Martha keeps it in the familyBy Linda Serck
June 20, 2008
Martha Wainwright picks up the phone and goes through the “Hello, how are you?” etiquette in her sweet-tinged though sleepy voice.
The sister of Rufus Wainwright and the daughter of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and
Kate McGarrigle, the Canadian folk rocker is over in Europe to promote her second album I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too.
So how was the weekend for the Wainwright clan’s latest offering?
“The weekend? The weekend doesn’t really have any meaning to me,” she says.
“I’m in Glasgow, we’re on tour, we started our tour in Scandinavia since the album’s been out, we’re driving round the country, zig-zagging our way through.”
So it seems all days blur into one for the 32-year-old, whose happy marriage to producer and musician Brad Albetta comes in stark contrast to the neurotic confessionals of her album, and certainly its title.
So in light of her contented union does the album then probe into unrequited loves and other traumas from the past?
“Some of them are about past issues but a lot of them are about things that still haunt me,” she says.
“For this album I think there are songs where I looked outside myself a little bit more than perhaps on the first.
“That was very inward in the subject matter and very autobiographical. I think it’s what you call ‘naval gazing’,” she says.
“As I’m getting a little older I’m able to realise that there’s much more sad things and desperate things other than my own life to sing about and talk about!”
The title of the album she regards as a product of her dry humour.
“I think it’s a funny title, and it’s a phrase that I like and also a phrase that exemplifies my writing style a bit.”
Among the collaborations on the album with brother Rufus, mum Kate, aunt Anna McGarrigle and cousin Lily Lakin. Other luminaries on there include Pete Townshend and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.
“It’s not so much about cameo appearances as it is about Pete and Donald happening to be in the studio at the time and just picking up an instrument and very casually performing – it’s not that big a deal,” Martha says.
“They’re both friends and fans and I’d been playing them some music just to get their opinions and asked ‘Would you like to strum on something?’. So it’s really a privilege for me to know these people and just be able to hang out in the studio with them as musician to musician.”
Conspicuous by his absence on the album is her father Loudon, with whom she’s had a turbulent relationship in the past. But she dismisses that as nothing of note, stating firmly that he was just out of town at the time of recording the album.
So does her family’s rich musical background have its drawbacks or is it the leg up we’re all expecting it to be?
“It’s been a leg up in some way,” she offers. “It presents an interesting story that people like to talk about and the press like; so I might get a lot of interviews but I don’t know if it necessarily helps with record sales at the end of the day.
“You have to as an artist be able to prove yourself no matter who you are, and the music needs to speak for itself and be strong.”
And what of tips for unsigned artists and bands?
“I think that the most important thing is that when writing a song is to try and stay connected to your inner truth and your inner self,” she says with sudden alacrity.
“If you want it to last it needs to something that is truly connected to your soul in some way because that’s going to be the most interesting thing.”
* You can hear my interview with Martha on the BBC Berkshire iPlayer at www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire.