Beth Orton has never seen sugaring season—the first stirrings of spring, when maple trees are tapped for syrup—but she loves the sound of it.The sap flows only when long, cold nights alternate with ever-so-slightly warmer days, a mixture of beauty and melancholy in the heart of the forest. And, after that, the sweetness comes.
It inspired a song right off the bat, the English-born musician—best known for her “folktronica” sound—wrote on Monday in an email. The more she learned, the more poetic and romantic the process became to her imagination.
“I loved the parallels between the process of tapping trees for sugar and writing songs,” she said. “The rising of the sap, the exact conditions needed for that to happen, the magic of turning it from one substance to another. It seemed the most perfect metaphor and title for a record.”
But not just any album. In 2012, the mostly acoustic “Sugaring Season” marked Ms. Orton’s return to the music scene after a nearly six-year sabbatical from the recording studio and tour life. Now she’s back and with a new sound, which she will be bringing to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 15, with guitarist Emmett Kelly.
In Ms. Orton’s time away—having found herself at odds with the music business and dropped from her label—she retreated to a converted cow barn in the English countryside to either rediscover what she loved about making music or to leave it behind altogether.
She went with the former. And is now staging a comeback.
“I took the time it took to make the record [I] needed to make,” she wrote. “There is always a process, even if it isn’t always apparent at the time. I didn’t turn my back on making music. It, a lot of ways this time, was some of my most prolific. I just wasn’t releasing much music.”
After her fifth studio album, “Comfort of Strangers,” dropped in 2006 while she was pregnant with her daughter, Nancy, she didn’t stop writing. She continued writing while raising her as a single mother, and finally demoed the album five years later while pregnant with her son, Arthur.
For five days in November 2011—inside Tucker Martine’s Portland, Oregon, production studio—she recorded 13 tracks with her four-month-old son curled up in her arms. Songs she was “bursting at the seams to sing,” she said. And her husband, folk singer Sam Amidon, stood on hand with his ears and his opinions, ever supportive.
“It was the most complete and wonderful experience,” she said. “Like waiting for a long glass of water and drinking it just at the right moment. A beautiful time.”
Beth Orton will give a concert on Saturday, February 15, at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $40. For more information, call 288-1100 or visit whbpac.org.