. Cornwall is my husband's house. The studio is his. He lets me crash there, because he thinks I'm cute.
"I have a beautiful beach house two hours north of Miami. I like the lizards. I like it hot. My family is all east coast. My parents have run my publishing out of Florida for the last 20 years."
And what about her place in Ireland? "I still have the Georgian house in Kinsale," she says. "I bought it in '95. And restored it. I had to pay in cash because no mortgage person was going to support that. The place was imploding but it should last for another couple of hundred years, so that's good. I feel like I've done a good thing for Ireland."
Tori shares one other revelation: "My dad has started writing poetry. Being a preacher, he's a natural storyteller. There's an evolution there." Being in their 80s, no doubt her parents have interesting stories to tell. "That's such a good point. They talk about the Great Depression. They are not in a state of paralysis. They're saying, 'Chop wood, carry water. There are ways to survive this.' You have to be a survivor not victimise through turbulent times."
Which is precisely the advice the resolute Tori Amos shares in her songs. HQ
Abnormally Addicted To Sin is released tomorrow on Island Records