According to Google, it will take Martha Wainwright a little more than seven hours to travel between her gig at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 14 to reach Sidney for her Nov. 15 gig at the Mary Winspear Centre – assuming everything goes smoothly.
It is not clear yet when Wainwright and her accompanying band will hit the road for Sidney after their Portland show, but she is preparing for a long drive unlikely to be luxurious.
“This is a complicated tour, because originally, we would have hoped to have gotten a bus,” the Canadian-American singer/songwriter said. The music business, like many, is sputtering as it resumes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.
Wainwright’s show in Sidney is part of a longer tour that starts in Quebec, heads to the U.S. West Coast and British Columbia, then zig-zags across the western provinces before winding up in Ontario, a schedule that prompts her to call the crew “road warriors.”
The tour is in support of her recently released fifth studio studio album, Love Will Be Reborn. An accompanying video for the title track features her sons, Francis and Arcangelo, dressed as English and French knights duelling in a dark, gloomy forest.
“My eldest son (Arcangelo) wanted to play King Arthur, but they ended up casting my youngest son, which caused some anguish,” Wainwright said. “But the director (received) pay-back because he had to deal with my two kids. But I was proud of my children.”
So was the video, perhaps unconsciously, playing out Canada’s dual nature?
“Always,” she chuckled. “We are always playing that out. We live in Quebec, in Montreal, so that is our part-time job.”
If some of the imagery in the video recalls the raw, dark and conflict-rich elements that run through Wainwright’s earlier music, the song itself strikes a far more optimistic tone as it praises new beginnings.
So is there a kinder, gentler Martha Wainwright out there now?
“Or maybe sort of beaten down – no, I am kidding,” she said. “Certainly, the softness of the sound relates to the producer (Pierre Marchand, who has worked with Sarah McLachlan among others) and the production.”
Wainwright’s confessional tone is still there, but the edges are blurrier.
“It’s a little bit softer, it’s a little bit lighter, it’s a different kind of feel and it really frames the more aggressive nature of my songs and the lyrics.”
As such, she finds herself in transition and as one review noted, the album lacks overt references to Wainwright’s brother Rufus and their parents – the late Canadian singer Kate McGarrigle and American-born Loudon Wainwright III, whom Martha once called a “bloody mother (expletive) asshole” in a song.
But the subject of family is never far away, especially as Wainwright prepares to leave her two children with their father, music producer Brad Albetta, to whom she was married for 10 years.
Wainwright said she does not know yet the long-term effect of the pandemic on her family relations. On one hand, she, her brother and father are used to not seeing each other for long periods due to their respective musical careers. They would often meet up on the road, but with the music industry shut down for months, those opportunities ceased.
“The whole thing is hard, but I think really what the pandemic has taught us, is that we really have to toughen up,” Wainwright said. “Otherwise, it is really easy to get dragged down and it has really required a hope and the idea that we will see each other again.”
Martha Wainwright plays Sidney’s Mary Winspear Theatre on Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. For ticket and other information, visit marywinspear.ca/event/martha-wainwright.
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