Come Home To Mama is Martha Wainwright’s third album of original material and her first since 2008’s I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too. Since then, a lot has happened in the Wainwright family. Martha gave birth to her and husband Brad Albetta’s first child and her mother, singer/songwriter Kate McGarrigle, passed away. These two events weigh heavily on Come Home To Mama.
Sonically, Martha is in uncharted territory as well. She’s employed Yuka Honda, former member of Cibo Matto, to produce the album. Honda, in turn, has employed musicians Sean Lennon, Nels Cline and Jim White to play on the record.
“Really any kind of credit musically for this record I would really put into Yuka’s lap,” confesses Martha. “Also what I think that she did really beautifully is that she didn’t make a Yuka Honda record. I had gone to her thinking, ‘Oh I want a sort of more keyboard-based electronic album’. And right away I think she realized very quickly that that’s not what I do. Keeping my voice and guitar and my songwriting at the center but then also beautifully drawing a painting around it and creating these musical soundscapes or musical landscapes or whatever that fitted but are also very different for me.”
Wilco guitarist Nels Cline is married to Honda, which explains his involvement in the project.
“I think a lot of the time they liked to work at night. They’re kind of like night owls. I think when he was between dates with Wilco he’d come home and Yuka would be in the studio and it was a time for them to spend together. I think they liked doing that. So they totally…they did it all themselves. They had total free reign.”
“They’d do many different takes and I would come and pick the one that I liked and we would choose them together. I’ve always liked things that are a little bit out there and I think on my previous records I was a little more afraid to do certain things and I’ve abandoned that fear and let it go. And the record…there’s a heaviness to it, there’s a sadness and there’s an anger and I think that that needed to be reflected and some things that are out of control, in a way.”
The album actually begins with Wainwright apologizing on the song I Am Sorry.
“Well, I’m a very apologetic person, that’s true. I just think it’s a good beginning because it starts with me singing so it’s fun to kick off the record with a voice. It’s a very heavy song, it kind of jumps out of the speakers. So it’s a tone…sort of like, “I’m here!” It’s pretty much an announcement, that song, even though it is kind of angsty. It’s my angst announcement. “
One of the most intensely personal songs is All Your Clothes, which sounds like it was written to her late mother.
“When I was writing All Your Clothes, it would take me a long time to write it because I would break out into tears all the time and I couldn’t see anything. I had to stop and get a hold of myself. I’ve always written songs about my life and my feelings and my family, but of course, in this record those feelings have reached new heights of intensity in terms of writing songs about your dead mother, or, in the case of Everything Wrong, about your new child. It’s like what I was before on steroids, basically.”
New Zealand audience had the opportunity to watch Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert For Kate McGarrigle, at this year’s film festival in which Martha and her brother Rufus pay tribute to their late mother’s songs. The concert film, shot in New York City, was another extremely emotional event for Martha.
“It was really emotional but it was really important to try and keep it together. In the film I end up crying at the end. I waited, you know, I needed to wait, because if I started earlier crying and let the floodgates open it would never have ended. It was really hard because you almost have to be more stoic than you really want to be. But then, when your guard is down, the fact of what’s happening takes over and it’s amazing seeing the only small amount of silver lining in this dark cloud, which has been being able to play and to show the world Kate’s music.”
Click here to listen to Leave Behind from Come Home To Mama:
Click here to listen to the 13th Floor interview with Martha Wainwright: