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Inspiration drives Orton
Picture: supplied Beth Orton

It's been six years since Beth Orton brought us Comfort of Strangers, and a lot has changed for the English folk songstress in that time. She's fallen in love and married her occasional opening act and on-stage duet partner Sam Amidon, had two kids, hit 40, and was dropped by her record label.

She returns with her sixth album, the grounded-in- nature Sugaring Season. Currently on tour in the US, Orton is doing solo shows in much the same fashion as her Australian tour earlier in the year, which hit the Quarry Amphitheatre.

"I'm finding it's just lovely to reintroduce myself and the songs," an exhausted Orton says. "It went really well in Australia. It was a lovely experience and I think people quite like it. It's harder work than if I had a full band, but at the same time it just feels like it's something important for me to do."

After taking a break from writing songs after the birth of her first child, she knew she had to get back to work when the second came along.

"When I got pregnant the second time, I thought it was now or never for a new record; otherwise it'll be another five years," she says. "I was too pregnant to record but by the time I was ready I realised I had a lot of material accumulated. Years have passed but I'm glad I didn't release stuff too early."

Orton had to change her approach to songwriting over the past half decade thanks to the arrival of her babies. "In many ways it's changed me," she says.

"A bit of writing in the middle of the night goes on. A bit of not writing in the middle of the night; a bit of finding the discipline to write at other times."

Featuring a couple of joint efforts with folk monster M. Ward and long-time collaborator and Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands, Orton says a lot of her songs came about through changing her habitat in the past few years.

"I spend a lot of my time in nature," she says. "I wrote a lot of it in Vermont but I also wrote in the dead centre of London. I always have a great longing for nature and I think it brings out the best in me."