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Baker's Dozen

A Tower Of Songs: Martha Wainwright's Favourite Albums
Elizabeth Aubrey , February 8th, 2017 10:25

In a revealing Baker's Dozen interview Martha Wainwright discusses family, love, parenthood and music with Elizabeth Aubrey. Portrait by Carl Lessard


Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Heartbeat's Accelerating
Loudon Wainwright III - Attempted Moustache

I'm always on the edge of emotionality – I'm always ready to cry and my heart is very open to strong feelings of sadness. It's still really hard for me to listen to my mother's music. I'm no longer as haunted by her death – it's now been almost seven years since she died. Finally, in the last couple of years I've moved into a new stage of accepting what it is – a new reality. But of course when I hear her sing, it brings a lot of that back. I've also done all of these tribute shows – there hasn't been one in a while – but in the five years after my mother died, I think Rufus and I did maybe four tribute shows. I've sung a lot of her songs and there are usually two, sometimes three [of her songs] in my own set. I find that the easiest way to listen to her music is to actually interpret it myself because to have to hear her is still hard.

With Attempted Moustache, which is one of my father's early records, one of the things I remember the most about it is how much my mother loved it and we listened to it a lot as kids in our family house in Canada. After a few drinks my mother would often put the record on, as a way to remind herself, as a way to torture herself too of course [after their separation]. I listened to them as a way to listen to my father and to try to get to know him. I appreciated it very much that he put a lot of hismself into his songs – it really was a window into him and it's a really big influence on me. I look like him a lot when I'm singing which is not always the best thing! There are just some undeniable similarities – I am very thankful for those genes that he has given me.

I think 'The Man Who Couldn't Cry' on Attempted Moustache is an amazing song; Johnny Cash also covered that song. On Heartbeat's Accelerating, I think for me the gem is the song 'I Eat Dinner' about my mother's loneliness; I guess she wrote that when she was about 43. In the lyrics she says "I eat dinner with my daughter who is 13". I just remember two years of living in an apartment with her; Rufus had just gone and it was me as a teenager, her just coming into her mid-forties and being alone. It was just that new reality of womanhood when you're no longer young. There's a fear that something is over; it's a really amazing song.