Daily Express    Oct  '96

by Sarah King

SARAH KING peels back a layer of painful psycho-babble and finds a rare teenage talent.

Ask Fiona Apple a simple question, such as, "Is Fiona Apple your real name?" and you get a very complicated answer.  Raised on a steady diet of American psycho-babble, New Yorker Fiona is the latest addition to the angst-ridden female chanteuse brigade.

Her answer to the question comes via a 10-minute account of her life story.  This includes details of how her unmarried, arty parents split up when she was eight, how both were very proprietorial over their gifted youngest daughter and how they fought over whose name she was to take.

It led to the once-suicidal mini-rebel to choose her middle name Apple instead, which was also her paternal grandmother’s maiden name.  So, yes, Fiona Apple is her real name.  Well, I’m glad we got that straight.

"Words are my business," she says, as if by way of explanation.  "I am lucky that I have this way of expressing myself, otherwise I’d probably still be in therapy."

The constant wringing of her slender hands, the painful fragility of her tiny,   5ft frame and the deepest purple shadows underlining her translucent pale blue eyes point to the fact that she probably still should be.

At only 19, Fiona seems to have the worries of the world on her minuscule shoulders.

If you haven’t read the style magazines or music reviews lately, you could be forgiven for not knowing who she is.  But, if the reports are to be believed, you surely will in the near future.  The next Alanis Morissette, say some.  Another Tori Amos, scream others.

But all are in mutual agreement that Miss Apple, an accomplished pianist -- or should that be "painist" -- with the singing voice of a fallen angel, is the most talented new geek on the block.

Her debut album Tidal, released last month, has generated much excitement among the music cognoscenti.  Painfully mature, it is discerning and honest in its observation.

The fact that it was penned in the confines of Fiona’s teenage, poster-strewn bedroom, makes it all the more intriguing.  "I spent a lot of time being angry when I was younger, so I shut myself away in my bedroom," she explains.

"I wrote my first track there when I was 11. I need that privacy to write and to feel sane." "I felt that everyone wanted me to have something wrong with me, so that they could save me from myself.  It was madness.

"I’m totally troubled and totally stable," she maintains, confusingly.  "I’m sensitive, highly strung and I have my problems.  There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t shed a tear, but I’m not unhappy -- I enjoy the pain."

Her big break into the music world was not so painful, however.  It was more fairy tale than struggling musician.  "I made a demo tape and, before I had even sent it to record companies, I gave it to a friend," she says.

This friend just happened to be babysitting for a New York PR executive, who was a friend of producer Andy Slater. The tape was played at a party.  Fiona was signed and the rest, as they say, is history.

Currently on tour around Europe, she is busy promoting her album and the imminent release of her debut single, "Shadowboxer."

She appears jaded, but then one assumes Fiona wears this look like a favourite dress.

She may doubt herself, but as far as the music world is concerned, there is no question that she has got what it takes.

Her debut British show-case at Ronnie Scott’s in July drew some heavyweight support.

It prompted The face to dedicate an unprecedented five-page feature to her.   And her September one-off gig at London’s Dingwalls was jammed with record company executives who had gone along to see if she was worth the hype.

A standing ovation from those who rarely stay beyond the second track proved that she was.  fin