Real name: Elizabeth Caroline Orton
Orton was born in East Dereham, Norfolk, but raised on a pig farm in Norwich for her formative years, before moving to East London at age fourteen. Her father, an architectural draftsman, left her mother when Beth was eleven, and she lived with her mother, an artist and political activist, and her two brothers, her father dying shortly afterwards. Her mother died from cancer in 1989, when Beth was aged 19,, which led to her travelling to Thailand for a short period, residing with Buddhist nuns. Orton found success as a musician relatively late, having first worked at menial jobs such as waitressing at Pizza Hut and even owning her own catering company. She was also more interested in acting during her early career, having enrolled at the Anna Scher Theatre School, and she spent some time touring Une Saison en Enfer with a fringe theatre company throughout the UK, Russia and Ukraine, playing Rimbaud's lover.
It was roughly at this time that she met Ed and Tom of the Chemical Brothers in a pub, and began the first in a series of collaborations, supplying vocals to the track "Alive Alone" on 1995's Exit Planet Dust.
She toured that summer with Lilith Fair, as well as releasing the Best Bit EP, improving on her previous best chart position, reaching #38 in the UK. Central Reservation, her second album (proper), 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 Beth's vocal 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" 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.
A "best of" double album, entitled 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. The highlight of her career arguably came on 31 March 2003, when she played to a packed Royal Albert Hall in London on the last date of her worldwide Daybreaker tour. In addition, she played a tribute concert to Elliott Smith in November.
All of her recent releases are subscribed to be "carbon neutral", whereby a tree is planted in a poor area of Mexico for every certain amount of units produced to offset the emissions generated when pressing the CDs, and other marketing paraphernalia.
She has also been offered the opportunity to return to her first love, acting. Having played the lead female in the independent film Southlander, she was offered to audition for the role of John Cusack's girlfriend in the film High Fidelity, but didn't accept the invitation (the part went to Iben Hjejle). Beth also wrote music for the Erin Brockovich soundtrack. She does state that she would act, if an appropriate part came up for her.