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Canadian singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright coming soon to Cambridge

Martha Wainwright comes from a very musical family. Daughter of Cambridge Folk Festival favourite Loudon and sister of Rufus, her late mother Kate McGarrigle was also a highly respected musician.

Martha Wainwright. Picture: Gaelle Leroyer
Martha Wainwright. Picture: Gaelle Leroyer

Martha has enjoyed a successful career in her own right and her latest album, Love Will Be Reborn, came out last Friday (August 20). As well as being her first since 2016’s Goodnight City, it was also the mother-of-two’s first since 2012’s acclaimed Come Home to Mama to feature so much original material, as all 11 tracks on Love Will Be Reborn were written by the artist herself.

Martha penned what would become the title track a few years ago in what was a very dark time for her personally. “I wrote the song [Love Will Be Reborn] in its entirety within 10 or 15 minutes,” she has said of it. “I was bawling.”

The song – and indeed the entire record – was produced by Pierre Marchand, who worked with Rufus Wainwright on his 2001 album, Poses. Recorded in Martha’s hometown of Montreal, Love Will Be Reborn was made in the basement of her café Ursa, which also served as a studio, and at PM Studios in Montreal.

Martha plays guitar and piano and enlisted the help of Toronto musicians Thom Gill (guitars, keyboards), Phil Melanson (drums, percussion) and Josh Cole (bass). Pierre Marchand plays keyboards on Love Will Be Reborn, plus two other tracks, while Morgan Moore plays bass on several songs.

Cambridge fans will be able to hear a number of songs from the new album – plus from Martha’s back catalogue – when the star comes to the Junction at the end of September.

The cover of Martha Wainwright's new album
The cover of Martha Wainwright's new album

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from Canada, the folk/pop musician had some rather positive news. “I’m getting ready to get on a plane next week for the first time in a long time, so that’s very exciting,” she revealed. “I’m going to go see my brother and we are going to do some shows in Europe. We haven’t seen each other for over a year and a half so it’ll be really amazing.”

When we chatted to Rufus back in June, he noted that some of the songs on his latest album, Unfollow the Rules – written and recorded before the pandemic – had a sort of “ominous quality” about them and took on a new kind of relevance as Covid-19 tightened its grip worldwide.

Did Martha find that with any of the songs on Love Will Be Reborn? “There’s one song,” she notes, “and not in the kind of darkness of the pandemic, but there’s a song that’s called Hole in My Heart where I sing in the chorus, ‘Do you want to live alone together?’ – and that’s a phrase that’s been used a lot during the pandemic, or at least here in Quebec.

“‘We all live alone, do you want to live alone with me?’ – that lyric was already there so that was weird... But I don’t know if the record is an expression of the pandemic particularly. There’s a lot of loneliness in [track five] Report Card...

Middle of the Lake – the first song on the record – was written during the pandemic. It’s the last song that I wrote but it’s the first song on the record.” Martha says she’s fared “pretty well” this past year and a half.

“Where we are, in Montreal, we were able to leave our houses, the kids were able to stay in school for most of the year, I was able to do some live-streams from my club – so all in all, compared to a lot of people, I feel like we were able to adapt and still have a life and see people and accomplish things with work, and finishing this record...

“Then I was sort of hibernating, as I think a lot of people have been doing, and it was kind of OK that I didn’t have to perform too much, because I was able to just get the work done – but now I’m ready! I’m really excited.”

Martha Wainwright. Picture: Gaelle Leroyer
Martha Wainwright. Picture: Gaelle Leroyer

Martha has played the Cambridge Folk Festival “a bunch of times” and also went a lot with her dad when she was younger. She notes that she was actually due to curate part of the 2020 edition. “I was supposed to be there for the whole week and then there was even the possibility of doing it this year, but it didn’t happen.

“The Cambridge Folk Festival, for me at least, has probably the strongest sense of the tradition in which my parents came up through, and their connection to the music that grew up in the UK – which is such a huge part of my father’s career and a huge part of my mother’s career, and then a huge part of my career too – and of Rufus’s.

“I think that the Cambridge Folk Festival and what it represents and the kind of music that has happened there and its history is a big part of that story.” Martha says she may well be there curating part of the event in 2022 – “that’s the hope!”

Martha Wainwright is set to perform at the Junction (J1) on Tuesday, September 28. For tickets, go to junction.co.uk. For more on Martha Wainwright, visit marthawainwright.com.

Read more:

‘I’m now officially modern’: interview with Rufus Wainwright

Calexico and Iron & Wine to perform at the Cambridge Folk Festival for the first time

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