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Martha Wainwright Interview (Part 1)

March 25, 2009

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Around this time last year I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Martha Wainwright for my radio show on 2SER while she was doing a promo tour for her just released album at the time called I Know You’re Married But I Have Feelings Too.

It was actually a while since I had done any music interviews, so I felt a little underprepared and slightly nervous chatting to her. And the opportunity arose quite quickly, so I kind of was caught unaware.

Martha herself was battling a severe cold that day too, and so was feeling worse for wear on a trip where she really wanted to be at her singing best. But nevertheless, we trudged on through the interview the best we could and the result is what you will see over my next few posts here on njv.

So enough delay, here is the first part of my chat with Martha Wainwright.
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PP: Do you enjoy being in the studio?

MW: I like the studio process plenty. That’s done now for a while ‘cause I was in the studio for a year for a year making this record – actually more if I think about it taking into account the mixing and everything like that. So right now I’m kinda over it, but I really enjoy. I like to sing back ups, do a lot of layering and sing a lot of harmonies to while being in a studio as well, so I really, just (pause) enjoy it. That’s my fun time!

There’s some sort of choral element to this album, especially in the first track of your album called “Bleeding All Over You”, that choral element makes that song in particular, more dramatic.

Brad, my producer and husband who did this record and also produced my first record too was elemental to that. I just wrote pretty much all these songs with voice and guitar only and they worked that way. What I generally do is from that, I just start layering things and from that the music demands more. Things like adding some bongo’s and then you’re like “Ohh… I might add some horns now”.

From that it becomes more a production idea and so it generates more from him. I like to sing in the studio. It’s what I can do. So I always end up going into the booth and take a lot of tracks with me and then from that I create that choral sound. That, and some other elements.

Your first album had a lot of guest performers featuring, was it the same deal for this record?

Yes! It probably has more guest performers on it! It has my family – my mama’s singing and playing on the “See Emily Play” song which is a cover of a Pink Floyd recording. Rufus is on the record singing on a song – his unmistakable voice is to be adored! (laughs). Pete Townsend also playing guitar on a couple of songs. Garth Hudson from The Band is also playing keyboards and lastly Donald Fagen is playing some synths on one of the songs.

Wow! You’ve rounded up some talent!

Yes! You obviously didn’t get the press release! (laughs)

(also laughing along with Martha) Nah, all I have here is you’re little wonderful album here to go off…

Oh that’s OK! It’s good and nice to hear that the tracks can speak for itself.

Taking a look at the track listing and also listening to the tracks, it feels to me that there is a theme of love and relationships emulating for you on this album. Do you have a fascination there with that theme?

You know, I think I do have this fascination with relationships. I think that also that love is always a major theme for me, and it’s not necessarily love with a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a husband, but it’s also about relationships with family. There’s also a song about a relationship I had with a friend of mine who killed himself.

There’s songs about relationships with war and what I am watching on television and intertwined with that are songs about my feelings on religion, or my lack of religion. I definitely like to write in the first person and make references to “you”. I like to say these things to, sort of, bring it into perspective.

Do you find that daunting sometimes? Opening up of your feelings about all these topics?

Well, I think the more personal a song, the more universal that song is. Playing these songs, I’ve seen people appreciate the willingness to open up and expose yourself, because I think a lot of people can identify with what I’m singing about. Or hopefully they can! It’s kind of my job as a songwriter.

Martha Wainwright website myspace
Part 2 of my interview with Martha coming soon.

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