Martha Wainwright - Homeward Bound
Martha Wainwright

A new baby, a new album and the death of her beloved mother impact Martha Wainwright’s latest album, Come Home to Mama.

Upheaval and loss can often be a catalyst for creativity. For singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright, the birth of her first son, Arcangelo, followed closely by her mother’s death (singer Kate McGarrigle) was to impact her fourth album, Come Home to Mama.

Given the circumstances, you would expect Come Home to Mama to be a sad affair. Still, you will be in for a surprise, as was Wainwright during the creative process: “Although I thought I would write an album that would be very introspective after my mother’s death – the songs that were coming out were fast, with poppy chords and had a kind of poppy lyric, and I realised ‘oh – this is something different’ – yes it’s pithy and angry, but it’s almost fun.”

The discovery was a welcome one for Wainwright, who, given the birth of her son, had to pick up the pieces and soldier on, despite her mother’s passing. “I had to be strong for my son,” she says. “I couldn’t afford to fall into a depression. I had a baby to look after, so I had to buck up. It was also about not wanting to fail my mother – she was always so strong, always looking out for me and worrying about me.”

Wainwright says she “didn’t want the record to be overly maudlin”. Instead, the singer found her grief taking a different tone. “Something like the song ‘I Want to Make an Arrest’ is quite upbeat, and you could put that funky bass line on, and it sounds almost like Talking Heads. But it’s about Kate dying and how I wanted to arrest time and turn things around.”

Indeed it was an exciting experience for the singer-songwriter: “When you’re walking around with so many conflicting feelings – of sadness – but also a joy because of the new baby – I didn’t want it to end in a puddle of tears,” she finishes.

Still, writing Come Home to Mama was for Wainwright, much like any other creative experience.

“I think that I started to feel nervous and upset, and then realised I haven’t written a song in a long time, and I feel like ‘oh my god, I’m not being productive’. And that’s when I have to keep up with all the things I want to continue to be able to do – like make records and exercise my brain in this art form.”

She continues: “So I get fidgety and freaked out and put down the vacuum and cooking knives and diapers and bring my ass upstairs and close the door and try to tune into what it is I’ve done since a young adult – a feeling – it can be pretty self-indulgent – but hopefully worth it and I make something interesting out of what I’m feeling with some interesting chords or a funny voice, and I spin it all into a dress someone might want to wear.”

The main creative change for Wainwright came about during the production process; what were essentially guitar and voice tracks became these “pretty produced pop songs. But that’s what the songs were asking for,” she says.

Most of all, Wainwright admits she is eager to take these new tracks out on the road. “I’m looking forward to it – my husband and I, Brad, had our first child, and we bought a house, and I’ve been enjoying making dinner and doing home things, but I can tell you we’re looking forward to getting on the bus and having the room cleaned up by that cleaning lady.”