Sydney - Monday 2 February 2017. Frank, witty and with a backstory that is the stuff of legend, singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright will take a break from her Australian tour to lay her life bare in conversation with James Valentine in the Opera House Studio on 12 March as part of the Sydney Opera House’s year-round Talks and Ideas program.
Daughter of American folk singer and actor Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian folk singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, Martha and her musician brother Rufus have kept the family’s rock royalty status alive – including a tendency to air their dirty laundry in public, on record and on stage.
Wainwright regularly collaborated with her family while studying acting, until the release of her self-titled album in 2005 made it clear she was much more than Rufus’ little sister. Subsequent releases - from I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too to last year’s Goodnight City, via the brilliant live recording of her Piaf tribute Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers - confirmed her as a singer-songwriter and interpreter of rare range, subtlety and force.
Nor has she limited that powerful voice to the stage and studio. A chance meeting with Christy Turlington Burns led Wainwright to contribute her work to the documentary No Woman, No Cry. In 2010, she re-recorded the iconic ‘80s hit Promised You A Miracle with Simple Minds legend Jim Kerr for Oxfam’s appeal to world leaders to prevent needless deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. A year earlier, Martha and her nine-week-premature baby’s lives had been saved by timely medical intervention, something to which she believes all women should have access.
Her Opera House appearance, which includes an audience Q&A, finds Wainwright in reflective mode. She is currently at work on a memoir, entitled Stories I Might Regret Telling You, a chronicle of the “crazy things that happened to me and those around me,” as she told iNews, adding: “I’ve been asked to do it because people know I have a big mouth.”
Wainwright will be performing 12 dates around Australia through March touring her latest work. Her first album in four years, Goodnight City features songs by Martha and good friends and artists Beth Orton, Glen Hansard, Merrill Barbus of tUnE-yArDs and brother Rufus, and is produced by Thomas Bartlett (Sufjan Stevens, Glen Hansard) and Brad Albetta (Angus and Julia Stone, Teddy Thompson).