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Martha Wainwright On New Motherhood, And A Mother Lost

Martha Wainwright's newest album, <em>Come Home to Mama</em>, was inspired by the death of her mother and birth of her son, which happened about two months apart.
Courtesy of the artist
Martha Wainwright's newest album, Come Home to Mama, was inspired by the death of her mother and birth of her son, which happened about two months apart.

You can't tell the story of Martha Wainwright without talking about family. Her father is Loudon Wainwright III, her mother, Kate McGarrigle — both legends of the 1970's folk scene. Along with her brother, Rufus, she followed her parents into the music world.

In November 2009, Martha Wainwright started a family of her own with the birth of her son. Two months later, she would lose family: Her mother died of cancer at age 63. Wainwright's new album, Come Home to Mama, is largely inspired by those two life-altering events. She discusses it here with NPR's Jacki Lyden.

Interview Highlights

On growing up slowly

"I think my mother was always worried about me when she was alive. Being the second child and playing music — which was something that everybody in my family did — I think I lacked any real self-confidence about what I was doing. I was kind of a misfit, and when my mother died, I had to become an adult, something that I never thought I would ever be."

On covering her mother's last song, "Proserpina"

"Before I started making this record, I recorded this song because I wanted to claim it as my own. A few people had heard it when she performed it at the Royal Albert Hall, and I just felt that, really, it was a gift to me. When I recorded it, just soon after she died, it was really in a state of disbelief where I thought that if I sang it like her, if I closed my eyes and sang it well enough, that maybe when I opened them she would reappear."

On embracing adulthood

"It's very interesting to have gone from essentially a pot-smoking hippie, living in a one-room [apartment] in Williamsburg and writing songs, to someone who now is concerned with women's health. ... It's just crazy; I don't know what happened. I should have probably started earlier — maybe not having children, but just getting responsible."

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