Jam Music
January 1997

Fiona Apple's Making It Big
Don't hate Fiona Apple because she's beautiful. And beautiful sounding.

Apple's startling debut, Tidal, which has sold 500,000 copies in the U.S. since its July release, showcases the sultry New York native's deep, soulful voice, delicate piano playing and wise-beyond-her-years songwriting.

Confessional tunes about men, moods and general mayhem with titles like Sullen Girl, Criminal and The Child Is Gone figure prominently.

Apple -- as yet undiscovered in Canada, although a Toronto date is expected in the spring -- comes across like someone twice her 19 years.

"I understand that what I do may make me seem precocious, but to me I'm just me," she says on the phone from her and her father's home in Venice, Calif.

Apple does, however, admit that undergoing therapy as a withdrawn, melancholy young child and later being raped at age 12 in the stairwell of her mother's Manhattan apartment made her grow up fast.

"I have experienced a lot, because of who I am on the inside. I take it all in very deeply, and maybe partly due to all of the psychiatric evaluations I've had, I've been kind of programmed to analyze everything around me. I really just observe and look within, and with all of this thinking you can't help but grow a little older in your mind."

The rape is directly addressed in a line from Sullen Girl, in which Apple sings: "But he washed me ashore and took my pearl and left an empty shell of me."

She has since said she doesn't want to become the rape poster girl.

"I remember hesitating," says Apple of the first time she discussed the assault with a reporter, "and thinking this is probably going to ruin me. Everything's going to be written about this now, but I just didn't want to keep it a secret."

Apple, who's been playing the piano since she was eight years old, got her big musical break when a demo she'd made wound up in the hands of a friend who babysat for a record publicist.

"I made no effort," says Apple. "I don't know. It's weird." Now she's got appearances on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live under her belt, before she's even learned how to drive.

Comparisons with other female ivory tinklers like Tori Amos are inevitable, but one particular association with another female artist really rankled Apple.

"I read this thing and it said, 'Fiona Apple -- Sony's Answer to Alanis Morissette,' and oh, man. Just to reduce me down to somebody's answer to something else, that just pissed me off. To just say that implies that I'm just some bulls--- marketing thing, which is just the biggest insult ... having nothing against Alanis Morissette."

Interestingly though, Apple believes her commercial success will be limited because of Morissette's huge presence.

"I never disliked her, but I just was very intimidated by her. When I first heard about her, it was when I just started tracking the album and I think I sensed the trouble. Like I mean I don't think I'll ever be really big, and I think that's probably because she exists."

By: Jane Stevenson


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