Song Analysis

Welcome to England

Sunday 14 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

“’Ophelia’ is not the only song to portray women who have run out of options. [This album] is trying to pass on how to survive in very dark times. But you survive by looking at the options, looking at not fitting into his world in ’Welcome to England.’ And it could be Virginia to Boston. In this song, England is not a place. She’s stepping into his world, but she left who she was behind.” (VenusZine, May 26, 2009)

“Well, I think…… to be positive about a man, and yet ambivalent about a place, was the desired goal for ‘Welcome to England’, because I really wanted the story to be about a woman who left her life, and her family, and her job, to follow her love – to follow her heart.” (Drowned in Sound, May 20, 2009)

“Welcome to England” is Tori’s most straight-forward autobiographical song in a long time. It tells the story of a woman who “left her life, and her family, and her job, to follow her love – to follow her heart,” as she explained Drowned in Sound in May 2009. “It could be leaving North Carolina to move to New York – it could be anything – or leaving Manchester to come to London.”

In this case however, the narrator has left her home country, America, to follow her man in England... which, of course echoes back to the relationship between Tori and her British husband Mark Hawley. They’ve been together since 1994 and moved in Cornwall, where they’ve built a home studio, in 1997. Although Tori had been in great part living in England since 1991 when Atlantic Records sent her there to launch her career, she also had a beach house in Florida since 1995 and remained very attached to her home country. But Mark couldn’t imagine living in America (in part because of the violence, Tori said in her radio interview for Zoo Sessions in 2009) and Cornwall was where his heart belonged.

This didn’t seem to bother Tori at first: after all, Corwall is a “magical place” as she once put it, filled with Celtic legends and King Arthur supposedly lived here and had his castle on the Tintagel island... something that could only please an history and mythology buff like Tori. Plus, the location was remote enough not to have label executives ring at her studio door to listen to her masters during the recording process. But in recent years, she came to realize that she had lost pieces of herself by removing herself from her “power spot” (something she calls “Devil’s Acess” in the song) : America.

“Then you come to realize that His world is becoming Your world, and yet maybe you’ve taken on so much of His world… but it isn’t Your world, and you have to retain yourself in it,” she told Drowned in Sound in May 2009. “And she just lost that. Somehow. She lost parts of herself – whether she should have gone back more, or whether she… you know, sometimes when you leave a place, you cut those cords, and you think ‘Okay, fresh start – roll my sleeves up…’ and yet… there was something, or maybe many things, that you didn’t really want to leave behind. That you do begin to miss. Sometimes it’s the mountains. Sometimes it’s the earth.”

And so it was important for her to reclaim what she truly is (or “bring her own sun” as she puts it in the song) and nurture herself in order to find happiness again. “...if you don’t give to yourself, but you are giving to everybody else, [then] you turn around, and you recognize but ‘I have nobody to give to anymore, and I haven’t nurtured myself while I’ve been nurturing everybody else [1]. ’”

It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like England anymore, though, unlike what some people hurried to asess as soon as the song was released as a single. It’s just that she doesn’t feel British at the core. “While there are things I can smile about in England, this is my husband’s power spot; this is his power nexus, this helps define him,” she explained Music in May 2009. “But I am not an expat person who can just disconnect themselves from their country. I don’t have a network here, and I have made a choice not to have a network here,” says the singer who feels a deep connection with her Native American roots and the land of her mother’s people.

In an interview for Out Magazine in May 2009, she also recognized she was fueled to write the song after having some tax issues. As an American mainly living in England (though she kept her house in Florida), she has to justify her situation to go on living here, and though she didn’t reveal any clear details about it, it would seem there was a misunderstanding about her situation.

“These forces were loading their guns and I was touring — I almost don’t want to say where I was because then that fucking tax man is going to say, ‘You wrote it in our country!’” she thus explained to journalist Noah Michelson. “Anyway, I got a phone call telling me, ‘These guys are coming after you’ and I thought But I’m an American and I’ve always done the right thing! Nobody cares. Nobody cares! That’s why in the visualette there’s Tori in an American flag jumpsuit because whether you are going to your partner’s home or are around his friends — it can be a country or it can just be going out to dinner and you just know I am not accepted! They don’t want me here!"

"And you try so hard to fit in and you start chopping off pieces of yourself to get along and you wonder where’s the sage and the tobacco and the sacred smoke? Because the ancestors are not here — they’re just not here! You begin to say, ‘There are people I like and there are things I like but in order for me to claim myself I just realized I’ve got to get on a plane and go back to what is my power spot.’”

She went on to say that she’s “probably outstayed my welcome as far as the British government goes.” ”But being forced to make a choice and then waking up one day and realizing you’re forced to make that choice or it’s being made for you and you’re saying, ‘Hang on a minute!’ You can’t just choose. [...] and that’s before a whole second part of the record got written and developed when I came back to the States for Comic-Con. And I was on my home ground where I wrote Little Earthquakes and there was a metamorphosis that happened. I passed by that little house where I wrote it and I thought, I took on a lot back then — I can take this on. I can fight.”

“But I had lost how to fight. I had to change everything to fight — all kinds of people had to change. The one thing that kept me going was the love that Tash and Mark had for me. I just saw that I was becoming totally devastated and beaten. Look at the system and what the system has done and the way that people are so enslaved. And you look at Obama — and I know he’s one man but can he turn around the subjugation of the masses to the way the system is? You know, the tax system — you have to be a fucking brain surgeon to figure it out. And I just think people are so burdened in our day-to-day existence — how can relationships survive when you’re thinking, Oh my God! The mortgage and the bills and the loans and the credit cards and the — Fuck! And so it’s not just the sexual programming, it’s everything that has to crumble.”

The economic crisis also inspired her other songs on the album as she observed people losing their job and money, and becoming increasingly despaired. Which is also why she explained that, beyond her personal story, the song could strike a chord in other people’s lives. “I know so many people who’ve left, especially in the last 2 years because of jobs, and getting work,” she told Drowned in Sound. “One of them had work [that was] going somewhere, that they’d had to leave. One of them has had to let go to move with the other, and so, ‘how to not lose yourself, when you don’t fit into your lover’s world’ [is the message] – maybe that’s a good thing, because I don’t think you necessarily should.”

information sources

Music, May 2009.
Polari Magazine, May 2009.
Out, May 5, 2009.
Drowned in Sound, May 20, 2009.
VenusZine, May 26, 2009.

[1Drowned in Sound, May 20, 2009.