Martha Wainwright has never been one to hold back. From her intensely emotive and personal songs to her raw performance style, the Canadian singer-songwriter leaves it all in the recording studio or on stage.

And she comes, of course, from a family that has a longstanding tradition of doing the same – from folk luminaries her aunt and mother Anna and the late Kate McGarrigle, to father Loudon Wainwright III, to singer-composer brother Rufus Wainwright.

The Wainwright-McGarrigle clan has an illustrious history of wry, heartfelt and at times bracingly honest music about the ups-and-downs of love, life and everything in between.

Over the course of seven albums, the most recent of which, Love Will Be Reborn, was released in 2021, Wainwright has proven herself to be a songwriter of great acuity and candour. Since first touring Australia almost 20 years ago with her mother, aunt and brother, she has built a loyal following here. She returns this month to play live around Australia, including gigs in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide, for the first time in seven years.

A veritable lifetime’s worth of changes have happened in recent years for the 47-year-old Wainwright. She divorced Brad Albetta, her long-time bassist and husband of 10 years, and is still heavily grieving the death of her mother. She has bought and is running Ursa, a live music venue and coffee shop in Montreal, organising a neighbourhood art-focused day camp for kids, and raising her sons, Arcangelo and Francis.

“It’s been a crazy time for sure,” Wainwright says. “Australia holds a very special place in my heart. You guys were one of the first places to really embrace me and to let me be myself and that is something I will always appreciate. I really depend on coming down there every album cycle and playing shows. I feel a connection with Australian audiences that’s a really rare and beautiful thing.”

Written entirely by Wainwright and produced by the renowned Pierre Marchand, Love Will Be Reborn pulls no punches in presenting her life, directly excavating from the dissolution of her marriage through excoriating lyrics and Herculean vocal delivery.

Her ability to interpret her experience as a mother-wife-lover-singer in the album’s 11 songs speaks to a rebirth, both artistically and personally, and one of the standout tracks, Body and Soul, begins with Wainwright singing about being on her knees and pleading for someone’s hands to be removed from her neck.

“I was separated in the fall of 2016 which, if you remember correctly, that’s the American election that Trump won,” she says. “I definitely felt like Hillary Clinton. I’ve never been physically abused but I definitely feel like I was abused. In that song I really own up to the truth and reality in the context of going through those intense moments in a really hellish divorce.

“I wrote the record in spurts because I was often expecting my kids home soon. I did find myself in their bedrooms, crying into their pillows. You have to know that I have definitely been subjected to a certain amount of conservatism by the court system, pegged as some lounge singer because I work at night and it’s not conducive in a conservative world to what a good mother is supposed to be.”

In 2022 Wainwright also published Stories I Might Regret Telling You, a candid, beautifully written memoir that is as vivacious and unselfconscious as its creator. When I say to her that it is one thing to allude to situations in song but another entirely to write them all down for posterity she laughs heartily.

“An early draft of this book was used against me in court during my divorce proceedings, so I understand what you’re saying,” Wainwright says. “I worked on it in fits and spurts over seven years and writing it was really, really hard. I didn’t have the same things to lean on as I do when I am writing music or writing a song. The book ended up being a lot about family dynamics, my own, obviously, but I think there’s probably a lot that people recognise in there about their own families too.

“I wrote a little bit about being an artist and a songwriter but, really, it’s a personal story of a young woman who really had to learn a lot of stuff. After that early copy was used against me I really went back into writing and I really honed in on what was most important to me. I let a lot of stuff go and I struck a lot of stuff out and really, really weighed things up in my own mind.

“I am proud of it. I am proud of myself for writing those sentences. I guess it’s like songwriting in that I think I did the best I could in saying things I needed to say because I really didn’t want to be muzzled either.”

Martha Wainwright plays the Princess Theatre in Brisbane on May 7, and The Gov in Adelaide on May 14.

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