With a year passed since her last foray in Australia, Martha Wainwright is set to tour here again shortly. After spending the past year finishing up a record, writing a book, touring some more and raising a family, in a few weeks Wainwright will revisit our shores, bringing her latest record Goodnight City in tow.
“We will try to make it sound like the new record,” Wainwright explains about the direction of the upcoming Australian shows. “In my shows, I will always put a certain amount of solo stuff on the guitar. It’s a band show but it’ll have some quieter bits.”
Goodnight City. Wainwright’s fourth solo studio album and her first in four years, is different from previous records, with Wainwright saying it is less introspective than her other work.
“With this record, I try to be a little bit more forward gazing and write about myself to an extent than more through the stories and images.
“[The songs] are really forward and outward, they are looking into the future. Maybe in the past, my music was a little more introverted in terms of the songwriting.”
Martha Wainwright – Around The Bend
The record itself spans different genres, from folk to jazz to ballads. Wainwright says she allowed herself to be more explorative in her singing and musical styles in contrast to her earlier career.
“When I started making music, the audience really want you to define yourself as one thing. I really tried to find a category.
“I don’t think I did it very well, I was just confused and myself. With this record I may make this record a particular sound, I am going to allow myself to sing in this jazzy way on this song or groovy on another.”
As well as many original songs, Goodnight City features a number of tracks written by other artists including Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, Michael Ondaatje and Glen Hansard.
“I am singing other people’s songs on half the record,” explains Wainwright. “I am imbuing them into the song.” One particular curiosity within the album is inside the track Before the Children Came Alone where Wainwright name drops all the Australian state capitals lyrically.
Listen: Martha Wainwright – Before The Children Came Along
When quizzed about the track’s Australian connection, Wainwright says it is about the conception of one of her children. “Last time I was over there with my husband Brad Albetta and our son just over three years ago, why I say ‘we made love in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth’ was because we were attempting to conceive a second child which then did come.”
“The other band members conceived in Australia too,” she adds, “so there must be something in the water.” Bringing her children on tour “as much as she can”, Wainwright hopes the touring life has rubbed off on her children “in a positive way”.
“Certainly in Australia, it was great for my first son who has been there three times.
“Staying up a bit later, meeting people and travelling and having to adapt to that and seeing wonderful places, I think the tour has adapted to the children.”
Music is very family-driven with Wainwright, being the daughter of both Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle – both folk musicians. “I come from a musical family – we’ve always played together, sung on the last record. I made a record with my sister – Dad has produced some of my records. That’s sort of how I have done it.
“I don’t think it’s that uncommon to surround yourself with family, especially if you have kids, it becomes practical.
“Having been brought up by musicians as well, now I’m bringing up my kids along into this life. We’ve now started a multi-generational thing.”
When asked if she would like her children to follow in her footsteps, Wainwright is hesitant.
“Yes and no. It depends on the day. It depends on the venue I played and how big the cheque is I am getting.
“Some days it seems like a great job and other days it really doesn’t – there is not a lot of security in it. That what parents sometimes want for their kids, but there’s a lot of joy in it and a lot of freedom in it.”
Martha Wainwright will play as part of this year’s Twilight at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo concert series and her own headline shows. See details here. ‘Goodnight City‘ is out now.