Martha Wainwright heads to the Cab Fest with a new album, Come Home to Mama, in tow and a set that will cover her four-album career as well as honouring her mother, the late Kate McGarrigle.
Come Home To Mama includes the heartbreaking account of Wainwright’s loss, All Your Clothes. She thinks writing about her mother’s death (McGarrigle died from cancer in 2010) prolongs the grieving process as well as helping her work through it.
“It’s nice to keep people close to you, even though it’s sad,” Wainwright explains. “I don’t want to forget my mother and the circumstances in which she died were quite traumatising because she was young and she was a big part of my life. Certainly when I wrote a lot of these songs there was a lot of sadness and I wrote them through tears, but when I was finished I was relieved that I had done something. It was a way to help with some of the grief, a way to turn something that seems dismal into something that seems creative and artistic. It certainly does prolong it as you say, particularly singing it over and over, but this record is very representational of what I was going through at a certain time and that hasn’t changed. I also want to continue to honour the songs and sing them for many years to come. I don’t think you ever really get over losing a parent – it will always be a defining moment in my life.”
Coming from a musical family (dad Loudon, brother Rufus, auntie Anna and, as mentioned, mother Kate) Martha’s first Australian tour was a family affair with her mother, brother and auntie.
“It was amazing and I think in many ways it was probably the beginning of my willingness to accept the beauty and benefits of working together. When I was starting off, I was Rufus’ backing singer for a couple of years and I always felt slightly frustrated being in the background or shadow of my family, which I think is normal when you’re in your early 20s, but that tour with my mother and aunt were very democratic. I would do five songs, Rufus would do five songs, they would do five songs and then we’d do five songs together. It was sort of like the beginning of a vision that my mother in particular always had.”
Come Home To Mama was recorded in Sean Lennon’s home studio but she doesn’t think their fathers crossed paths in the ‘70s.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I think we would know that because Loudon would have written a song about it! They might have met, but I’m not sure. What Loudon did do was write a stunning song called Not John when John was shot. I played it for Sean and I think it really moved him very powerfully.”
Given that her father’s song referenced Sean, is it strange to now be friends with him?
“Well a lot of the kids of [famed musicians] through the record business and being the same age and going through the same stuff, a lot of us have converged. Obviously we’ve had different experiences – my parents aren’t as famous as Sean’s and I lived and grew up with them, which was amazing, but I think Rufus and I have gravitated towards a lot of relationships with the kids of folk and rock musicians as you find yourself in a community of young people struggling to make music in the shadow of their parents, which isn’t easy to do. I think the fact that Rufus and I had parents that weren’t as wonderfully successful as Sean’s probably made it a lot easier for us.”
Having collaborated with artists including Snow Patrol and Hole, as well as performing with Patti Smith, one artist Wainwright would love to tick off her bucket wish list is Bob Dylan.
“Even if he wasn’t in the room it would be a blast to have my voice recorded and attached to his. I’ve met him and even introduced my mother to him about five or six years ago at a show in New York and he proceeded to talk to her for about 45 minutes, quoting her songs and he knew all about her music. I think it absolutely changed her perception of her own career and she was completely jazzed by it. She was practically moved to tears and it was a huge moment in her life. He is still an illusive character and those kinds of opportunities would have to come from the gods, I think.”
WHO: Martha Wainwright
WHEN: Thu Jun 20
WHERE: Dunstan Playhouse (Adelaide Festival Centre)