Beth Orton makes sweet return with ‘Sugaring Season’

Beth Orton’s last tour ended nearly six years ago when she was pregnant with her daughter. Because of the lengthy hiatus, the British singer-songwriter admits to some nerves, butterflies, and excitement about her upcoming tour, which arrives at the Somerville Theatre on Friday. “I’m all of these things. It’s a big deal for me,” she says with a laugh.

Orton made a splash in the ’90s with her distinctive, delicately chalky voice and tender folktronica tunes like “She Cries Your Name.” She eventually stripped back her sound in the ’00s to a more organic place with songs like “Concrete Sky.”

She took some time off to be a mom, and married fellow plaintive folkie Sam Amidon, who helps out on her excellent new album, “Sugaring Season,” out Oct. 2. We recently caught up with sweetly voluble Orton by phone from New York.

Q. Did you make a conscious decision to take a break to have children?

A. No, no, no. I did not plan my pregnancies. Life took its own trajectory at that point. I had my daughter and I was home alone with her and that took over, as having children can take over. And thank God it did. I’m very glad that it happened and then it happened again [with my son], which was just so unexpectedly random and brilliant.

Q. Was anyone trying to coax you back into the studio or on the road?

A. No. My record label dropped me pretty much as soon as I had my daughter. But it was fine because I knew they didn’t really want me and I didn’t really want them. It was quite scary but quite thrilling to be free. “What am I going to do with my life?” I wondered about going back to university and studying creative writing and possibly not doing music because it involves so much chaos, constantly moving. But the thing is, I did just keep writing songs. In a funny way it became more vital that I find time to myself. I’d never really had that discipline before. That came from being a parent as well. That challenge was incredibly inspiring and brought a new perspective and different kind of honesty. And by the time I went into the studio, I had this backlog of songs, fully formed.

Q. What was the turning point that brought you back?

A. For a start, getting pregnant again. It was like, “Oh come on! I can’t leave it now, because I know what happened last time. If I leave it. it’s just going to be another four years.” So I tried to do it, but I was just too pregnant and it just wasn’t the time. So then I met [producer] Tucker [Martine] and [my husband] Sam was very insistent that these songs were good, and this does sound really stupid and girlie and dumb, but if it wasn’t for that reassurance, I don’t know [if it would’ve happened.] And also, the reassurance of the record company. And then meeting and Skyping with Tucker and sending him the songs and his response. And then discussing our dream band. I very much hope to come and gig with this band at some point, but I mustn’t talk that up because, of course, I am coming out solo. It’s not that I haven’t done that before, but it feels like a new take on things.

Q. Some people associate you with a very specific sound, that gentle blend of acoustic and electronic elements. You branch out on “Sugaring Season,” especially vocally. On a song like “Candles” you sing at length in a high register. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard you sing like that before.

A. I used to go into that high register, but I never stayed in it and that’s exactly what I do on that song and I’m not sure why or how or where that came from. But I do remember one morning literally waking up, winging my legs out of bed, picking up my guitar and that came out.

Q. “Something More Beautiful” is sexy and dramatic. What was the inspiration?

A. Oh gosh, it’s so hard to put words to that stuff. I don’t want to be evasive but it’s such a different part of my brain that writes than the part of me that speaks. I could try and tell you what I think it’s about, but it would be like wearing huge gloves and trying to do a flower arrangement.

Q. But “See Through Blue” is about your daughter, right?

A. That song was definitely inspired by my daughter. It really is a love song for her and the best of what it is to be her mother.

Interview has been edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at



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