BY Matthew Breen
November 24 2009 9:55 AM ET
Are you currently an independent artist?
Sort of. The genesis of it, Doug Morris, who broke Little Earthquakes worldwide and has been my mentor all these years, he left [Atlantic Records] in 1994. He would say, “I didn’t leave. They kicked me out of Rockefeller Center!” And so he’s 70 now, and he’s chairman of Universal [Music Group]. He heard that I was thinking about signing with his independent side. I was looking at independence. I was looking at Fontana [Distribution], and he’s chairman of that as well. He just happened to be on the phone with somebody as I was walking by, and we ended up talking and he said, “I have to talk to you.” He said to me, “Look, we work well together, and I want you to meet Monty Lipman [co-president of Universal Music Group]. So, I met Monty, and it just seemed to work out. But it’s a joint venture relationship. We’re equal partners, so that means we’re investors as well. It’s a different kind of relationship than I’ve ever had.
Artistically, how has being an independent artist worked out for you?
There are always people involved who I call on to be a part of a think tank. I don’t just do things without a think tank. Sometimes there are people you bounce ideas off within a label structure, and sometimes there are not. Why this is liberating is because I’m not -- don’t like to talk about the business side too much -- I know what’s going on. It gets very frustrating when you don’t know what’s going on. I’d rather pay my way and know what’s happening then not pay my way and be in a subjugation role. I don’t like the idea of “artist,” “record company,” “ownership.” That authority bothers me. I’d rather have to put up a bit and yet know what’s going on.
What do you think an artist’s responsibility is in a time of change?
I think we’re driven to do things. Some people’s gift is more about entertaining. Some artists are just great entertainers, and that’s how they bring joy to people. I don’t believe that any artist should do something that doesn’t come from their heart because I think when you start acting from a place that isn’t a driving voice inside of you that says, “I believe this, I feel this,” then that’s not right. You can’t say that entertainment isn’t important. It’s really important, we need it. Some artists are just great, making us laugh and singing those songs that we all just kind of dance to and feel better. So I think we do it in different ways.
Do you consider yourself to be an activist?
I don’t really think about it like that. I guess in my way, if you’re going to analyze it, I am -- in a quiet way. It’s about sovereignty, isn’t it? So if you’re encouraging through the music for the people to break those chains of having to answer to an authority outside of themselves -- that’s what keeps us in chains -- so if you’re doing that, then your contributing to people being emancipated from the system but in a quiet way.
What are your thoughts on the current same-sex marriage situation in America?
I’ve spoken out. I’ve been pretty vocal about how I don’t understand how a nation can ask people to pay taxes but they don’t get certain rights that everyone else does. It’s not “All men are created equal, except homos.” If gays can’t get marriage, why should they have to pay into the system? Why should they have to pay any tax if the government isn’t going to acknowledge them as human beings? This isn’t because I have a gay following, it’s [wrong] against any group of people. I just feel very strongly about it as an American. I can’t accept that we’re subjugating another people and demanding that they pay into the service, but it’s no different from segregation. We’re segregating the gays now. I feel strongly about the issue. It’s just wrong.
Amos’s new holiday album, Midwinter Graces is available now.