Tracey Thorn has been making music professionally for nearly thirty years, since 1981 when her group The Marine Girls released their début album. Thorn was still at studying English at the University of Hull at the time, which is where she met her future collaborator and husband, Ben Watt.
Watt and Thorn went on to form Everything But The Girl, releasing eleven studio albums between 1984 and 1999. Despite the fact they primarily traded in smooth, contemporary sounds - sometimes labelled “sophisti-pop” - their most famous hit was a remix, with Todd Terry twiddling the knobs to turn Missing into a smash.
Thorn then took time away from the industry, but returns in 2007 with solo album, Out of the Woods. May 2010 saw the release of her second solo album of the 21st Century, Love and its Opposite and ahead of the release, the self-styled “singer, gardener, [and] bedsit disco queen” had time for a quick email chat with No Ripcord.
NR: What are your hopes and expectations for this new album?
TT: My hopes - 5 star reviews all round, universal adulation. My expectations - somewhat lower and more realistic; praise from where you'd expect it, a place in the hearts of those who will get it.
One of the things I love most about your new album is how uncluttered it is and how the songs are given room to breathe. Was that a conscious decision and if so, is it in any way a reaction to the over-produced music which makes up a lot of what’s in the charts?
It was definitely a conscious decision - perhaps more of a reaction to the last record I made than to anything in the charts (which I pay very little attention to). That's not to dismiss my last record, it's just that a lot of it was more of a carefully crafted and arranged "pop" record, so this time I wanted to leave things more stark and minimal. For dramatic effect really.
Speaking of the charts, who are you currently listening to and who is inspiring you?
I've been listening to the new MGMT, and before that to Beach House and the Magnetic Fields. They all inspire in different ways - great lyrics, unusual singing, quirky production ideas.
Even though I haven’t experienced what you describe in [album opener] Oh, The Divorces!, it’s extremely touching and affecting. You also seem to be more able to be more open emotionally in your work than most artists, do you think that’s one of the reasons you inspire such a loyal following?
Yes, my songs are very direct in their approach, so for people who lock onto them, and understand what they're trying to do, the response is quite emotional and personal. People often feel that a song was written for them or about them, in that it seems to sum up something they feel or think.
How did your collaboration with Jens Lekman come about?
I met Jens over the internet, and then in the real world after he played a gig in London. We got on very well and understood each other's approach to music and to making records, so it seemed natural to collaborate. I also think our voices work well together just because of their tone and range.
You’re very active on Twitter - do you see it as a distraction or a way of interacting more with your fanbase?
Haha, it's both! I signed up intending to use it to inform people about the new record etc. Then I got hooked just on the trivia and personal interaction stuff, and so now it is as much a distraction as anything else. But a good one I think, in that it is endlessly funny and involving.
What’s your relationship now with Missing? Does it haunt you or are you still proud of what you achieved?
Oh it doesn't haunt me at all, I rarely even think of it. I'm extremely proud of it, in the way you are of your kids - I'm SORT OF responsible for it, but then it went off and had its own life that was way beyond anything I'd expected for it, or could fully take credit for, so I just looked on in wonder, shaking my head, thinking, "Wow! Is that really one of mine?"
You’re settled and have a family - what drives you to keep writing and making music?
Sometimes nothing, which is why there are long gaps when I don't write or make music. But when it flows back again it is a good feeling, and I enjoy the buzz of having a project on the go, in the back of my mind, notes in a notebook. Then I love the routine of actually going to the studio and physically MAKING a record, I like the practicalities of it. How are the harmonies going to go? Is that bit in tune? I like all that.
What does the future hold for Tracey Thorn?
I don't really know. A bit more promotion in the immediate future, then probably a break over the summer. A dancefloor collaboration I did with Tevo Howard will be out later in the summer. Might try and get a Christmas song recorded at some point too. So - little bits and pieces, and then, who knows?