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In the middle of a week dedicated to Tracey Thorn (read the review of her new album Record here, and come back on Friday for a new interview with the English singer/songwriter/author) Wind Back Wednesday returns to 2007 as Thorn emerged with her first solo album in 25 years. “I need to set myself a challenge,” she told me.


Tracey Thorn never loved the limelight during 16 years with Everything But The Girl.

As the English duo, who met at university in 1981, moved from jazzy pop to jangly pop to sophisticated adult fare and then, in a surprising but very successful left turn, to dance floor favourites, there were two constants.

One was Thorn's languorous voice which could lend a degree of warmth and class to anything she touched. The other was that when it came to mucky stuff like publicity, Thorn left that to her musical partner and husband Ben Watt.

The media came to understand that a bit like Mariah Carey doesn't do stairs, Tracey Thorn doesn't do interviews.

On hearing this description today Thorn breaks into gales of laughter. "Well that's more understandable than not doing stairs, surely?" she asks. "But now there's no Ben to do the interviews so I can't hide behind anyone which I am realising now is a great drawback of doing a solo record."

Seven years after Thorn and Watt retired the Everything But The Girl name while she raised their three children and he became an in-demand DJ and producer, and 25 years after her solo debut, Distant Shore, Thorn has a second solo album.

It's called Out Of The Woods, a title with more than one meaning for a woman who didn't sing a note in the studio for five years and who many, including Thorn, assumed might never return to the fray.

These new songs spin from gentle acoustic numbers and songs with languid melodies over slow beats to unabashed '80s nightclub sounds and tracks primed for thumping sound systems in Ibiza.

It's almost like a peek inside a favourites list on Thorn's iPod, a counter to those who assumed, as she wittily puts it, that all she's ever wanted was " to go out and knit a folk album".

"When I started there was part of me that was thinking I could do a real little acoustic, very tightly focused type of record that starts in one mood and carries on like that," says Thorn who, belying that old reputation, is relaxed and amused throughout this conversation.

"I did flirt with that idea for a while but I just thought I am going to be playing into the hands of people who think ' that's the real Tracey Thorn'. Some people have this idea because Ben has gone on to do the DJing and running the label, he must have led me astray into dance music."

The truth is otherwise as the 44-year-old Thorn can still occasionally be found on the dancefloor (once babysitters have been arranged) and advises those of us of a similar age not to fear being seen doing what teenagers derisively refer to as "embarrassing dad moves".

"Don't be ashamed," she says. "Dad moves are fun too."

Speaking of dads, Thorn could conceivably have come back to recording with Watt as part of EBTG or had him produce her, but she chose not to. Why?

"Getting into the situation where Ben had his work DJing and running the label and I was doing the mum work at home we actually found it worked out really easily, it was an easier life balance,' Thorn explains. "It leaves a bit more space for you to be a couple, especially when you've got kids.

"Then I think the other side was it was me coming back to work in thinking I need to set myself a challenge of really having to do it and not just creeping back and letting Ben do a lot of the work. I had got a bit lazy on the last couple of Everything But The Girl records."

It's hard to accept the "lazy" comment even if the only complaint you could have made about the last EBTG album,Temperamental, was that Thorn's vocal contributions were much smaller than normal. After all she did have a few other things on her mind.

"I had two, year-old babies when I was recording the vocals for that in our studio in the basement of the house we lived in at the time," she explains. "I was doing the vocals in the evening with a baby monitor in the corner of the room, waiting for one or other of them to wake up screaming."

Not this time though. The album was recorded while the children were at school, the producers were some of the brighter names in dance music and Thorn relished the chance to release her "slightly obsessive, nerdy side" in the studio.

As she says: "I wanted to set the bar higher for myself."

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