Interview: Martha Wainwright

Interview with Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright


Following the death of her mother and the birth of her son, Martha Wainwright focused on channeling all her sadness and joy into a remarkable new album called Come Home To Mama. We caught up with the singer-songwriter to find out all about it.

Questions and answers

Hey Martha, how are you doing? Where are you today?

I’m great! I’m at home in Brooklyn.

Congratulations on the new album, it’s great! Were there any specific musical reference points for this record?

Yuka C. Honda, the producer, was inspired by the Blade Runner soundtrack for songs like ‘Leave Behind’. The record has a futuristic but 70s sound so it’s a mix of old and new. There is a slightly surreal but funky vibe on the record. Yuka is a master at creating a soundscape.

How did the process of writing and recording Come Home To Mama compare to that of your previous albums?

Well, it was different in that my life was changed dramatically by my mother’s death and the birth of my son. I felt an urgency to write songs because I had a lot of conflicting emotions, and also because it had been a while since my last album. For me, it marks the beginning of a stage in life and hopefully a truer expression of what I do.

How do you feel you’ve progressed artistically since your last album?

Well, on this record I’ve returned to the personal but that is probably because of the circumstances out of which the record was written. I think the music, although very layered, is more sophisticated and better realised.

What attracted you to work with the producer, Yuka C. Honda?

I love Yuka as a person and as an artist. It was actually my husband’s idea to work with her on this record. He knew I wanted to work with a woman, and that she would be meticulous and caring of the project.

Was her approach different to the male producers you’ve worked with previously?

The whole experience was different than other recordings I’ve done in the past because it was done mostly in her house. A lot of it was also done without me there, which was great because the results were so good that I was happy to have the time to go for lunch and take walks. And I think Yuka is good at keeping things focused.

As you mentioned, a lot has happened in your personal life since you released the last album. Do you feel you drew on those experiences for this record?

Yeah. The main theme on this record is death and rebirth, I believe. ‘Proserpina’, my mother’s song, is the centrepiece of the album and it is the most important song, because although this is a record about my life, to a degree it is also about things we cannot control. I think, also, there is an underlying tone of fear, but a strength in the vocal and production so there is a duality created. I am complaining a lot but there is also a will and want to succeed and move forward.

‘Proserpina’ is absolutely beautiful. Can you tell us a little more about it, please?

It is the last song my mother wrote. She wrote it just a few months before she died and I recorded it soon after she died, long before I recorded anything else. In some ways, ‘Proserpina’ was the last gift my mother gave me and it continues to help me because people are so moved by it.

Do you have a favourite song on the record?

I like the last song ‘Everything Wrong’. It’s very straightforward and it’s a song for my son.

So, can you tell us about your forthcoming tour, please?

Well, I funded it through PledgeMusic: I needed the financial help to tour with musicians so that I can play this record in a way that sounds like the album. And for the upcoming shows, my guitarist and his wife who sings backup for me will be opening. They are old friends and he is one of the founders of Broken Social Scene. They go under the name AroarA.

Ok, if you hadn’t been a musician, what do you think you’d have done instead? And are you keen for your son to continue the Wainwright legacy?

I have no idea if I would be a musician or not. It seemed the normal thing to do. As for my son, he’s two so I’ll wait to see what seems to really interest him.

Finally, what’s been the highlight so far, and what would you like to achieve ultimately?

This album feels like a highlight and I would like to have a stronger and larger following ultimately, I suppose. I would like to be able to tour on a tour bus always, because that would be the easiest way to go with my son. In fact, my dream is to have my own train car and hitch it to trains and do tours that way.