"If you’d asked me a couple of years ago, I think I’d have said I’d retired,” says Tracey Thorn, reflecting on her extended hiatus from music in the wake of her recent return. “I really had drifted off into another world where I was completely happy and not missing it at all.”
That other world was populated not just by Ben Watt, her partner in life and in duo Everything But the Girl, but also by the couple’s three children. Last year, however, with their youngest having started school, Thorn suddenly found herself with time on her hands. “And I thought, well, I’ve got to get back to doing something,” she recalls.
Her first impulse was to write an autobiography, an exercise that made her realize how much she loved being a musician. “I think it reminded me a little bit of who I was,” says Thorn. So she quit writing about making music and began recording a new album. The result is Out of the Woods, the 44-year-old singer/songwriter’s first solo album since 1981’s A Distant Shore and her first full-length studio effort since EBTG’s Temperamental in 1999.
Like Temperamental, Woods is electronica-based, with Ewan Pearson (Goldfrapp) producing, and features collaborations with some of clubland’s finest, including English house mix master Charles Webster, Cagedbaby, and Alex Santos of Darkmountaingroup, which is signed to Watt’s well-respected underground-house label, Buzzin’ Fly.
Some of the disc is aimed at the dance floor, including first single “It’s All True” and the slinky cover of ’80s NYC avant-disco maven Arthur Russell’s “Get Around to It,” with sax supplied by The Rapture’s Gabe Andruzzi. But Thorn has always been a writer who understands the walking wounded, so Woods also has a fair share of downtempo numbers, including “A-Z,” about gay teens being bullied at school, and the gossamer opener, “Here It Comes Again.”
Thorn’s many fans will be disappointed to know she’s “completely” set aside her memoir and has no plans to tour, but they can take comfort in the news that she fully expects to make another album. “I do feel like I enjoyed doing it,” says Thorn, “and it’d be a shame to stop again.”