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That Time Tori Amos Gave Me Some of Her Sage

And other "What is my life?" moments



My first job was at the Regal Cinemas in Downingtown, PA. It was there, at the impressionable age of 16, that I met my dear friend Vanessa, who introduced me to Tori Amos. Well, her music anyway. Absolutely appalled that I loved other female powerhouses like Gwen Stefani, Shirley Manson, and Sarah McLachlan without being familiar with Tori, Vanessa gave me Amos' then-9-year-old debut album, Little Earthquakes, and made me an "essentials" mix tape (on literal tape). She also took me to my first Tori show at the Tower Theater just outside Philadelphia on Oct 13, 2001.

Looking back at that stellar setlist now makes me wish I'd been able to appreciate it more at the time. Admittedly, while I enjoyed her music, I didn't really form an emotional connection to it until I got to college and started having some of the womanly experiences Tori explores in her lyrics. Perhaps TMI for a radio station website blog post: I was date raped a month after arriving at school, and a year later I began a relationship that quickly became verbally & emotionally abusive and all-consuming to the point that it lasted, on and off, for about 3 years before I finally cut the cord for good.

During this period of my life, the only person who could console me was Tori. It felt like she had written certain songs ("Here. In My Head," "Baker Baker," "Northern Lad") by pulling the words out of my soul. She made me feel like I wasn't alone, and more importantly, gave me the hope that my misery was only temporary & granted me the strength to trudge through it to emotional stability. This woman saved my life, and I never thought I'd get the chance to thank her.

Then I was hired at KGSR in July of 2011 and she agreed to do a Music Lounge the following December (see that performance here ... and the setlist from that evening at Bass Concert Hall here). I asked Tori's managers if I could please get 5 minutes with her beforehand, because there was no way I could meet and then interview her for the first time in front of 50 strangers. Not only did she oblige, but she happily chatted with me for TWENTY MINUTES! I thought I was going to burst into tears and have to force my gratitude through sobs when I met her, but we moved so quickly into conversation both casual and about the radio & records industry that I didn't get to share with her the details that I just shared with you. It didn't matter. It wasn't necessary. She knew.

Fast forward to yesterday morning, when Tori arrived for her second Music Lounge during my time here (she's done quite a few with us throughout the years). She immediately brightened the mood in the whole building, like a butterfly landing on each of my coworkers' shoulders and warmly whispering, "Have a great day!" My heart did backflips as we talked about bowling competitions and Damien Rice's whereabouts before the Lounge. You can see what we talked about in the Lounge here:

She also insisted that I come backstage after the show so she could give me some sage she'd just acquired from a Native American reservation, so we could burn it in my new boss's office and my new house. I thought I might die when we got back there; when she saw me and said, "Oh, Kristen! I've been working on something for you!" and handed me a bag full of sweet smelling herbs. She then heavily complemented my interviewing skills, took a picture with us, and sent us off with a happy, "Til next time!"

My life is 95% complete (I'm looking at you, Gwen Stefani/NoDoubt).

I could sit here and write about how amazing Tori is because she started playing the piano pre-kindergarten and has such a unique relationship with music and blah blah blah, but I know - you either get Tori's music, or you don't. It's not for everyone, and that's OK. But you're not apt to find another artist as technically proficient and yet as passionate as Tori remains, as my boyfriend summarized after attending his first show last night.

He asked me to do for him as Vanessa did for me in making my own "essentials" playlist, because figuring out where to start with a 22-year career can be overwhelming, so I whipped one together when we got home last night. It's an introduction to her 12 studio albums, minus the holiday record and the collection of re-worked hits for her 20th career anniversary. I hope it will unlock a new world for you, if you aren't already doing interpretive dance in there.