Beth Orton’s Guide to Beth Orton

With new album ‘Kidsticks’ arriving, the singer-songwriter looks back at her career

Wall Street Journal – By MIKE AYERS May 26, 2016 

Tierney Gearon

 

Beth Orton says her latest album “Kidsticks,” out Friday, was a completely new experience for her, both in being more hands-on with the production and playing keyboards throughout. “It had a profound effect on the length and breadth of how I could sing,” Orton told the Journal recently. “I could reach certain heights and certain depths with my voice.”

Ask her to go back and mine her catalog for her personal stand-out tracks from her 20 year career? Also a new experience, and a difficult one at that. “It’s a funny thing to do, because I don’t listen to what I’ve done before.”

Below, Orton looks back at some of the essential songs from her catalog. “I tried to build a story,” she says. “I’ve picked very gentle songs and I see who I was.”

 

With ‘Trailer Park,’ I wanted to make this Cure-ish record. I wanted to explore my love of singer-songwriters. Not just folk singer-songwriters, but all of them. I think this is a pivotal track. It sums up a little bit of what I became known for doing, which was mixing styles. I don’t know if I was the first person on Earth to do that – but it seemed to meet people’s surprise.”

“I was in Cartagena in Colombia. I had been out for the night and had kissed a boy, a man, and I had that morning walk home in my red dress along the central reservation of somewhere in Cartagena. I had a couple hours sleep and woke up in a beautiful haze and wrote that song in one sitting. Out it poured. That was how I felt. How lovely that it connected (with fans) because it was such a pure moment. There was nothing thought out about it. Very simple, two chords, back and forth. An expression of something joyful, basically.”

“‘Daybreaker’ was my hated record. Everyone was like, ‘F–k off!’ I was drinking too much, I was kind of cocky, and I was a bit burned out at the time. When I listen back and I hear that in my voice. I hear a lacklusterness to it, a little bit. I respect why things weren’t quite what they could have been. I suppose i thought, looking back now, in a way, this song sounds like the most honestly sung and accurately told story at that period in my life – even though I actually didn’t write the song. I wonder about that sometimes. It doesn’t really matter, does it, if it connects with you in that way?”

“That was a whole other roller coaster, full of confusion. Your identity gets really confused when you come from total obscurity and then suddenly people know you. I tried to normalize my life and step aside from the world I was in. i wanted to learn my craft more. Play the guitar and write good, honest songs. I think that even though it took a long time to come down, this was the most broken I was during this period. ‘Feral Children’ is a song I can hear melodies taken from all over the place. It’s glaringly obvious. It’s almost not finished. I was really trying to be the guitarist.”

“That was falling into love with my husband, my family, my children. To me, it’s a very happy ending. A realization of something I never knew I wanted. That’s my blatant homage to my husband, my love, this time. I just let whatever came out, came out, and be.I chose life. I could have chosen many other ways.”

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