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Place Your Beth
It’s fair to say I do not have Beth Orton’s undivided attention. I’m asking the questions, she’s in her London kitchen, making soda bread.
Craig Fitzpatrick, 19 Oct 2012
Her creative fire still burning, despite entertaining the idea of finding a new career, returning to music seemed inevitable. At what point did she decide to share her work with the world once more?
“I made that decision around the time I got pregnant with my second child: ‘Now, I really must rele... aw, shit!’ Then I tried to do some recording while I was pregnant but it was like trying to sing with a bowling ball in your belly.”
Sugaring Season was finally recorded last winter in Portland, with the aid of producer Tucker Martine (REM, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists) and a “dream band” of musicians she had previously worked with. It arrived in a rush, laid down in two weeks.
“We were just live from the floor to the tape. It was a beautiful experience and I don’t remember feeling any sense of panic that there wasn’t much time because we just kept moving through things.”
She puts the carefree approach down to a new confidence and the shift in priorities having a family brings.
“And a big part of that is age. You get to a certain point and you’re like, ‘Fuck it, I haven’t got time to worry about that’. A song like ‘Candles’ was a first take. Tucker had the foresight to press record, even though it was just me showing the band how it went.”
The ten tracks continue Comfort Of Strangers’ preference for a full band sound and themes of nature and superstition abound. ‘Magpie’ deals with “being silenced”, with Beth only able to talk freely to the birds outside her window. It has also taken on a political bent.
“I played it on David Letterman solo and it was quite a powerful experience and timely with the elections coming up. Can music change the world? Well, look at Pussy Riot. It’s interesting in Russia because people think, ‘Aw, Russia’s really cool!’ and then something like this happens and you realise that it’s still a pretty fucking harsh regime. It’s good that that’s been drawn attention to, though it’s horrible for them obviously. At the same time, I’m in America a lot and there’s all this insane politics going on right under our noses. I do have some hope that Obama will get in again but it’s not a given. If these other people get in, fuck knows what’s going to happen. We’ll be in even bigger trouble. I swear to God if that happens...”