Beth Orton gets down to details

 by Tom Lanham SF Examiner

Beth Orton

English folk rocker Beth Orton had planned on quiet down time for interviews last week. But loud crashing noises in the background were interrupting her thoughts and she felt compelled to explain that her children, 6-year-old Nancy and 22-month-old Arthur, were banging on things. The baby-sitter she had hired had gotten sick, last minute, so she was multitasking: making the kids tea and conducting a phone interview, not long after a session in the park watching them slide down slides in the pouring rain.

Did passers-by wonder who that crazy woman was out in the rain? I know, I know! But what are you supposed to do? If you don’t take them out, they’re like dogs — they’ll go crazy come 6 o’clock! So rain or shine, you’ve got to get them out and take them for a run. But I noticed two little 13-year-olds huddled under the park’s jungle gym, kissing and cuddling. You just see so much more of life as a mom.

Is that the lyrical theme of your new recording, “Sugaring Season” — paying more attention to the natural world around you? Yeah. I go on tour now, and I’m like, “Oh! This is Australia!” It’s a bit like when you give up, say, coffee or something. Not tasting that, your senses wake up.

You have new songs such as “Magpie” and “Dawn Chorus.” As a mother, aren’t you automatically up at dawn? Yeah, there’s that. Seeing all the different times of the day, of life. It’s such a cliche, but it’s true — when you have a child, everything becomes new, as much to me as it is to them.

And the magpies? I just love the birds. They have a lot of folklore attached to them, and at my old house, there was this nest of magpies in the tree outside my bedroom window. I’ve had these two blue jays following me for the past 15 years, wherever I’ve lived. But the other day, one of the blue jays dropped dead in my garden, and I got very superstitious about it — was it a good omen or a bad omen?

Which was it? That same day, I nearly crashed my car but didn’t, and I found out that I didn’t have any insurance. So later that day, we buried the bird, my family and me, then I put food out for its partner, and the very next day a ring-tailed dove flew into my garden, and it’s been living there ever since. So that, to me, was quite an interesting chain of events. I’ve really been seeing all the details again.


Beth Orton

Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $30 to $35

Contact: (415) 551-5157,

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