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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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Beth Orton performs at Turner Hall Ballroom tonight.
Beth Orton performs at Turner Hall Ballroom tonight.

Orton lets the music do the talking

Some musicians will talk your ear off about their work. British singer-songwriter Beth Orton is not one of those musicians. 

Orton gives an interview that is not too unlike her musical style itself. Soft-spoken and polite in a charmingly English way, she is reserved and careful with her words. Her songs are known for their stripped, bare-bones acoustic quality; not surprisingly, the writer of those songs is not a woman who embellishes or elaborates her speech. 

And that’s just fine. Her music does the talking. 

Last week Orton released her sixth studio album, "Sugaring Season" after a six-year hiatus from recording. "Sugaring Season" is a compelling collection of works that breathe new life into her signature folksy sound. Several of the tunes – like "Magpie," the second single off the album, and "Call Me the Breeze" – have an uptempo quality that nods to her past dabbles in electronica.  

Orton will perform tonight at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N. 4th St., with her husband, musician Sam Amidon. The family-centered singer has an infant son, Arthur, and a 5-year-old daughter, Nancy. 

She caught up with OnMilwaukee.com over the phone last week. 

OnMilwaukee.com:  "Sugaring Season" is your sixth album; how has your musical style progressed from "SuperPinkMandy," your first album released in 1993? 

Beth Orton: I mean … I, well, how do you think it’s different? 

OMC: Well, in the beginning you did some work in the electronica style. 

BO: Mixing those things up you mean … yeah, I’ve been known for that in the past. I don’t know, now, I guess I’m just … it’s hard to say exactly how it’s different. 

OMC: How would you describe yourself as an artist at this point in your career? 

BO: I don’t. (laughs) I try not to think about myself too much.

OMC: Do you feel like that would be labeling yourself? 

BO: No, I just wouldn’t know how to go, (American accent) "Well, I’m the kind of artist who…" (laughs) It just seems funny.

OMC: What do your children think of your career? 

BO: My daughter’s five-and-a-half and she doesn’t really get it…I don’t know, I don’t think she does. She loves singing. (Asks daughter Nancy) What do you think of my music now, that I’m singing stuff? 

(Nancy, in background) Good. 

Good?

OMC: Artists always talk about how their personal life impacts their work; how do you think being a mother changed you as a singer and a songwriter?

BO: It’s hard to say. It just kind of changes everything so it all has an impact. It all just ends up having an impact. It’s hard to get away from having an impact. Pretty fundamentally, I would say. 

OMC: Was it strange to be recording again or did you feel like it was a homecoming?

BO: Yeah, it felt really good. Really good. It felt lovely. It was fantastic circumstances but it was also … it was lovely. I loved it. 

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