Coming down (under) with Beth Orton

Beth Orton likes to keep on her toes. For her latest album, the singer-songwriter deliberately abandoned her familiar folksy acoustic-strumming sound, and circled back to the electronic origins that saw her crowned Britain’s “come down queen” in the 1990s.  Kidsticks, her sixth album – and one co-written and produced by Andrew Hung of raucous, synth-duo Fuck Buttons – has been heralded for its bold and unexpectedly experimental direction.  Ahead of her upcoming tour, Blank spoke to Beth about her new direction, her new record and life on the GC.

You released your newest album, Kidsticks, about a year ago now. Are you sick of it yet?
No, not at all. It’s proved to be a tough nut to crack, in terms of performing it live, on stage. It’s taken me a long while to be able to grasp exactly how it should be heard. It’s all for the best, though.

Glad to hear it. You’ll be touring in June, what are you looking forward to most about heading Down Under?
I just love Australia. It’s such a beautiful place to visit, so inspiring. I’ve written so many songs there. I love it.

Did you see the Gold Coast on your travels?
I have, yes. After I came off tour, ages ago, I ended up staying on at the end. A few songs from [2006 album] Comfort to Strangers came from that time. Can’t remember where I stayed exactly, but I remember it being a lot of fun: just writing, staying by the sea.

For this album, you unexpectedly teamed up with Andrew Hung. How did that come about?

Basically, I really wanted to work with him ever since his remix of Mystery [from 2012’s Sugaring Season]. So when Andrew suggested we actually team up, I said ‘Fuck, yeah. Let’s do this.’ I was living in LA [in the Hollywood Hills], he flew over and we huddled together in my garage with nothing but a keyboard in front of us, just playing around with electronic bits and pieces. It just sounded really good! Soon we had 26 skeletons – loops and odds and ends – that I knew I wanted to turn into songs.

Could you talk us through your process?

I wish I knew, myself. You just do it. I suppose that’s the insecure part of what I do: none of this existed before; it’s all up in the air. Take songs like Petals or Corduroy Legs [from Kidsticks], some of the words there I spent years mulling over.  You’re always working, always writing, sometimes just for shits and giggles, but always hopeful. I live in a place of constant unknowing. Often, you’ll find yourself incredibly stranded, left adrift. Then, every once in a while, all will be wonderful.

Beth Orton will tour Australia in June, playing Brisbane’s Triffid on Sunday 18. Tickets on sale via Oztix.

IMAGE (c) Tierney Gearon

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