Brit Award-winner Beth Orton arrives in the county this week. She tells Andy Welch about the making of her first record in six years, and reflects on how marriage and having children has changed her for the better.
In 2006, Beth Orton announced she was pregnant. Later that year, she cancelled the tour to promote her fourth album The Comfort Of Strangers on the advice of a doctor, and, aside from the odd, very low-key show here or there, disappeared from view.
Six years on, she’s back with a new album, Sugaring Season, perhaps her most direct and confident sounding work.
So what happened in between?
The short answer is “lots”. The long answer is a little more complicated...
“Comfort Of Strangers came out in February 2006, and for some reason I lost so much confidence,” says Beth on her tour bus between Seattle and Vancouver.
“Not because it didn’t sell well, or this, that and the other, I just felt very vulnerable at that time. The album changed a lot of things in my life. Lots of painful stuff came up, and it left me feeling vulnerable, so the idea of being out in the public was really scary.”
She says she tried a few performances to test the water, but they left her “earth-shatteringly frightened” and undid things even further.
Being pregnant didn’t agree with her either. “I thought it was the end of the world when I found out I was pregnant,” she says. “I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ and for so many reasons.
“I was on my own, and I ended up moving to a house in the middle of nowhere in Norfolk when Nancy was born, just the two of us.”
Fearful she was losing herself in motherhood, Beth started writing at a frantic pace, desperate to cling on to something of her own. One of the songs that arrived during that time and made it onto Sugaring Season is called Last Trees Of Autumn.
“I felt like I was hanging on to the last shred of me, you know, your last leaves of autumn, but my body was coming on like the first shoots of spring. It was like I was slowly coming alive whether I liked it or not.”
Then she met American singer songwriter Sam Amidon, whom she married last year. They have a son, Arthur, giving Beth the family she always wanted, but never thought she’d have.
Beth’s confidence has now fully returned, even surpassing previous levels. For the first time since her career began aged 19, after being discovered by Madonna collaborator William Orbit, she’s had time to play with music in a way she never has before.
“A journalist said to me recently that I sound really happy on Sugaring Season,” says Beth. “And I went on at them for ages saying it wasn’t that black and white, that there are ups and downs to being a parent and all that.
“But when I think about it, I recorded this new album with my four-month-old son asleep on the sofa next to me and husband and daughter in the next room.
“It was a really happy time. It was lovely, as all this has been. Creating a family is something I’ve always longed for, you know, a proper family with a husband and kids.
“It’s not something I ever thought would happen, but it has. And it’s amazing.”
Beth Orton’s fifth album Sugaring Season is out now. She will be at St Mary’s Church in Ashford on Thursday, November 29. Tickets £18.50 in advance or £20.40 on the door. Concessions available. For advance tickets and for more information, visit www.revelationstmarys.co.uk
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