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Beth Orton Biography


Home > Music > O > Orton, Beth > Biography


Birth Name: Elizabeth Caroline Orton
Born: 1970/12/14
Birth Place: Norwich, England
Years Active: 1993–present
Genres: Folk, Electronica


Beth Orton (born Elizabeth Caroline Orton, December 14, 1970 in East Dereham, Norfolk) is an English singer and songwriter. Orton is known for her work with fellow musicians William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers, out of which her folktronica sound developed by mixing elements of folk and electronica.

When Orton was 14 years old she moved to east London after her parents separated. Her father died shortly after. Orton was raised by her artist mother, and immersed herself into the music and art world of East London. When Orton was 19 her mother died from cancer, prompting Orton to travel to Thailand to cope with her grief where she resided with Buddhist nuns. Orton was always passionate about music, but was a late bloomer with regards to pursuing her career and achieving success. Always writing her own songs from the age of 15, Orton's start in music came with a collaboration with musician William Orbit after they met at a party. Orbit encouraged Orton to perform some spoken word and contribute vocals to his “Strange Cargo” project.

Orton's debut solo album, 1993’s “Superpinkymandy,” was only released in Japan, and has since become a collector’s item. Around this time, Orton met Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers and began to work with them on a series of collaborations, including contributing vocals on the tracks, “Alive Alone” and “One Too Many Mornings” on their 1995 “Exit Planet Dust” album. Due to Orton's work with The Chemical Brothers her popularity and status began to grow in the dance, trance and electronica worlds.

Orton's second album, “Trailer Park,” arrived in 1996 on Heavenly Records. This release earned her nominations for two BRIT Awards (Best British Newcomer, Best Female Artist), and the Mercury Music Prize in 1997. Peaking at #68 in the U.K., the record was produced by Andrew Weatherall, whom she selected based on his production of one of her favorite records at the time, Primal Scream's “Screamadelica.” The album was far removed from her previous work, with a lot more pop/folk tunes present, although there were more than a few hints of her electronic roots. Orton had her first UK Top 40 hit single with a reissue of “She Cries Your Name.”

“Central Reservation,” her third album, helped Orton build on the success of her debut. Although retaining the electronic edge of the former, this record showed a notably more acoustic side with several tracks consisting purely of Orton’s vocals accompanied by a solitary acoustic guitar, with subject matters becoming more introspective, including “Pass in Time,” a song about the death of her mother. Despite this style, the album still provided more polished moments such as lead single “Stolen Car” and the electro melancholy of “Stars All Seem to Weep” (with the haunting vocal allegedly recorded in a single take) or the jazz-and-strings-tinged “Sweetest Decline,” songs which cut a much deeper mark than the more glossy feel of her debut. The album also featured notable contributions from folk musician Terry Callier, Dr. Robert and Ben Harper. Two tracks were also produced by Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl.The album earned Orton a second Mercury Music Prize nomination and won the Best Female Artist award at the 2000 BRIT Awards.

In July 2002 she released the album “Daybreaker,” which again blended the early electronica style, with up tempo pop songs and acoustic ballads. It featured guest appearances from musicians such as The Chemical Brothers, Emmylou Harris, whom she met at Lilith Fair,Ryan Adams and Four Tet. It was a great commercial success, reaching the #8 on the U.K. Albums chart. This was followed in 2003 by the U.S.-only release on American label Astralwerks, “The Other Side of Daybreak,” an album consisting mainly of B-sides and remixes of songs from “Daybreaker,” created by artists such as Roots Manuva.

A "best of" double album, titled “Pass In Time,” was released in 2003. It represented Orton's extensive and diverse musical career through previously unreleased songs, B-sides, and rarities (such as “Where Do You Go” from “Superpinkymandy”), as well as collaborations with William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers.

Orton's next studio album “Comfort of Strangers” was released in February 2006. The North American release was through Astralwerks, and the U.K. release was through EMI-UK. The release saw her move away from the electronica element that she is usually associated with, to a more stripped down traditional alt-folk album. This album followed an extended absence since her previous release, partially a result of several failed production attempts, and the parting of ways between her and Heavenly Records. The album was produced by musician Jim O'Rourke.

“Sugaring Season,” Orton’s sixth studio album, was released in 2012 via the ANTI- record label. It was produced by Tucker Marine and was recorded in his Portland, Oregon studio.