Amos strikes gold
Tori Amos. Picture: Supplied.

Tori Amos reworked songs from her past for her 13th studio album Gold Dust, re-recording them live in the company of an orchestra. The American songwriter dug through 20 years of her back catalogue to remap stories with the help of Amsterdam's Metropole Orchestra. "This was something completely new for me but the calling was clear," says the 49-year-old, who has been rehearsing with the orchestra before her European tour. She first met the ensemble in 2010, which prompted Amos to think about making an album together.

"In the past on many of my records I would record my bit in a dark, quiet room and the orchestras would put their string work on top later. We weren't necessarily in the same room doing it together. That's how it works in the pop world but, in the classical world, it's completely different."

Amos was born in North Carolina and grew up in Maryland with an elder sister and younger brother. A child prodigy, she could play the piano at 2 1/2 . By five she won a scholarship to attend the Peabody Conservatory of Music, which she quit at 11 in protest at having to read sheet music.

At 13, she started playing in bars, always accompanied by her minister father. It was at these bars she let her classical training intersect with a taste for pop, beginning a career that has fused the two influences.

In her early 20s she moved to Los Angeles and formed the 80s synth-pop band Y Kant Tori Read before launching a solo career. Her groundbreaking 1992 debut Little Earthquakes got people talking; themes of religion, feminism and sexuality providing the backbone to her storytelling.

"Gold Dust is about me retracing my life, gathering that fiery girl back into my being," Amos says of her decision to re-record tracks.

Recorded in Cornwall, with conductor Jules Buckley and arrangements by John Philip Shenale, Gold Dust is an enchanting journey into her past.

"Embracing classical music again has radically changed me in a good way," she says. "I have been able to work with musicians I hadn't been able to before. Working with the orchestra has really expanded my viewpoint. For a long time I rebelled against it as a child but now, I am happy to welcome it back."

Songs like Precious Things and Winter feature on the album - the latter about her relationship with her grandfather and father but also about the beauty of being married and a mother.

"I wrote Winter at the time I was doing a lot of soul searching. I was in LA and had a failed record (with Y Kant Tori Read) - most people wouldn't know that but by industry standards it was a failure. I came to question what my art and soul was and what I believed in. I had to find what it meant to be me and that meant looking at what I had in my life that made me who I am."

Other songs include Silent All These Years, taken from her debut album, and Yes, Anastasia which appeared on her second album Under the Pink.

"My relationship with these songs has changed over the years and what occurred while recording with the orchestra was magical and life-changing," Amos says. "We designed our collaboration like a conversation. When they would play it would bring out a certain emotion and I would get new pictures in my mind about the songs. I responded to my music differently when I teamed with the orchestra and this is the result."

Gold Dust is out now.

The West Australian

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