After a period of inactivity, William Orbit was ready to make new music. The result is The Painter, an album that’s unmistakably the work of one of pop’s most distinctive musicians, and one that turns exciting new corners as well.
William Orbit is one of the most successful and accomplished record producers in the world with a career that spans six decades, accounts for over 200 million record sales and multiple Grammy and Ivor Novello Award wins. His return to music with The Painter has been with the same passion, inventiveness, and creative desire as his first and features vocal collaborations from an array of artists including Katie Melua, Beth Orton, Polly Scattergood, Ali Love, and more.
“I’m so incredibly happy with it,” Orbit beams. “The last year has been the most creative time I can think of. New toys, new collaborators, new relationships; there are tracks on this album that are up there with my best.”
The album was nearly called, among other things, WFO. (“It stood,” he declares, for “William Fucking Orbit!”). Fate had other plans. “To my surprise, a few years ago I found myself becoming a painter,” he explains. He’d been at a retreat in the Nevada Desert, attempting to give up smoking, when he chanced upon a flyer for “Vino and Van Gogh” adult art classes: you turn up, get drunk and mess around with cheap acrylics. “I fell in love with it, and when I got back to LA I went straight on Amazon, bought tons of oil paints, and got stuck in.”
After a near decade break, the first music to emerge came at the end of 2021 with a one-off EP through Anjunadeep, but it was all building towards The Painter. Each song feels like its own short story, and as ever with William Orbit most songs also come with a tale or two: “Duende,” for instance, came about as a result of an annual New Year session William books in the studio deep within Las Vegas’ Palms Casino. “We were working with hip-hop artists when Katie Melua arrived: nobody knew who she was. She sat down, picked up an acoustic guitar and started to sing ‘Duende’. Jaws dropped. will.i.am went: ‘I need to sign this woman.’ I was like, “will, she’s already taken, she’s quite famous already.” Then there’s “I Paint What I See,” a track with Beth Orton that started off as a spoken word piece a few years back. “Beth was always hard to please,” William smiles. “But I’ve known her so long that I’ll get a shrug and know she likes a song. Good enough for me.”
Beyond an approving shrug from a beloved pal, William has ambitious plans for The Painter. “I want people to hear this,” he states. "En masse" “I’m going to do some amazing versions of the songs, and I’m going to tour it. I’ll work this album really hard! And then, after all this, I’ll go and produce for other artists again and become a pop tart. Because…” He pauses, and with a mix of amazement and relief, he adds: “…I like making music again!”
It's been a career in which Orbit became one of the world's most successful producers for the likes of Blur, Madonna, All Saints, P!nk, Beth Orton, U2, and Robbie Williams. A career that also includes the launch of legendary dance label Guerilla, numerous solo releases such as the Strange Cargo series and the landmark neo-classical album Pieces In A Modern Style. A career that’s taken a journey from underground electronica to primetime Top Of The Pops through projects like '90s band Bass-o-Matic and before that as the producer of comedian Harry Enfield’s single “Loadsamoney (Doin’ Up The House),” which rather improbably became Orbit’s first hit record.