Martha Wainwright: "My children saved me from some very self-destructive behaviour"


Jamie Bowman

For the past few years, Martha Wainwright has been trying to write down the details of what has been one of music’s more fascinating stories.

Twenty years since she first started out in the business, the 41-year-old has plenty to talk about – she is a member of one of folk music’s most famous families with Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle as parents and Rufus Wainwright as a brother, but that doesn’t mean she’s finding it easy writing her memoir Stories I Might Regret Telling You.

“It’s been dragging on and the publishers are getting a bit frustrated with me,” she groans.

“It is happening and it’s almost done and I know I’ve been saying that for months, but I want to get it right.

“When you take a long time to write a memoir, which I have, things change so you have to go back and change certain things. Things are moving in a different direction now but you’ll have to read the book to find out why!”

The big change for Martha since her debut album 12 years ago has been her marriage to producer Brad Albetta and the arrival of her two sons, Arcangelo and Francis. Last year’s Goodnight City album contains two songs about Martha’s second child with the self-written Franci featuring alongside Francis, written by Rufus.

“Being a mother has changed everything,” she says, before admitting life as a touring musician is tough on a new parent.

“I have to be more careful because I need to support these children. I have to get up in the morning and try as hard as I can to juggle two things that are not always conducive.

“The world is structured to accommodate people who work 9-5 and people who don’t move around a lot. It’s hard to be a mum and leave for weeks at a time and play in clubs so I have to find a way to take my kids with me if possible.”

Touring used to be a far wilder experience and Martha built up quite a reputation for drinking and partying her way around the UK’s venues.

“My children probably saved me from some very self-destructive behaviour,” she says. “I’m not saying I was going to die or anything but when you’re in your mid-30s and you’ve been on the road a lot and been to your fair share of Glastonburys, you start to get tired. Then you get pregnant and you can’t do that any more and you have to get up and be there for your children.

“For me, becoming a parent was a great thing and allowed me to go into the next phase of my life, which needed to happen anyway.”

Goodnight City recalls the emotional rawness of Martha’s debut album and has had the critics raving. The Canadian-born singer wrote half the songs on the album while the other half were written by friends including Beth Orton, Glen Hansard, Michael Ondaatje and Merrill Garbus of tune-yArDs.

Collaboration has always been important to Martha from her early days singing with her family to her famous duet with Snow Patrol on the hit Set the Fire to the Third Bar.

“As a singer I think because I came out of that folk tradition there is always that need to sing with people and in harmony. I’d always sung with family members as a child so the idea of singing with other people was just normal to me,

“There were lots of different types of music I wanted to do but couldn’t, like pop music or dance music, but collaborating allows me to do that, so I can sing with Gary Lightbody on a hit record and also sing with more traditional singers. I’m a musical slut basically!”

Martha originally sang backup for Rufus and the pair have continued to work together ever since.

“We always work together,” she laughs. “We just can’t seem to stop.

“Sometimes we need to take a break but the tide just keeps bringing us back together. For a long time I was resistant to it but now I’ve completely embraced it and I think Rufus has, too. Since our mum died, we’ve come together to raise money for her foundation by performing Christmas shows and tribute shows.”

Asserting her own independence away from her family was always a tricky challenge but a lot of those demons now seem to have been laid to rest.

“I’m more comfortable with it now. I think I needed to get 10 or 15 years under my belt, put out my own records and tour the world.

“It was about thinking ‘well, this is what I can bring to the table’ and that was a very important process for me. I was really in awe of the people around me and I questioned my own role in the family.

“In each family you have these roles and it was an important part of growing for me to go out and see who was in there and achieve some independence.”

After a stunning run of dates earlier this year, including shows with Ed Harcourt at London’s Roundhouse and Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Martha is returning for eight UK dates, including a show at Wrexham’s William Aston Hall.

“The UK is my home away from home. My father lived there when I was younger and we would spend a lot of time in London and travelling around the UK with our parents.

“It’s also where my career was first launched and that happens to a lot of American and Canadian songwriters.

“Maybe there’s something that just connects with an UK audience.” 

Martha Wainwright plays Wrexham's William Aston Hall on Wednesday July 12 / Box Office No: 0844 888 9991 / Website -
Doors: 7.00pm / Tickets: £25.00



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