5 Things – Martha Wainwright and her Muse

December 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #72, December/January 2009-2010.

Raised on the lovelorn recordings of Edith Piaf, Martha Wainwright has released a suite of her own live interpretations of the legendary French songstress. By Dan Rule.

1. Piaf was a defining influence on Wainwright’s entrance into music. “She was my favourite singer as a kid and I adore her greatly. When I was about seven or eight my brother Rufus introduced me to her music via my mother’s album collection. Looking back, she started my love affair with very emotive female singers, who I still really enjoy listening to today. She affected me and affected the way I perform myself.”

2. For Wainwright, the project was about assuming the role of the professional performer, rather than the confessional artist. “This was about being a singer; it was about walking into a room with a great bunch of musicians and great bunch of songs and trying not to look like an idiot and deliver something that, as a singer, wasn’t lame. So it was about using my voice to the absolute best of my ability.”

3. Wainwright isn’t afraid of flaunting her ego. “Divas, like opera singers, have this attitude and ego and it’s there for a reason. It’s because they too can bring something to the table and have that belief in themselves and in how they are going to live up to the material. You have to put yourself in that frame of mind when you interpret songs like this; you have to believe and feel that you can do it.”

4. Recorded live with a full ensemble over two nights in New York’s Dixon Place Theatre, the pressure was on. “I tried to have a good time, especially in the last performance, but it was really about the challenge of trying to get something on tape. I knew that we only had a couple of chances with each song and there was an audience of people watching and money was being spent. So it was a very challenging and focussed performance.”

5. While the recorded results speak for themselves, the performances were not the most, err, appealing sight. “It was very physical and you can see – we filmed it – that my arm is up in the air and my face is contorted into these crazy, screwed up faces (laughs). It’s not a very pretty sight, but it helped to convey the songs and the sound in that way, then no problem.”

Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, A Paris is out now via Shock

Visit: marthawainwright.com

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