Getty | Getty A lot of people might say that their mom is a rock star. But…
- Posted on Oct 23rd 2012 3:30PM by Lonny Knapp
Gareth Cattermole, Getty
We meet at Toronto's Pravda Vodka Bar, a lavish Russian-themed cocktail bar complete with a bust of Lenin perched over the door, over 70 types of vodka on the rail, and Soviet propaganda posters on the walls.
Slipping in to a booth, she smells something foul. There it is, a fresh turd on the bottom of her pump.
That little gift is compliments of the owner's dog: a low to the ground number, a beagle perhaps. It's one of those embarrassing, funny and completely unexpected moments that people love to share over social media, but Martha issn't about to tweet about it.
"I'm lazy with social media," she tells Spinner. "What am I going to tweet about? I say so much in my songs and it's already all there."
Those that prefer light-hearted pop music be forewarned; Wainwright's recently released third solo effort, Come Home to Mama, which features the singer huddled nude on its cover, finds Wainwright at her most exposed.
When writing the record, Wainwright was reeling from the two most significant events of her life; the birth of her son Arcangelo in November in 2009, and the death of her mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle, from cancer just two and a half months later.
The spirits of loss and rebirth haunt the record, and it's heavy stuff.
"I could not fall apart when my mother died, because I had a very young baby, and I did not want to fall into a depression and be unavailable for my child. So, when I started writing songs, I allowed a lot of my feelings to come out," says Wainwright.
The album's soul is revealed in a pair of frank musical conversations -- one from daughter to mother, and the other from mother to child.
On the subdued "All Your Clothes" Wainwright asks her mother for guidance as she cleans out her closet. If you've ever lost a loved one and found yourself in a room full of boxes talking to someone who is no longer there, you will relate.
"That was the first song I wrote after she died. It took me a few months to pick up the guitar and start writing songs, and obviously, I wasn't going to sit down and write a song about my dog," she says. "I just needed to find a way to approach this thing without being maudlin, or depressive. This was how I was talking to her after she died; I was looking for guidance, trying to find some connection, and just trying to hear anything back."
The heartbreaking closer, "Everything Wrong," was captured live as she taught the changes to her studio band. The musicians provide tenuous accompaniment as Wainwright pours her heart out to Arcangelo, her then-newborn son, revealing a grown-up world where spouses cheat, parents die, happiness is fleeting, and a mother's love is unconditional.
"That was the last song I wrote, and it came out through a lot of tears," Wainwright said. "I just want things to be easier for him. Life is hard, and I want him to feel protected."
The daughter of divorced folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, and sister to composer and pop star Rufus Wainwright, Martha hails from the first family of confessional folk-pop. For the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan, spilling their guts out in song is a family tradition. In fact, you can actually follow some of their family crises in song cycles.
Take "Your Mother and I," Loudon's explanation to his children as he leaves their mother, and "In C," his look back at the same events some 30 years later, mix in McGarrigle's bid adieu to her wayward husband "Go Leave," and the heartbreaking portrait of a lonely single mother, "I Eat Dinner." Now sprinkle in Martha's "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" and Rufus's "Dinner at Eight," the visceral odes to their absentee father, and it's all there -- a complete cycle of hurt, angst, resentment, but above all, love -- played out like some dysfunctional family pop opera.
Martha Wainwright writes the type of confessional, over-sharing, and touchy feely songs that makes some emotion-adverse music fans queasy. But that same candor makes fans feel they are suffering her every tragedy and celebrating her every triumph. Still, you have to wonder if she feels there is anything too personal to share in a song.
"Sure," she says with a laugh. "But we won't talk about that now."