Beth Orton: Melody maker
PUBLISHED: 10:11 30 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:11 30 August 2016
With the release of a new album and a live appearance in Norwich this month, singer Beth Orton tells Rachel Buller why she still yearns for Norfolk
Beth Orton’s dreamy, evocative voice has the power to take listeners to a thousand different places – from desolation and wistful melancholy to soaring joy, fun and playfulness.
Matched with her poetic songwriting, which is rich in raw emotion and stark honesty, it is little wonder that since breaking on to the music scene in the 1990s, the Norfolk-born singer continues to win such acclaim.
This month, she prepares to return to Norwich as part of a major tour following the recent release of her new album Kidsticks.
It is a big departure from her work of recent years. Instead of that distinct acoustic, folk-inspired sound, Kidsticks is a bold record, full of swooping electronic loops and melodies.
It almost brings her full circle to when she started out working with the likes of the Chemical Brothers and William Orbit, and coincides with the 20th anniversary of the release of Trailer Park, which launched her career.
“When I started out I didn’t really think about the future, I completely fell in to it. I wrote little poems, and did theatre classes, but then it turned out that I could sing and I seem to be fairly good at it, even if I do say so myself,” she chuckles.
“I was very lucky though to find out that I had this ability and it makes me wonder how many of us live and die not knowing what we are actually capable of?
“When Central Reservation came out, I was launched into the public eye. I did become pretty famous, I won a Brit. But of course it increased the pressure,” she says.
Her yearning to experiment more, coupled with becoming a mum, saw her make an effort to escape that pressure.
“Curiosity took over, I suddenly felt like I wanted to learn more about musc, to see what I was capable of. I feel I have spent the past 10 years relearning my craft. Mind you, now I feel I have thrown it up in the air again with this record and I think that really shows playing it live.”
She wrote a lot of Kidsticks while living in California, which is reflected in its sound. Does her location influence what she writes?
“No, I think often it is the other way round, where I make music depends on how I am feeling,” she says.
“California was amazing and obviously you have sunshine all the time, but I missed the seasons - my daughter missed the rain - and I also found myself really missing the Norfolk skyline. When I am in Norfolk, I feel like I am living in a live painting.”
Beth was born near Dereham and grew up in and around Norwich. Her parents separated and her father died when she was just 11, her mother eight years later. It was her mum’s involvement with Norwich Arts Centre which fired her interest in music.
“It was just part of our life,” she says. “Music was like politics at that time and they were both very interconnected. It was like that in our house. Who did you support, whose side were you on? It was an incredibly exciting time.
“Growing up in Norwich for me was fantastic and there was a huge amount of music. I was so privileged to see a lot of brilliant, wild and entertaining artists. There was something different on every night. I had big brothers as well, so I was surrounded by their friends and all those influences. I still come back a lot now to visit friends.”
Are her two children as exposed to the joys of music as she was as a child?
“My husband is a musician as well so they are privy to that world, but I mean we are not sitting round a campfire every night with our guitars out, we haven’t got time for that,” she laughs.
“That said, my daughter does have brilliant taste in music, she has been listening to Blondie this morning. She’s pretty hip now I come to think about it.”
Kidsticks by Beth Orton is available now; she plays at The Waterfront in Norwich on September 24;
www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk; 01603 508050