Beth Orton: Egged On.

10 February 2003 | 1:00 am | Craig New
Originally Appeared In

Simply The Beth.

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Beth Orton plays The Tivoli Theatre on Sunday.

If you believe everything you read, you may well be under the assumption that Beth Orton’s discography is little more than a collection of music written by other people and vaguely assisted by Orton herself. Interviews frequently focus on the collaborations with high profile artists and seem to delight in probing Beth for the minute details on how they met and what they were like to work with.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this article isn’t even going to mention any of those names, because it’s time the truth came out – Beth and her band (who have been there with her since her debut proper, Trailer Park) are the real creative force in question, and it’s about time someone spoke out about them.

“I know, and it’s like, collaborative is fine, but a lot of it is not really collaborative!” sighs an exasperated Orton. “The mix will get done, but the mix will get done once the song’s recorded. If we’re collaborating with anyone, it’s with my band, and that’s something that rarely gets talked about! Especially on this last album (Daybreaker), I wrote tracks full on, fifty fifty writings with Ted (Barnes) and other members of the band (Will Blanchard, Ali Friend, Sean Read) and so on, and that just doesn’t get a look in. They feel shit about it, and maybe I shouldn’t work with other people. But I see myself, I’m in a lucky position where I am a solo artist, I can do that, I can bring people in, and even if it was a band, if I met someone and got on really well with them, as I have done, and it seems right, I’d bring them on board anyway. I don’t know what it fucking is, it’s really quite irritating. I think it’s more horrible for the band really, than me. I don’t know, people have just got into some celebrity gossip hungry… It’s much more innocent and beautiful than that when I work with people, but my band is pretty key to what I do to say the least, and they’re wonderful blokes, and they’re incredible musicians.”

 I suggest she should find a name for them, that might help matters. “Yes! I’m trying to find Beth Orton and The… but everything we come up with is rubbish. I’m trying to find a good name for them. I guess it’s like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds really. They’re my Bad Seeds, but they’re the good eggs.”

Together we shout excitedly, “Beth Orton & The Good Eggs!”, then erupt into uncontrollable laughter.

“They are good eggs, but that’s a terrible name! I guess it’s like that really, they just haven’t got a name yet, but hopefully they will. They’re doing their own thing, Ted and Ali are starting their own band, so who knows if it’s going to last anyway really. I worry about them all.”

It doesn’t seem surprising that Beth would spend time worrying about such things – even a cursory glance at pretty much any photo of the beautiful London songwriter reveals a personality prone to daydreaming and thought (or “catching flies” as Beth giggles). It at least provides endless inspiration.

“Do dreams get into my songs? Absolutely!” Beth laughs. “I think definitely. Sometimes, in some moods I just cross over, and it’s hard to differentiate what reality is what, and I find that that sort of dream place is a wonderful place to write from. Kind of half awake, half asleep, half here and half there. Sometimes dreams just seem to stay with me for so long, they just won’t shake off.

“I think sometimes I shouldn’t do it so much, that maybe I indulge my dreams a little too much, but I don’t know. There’s stuff going on there that fascinates me, I just don’t get it. Where are these places? How come they’re so immaculately set up? Ornaments on a mantle piece that you’ve never seen, but it’s there in your mind and it’s exact. I don’t understand. It’s amazing. Maybe songs are like dreams – are they stuff that I’ve already seen, or am I creating spells? Sometimes I feel like they’re spells that I’m mixing and I’m going to jinx myself almost, or prophesies. It’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

Whatever they are, her songs are most certainly touching a part of her audience that keeps them coming back time and time again.

“It’s like this thing that happens between an audience, and it’s not something that you can see, but it’s totally palpable, you can totally feel it. It’s like, if I go on stage, and just sometimes you know that you’ve made this connection with the audience, and it’s a total two way thing, and the band feel it, and you feel it, and it’s just extraordinary. The audience kind of gives this energy and I get it and then it’s like a cyclic weird fucking hippy dippy thing.” She laughs aloud. “A lot of people seem to pull at my gigs! I think you could just go up to someone and go, ‘Excuse me, I really fancy a hug’, and they would give you a hug. Or you could just go up to someone and kiss them and they’d kiss you right back.”

And isn’t that what all good dreams are made of?