Martha Wainwright (born , 1976) is a Canadian-American folk-rock singer-songwriter. She is the daughter of American folk/blues musician Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian folk singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Along with her older brother, Rufus Wainwright, Martha was raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in a musically fueled household, an environment which helped nurture her musical creativity.
Early musical development
In 1998, Wainwright took the first step toward her musical career, through the recording of her song "Year of the Dragon" as a contribution to The McGarrigle Hour, an album released by her mother, Kate, and her aunt, Anna McGarrigle. Shortly after this recording, Martha began singing backup vocals for her brother, Rufus. Although her musical beginnings and early recording opportunities were made possible through her already established parents and brother, she soon distinguished herself from her family and created her own musical identity.
Following her incomplete studies in drama at Montreal's Concordia University, she moved to New York City, where she was able to establish herself as an emerging singer-songwriter. She soon made contacts within the industry, one of which was producer Brad Albetta, who worked with Wainwright to produce her self-titled debut album, Martha Wainwright (released , 2005 by MapleMusic Recordings).
Albetta worked again with Wainwright to produce her second album, I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, released in Canada on , 2008. Special guest artists contributing to the album include Pete Townshend (The Who), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Garth Hudson (The Band), as well as her mother, brother and aunt.
Wainwright is signed with the independent record labels Rounder Records in the United States, DiS in the United Kingdom, MapleMusic Recordings in Canada, V2 Records in Europe and Shock Records in Australia.
Style and genre
Wainwright's style has been described as a melding of folk, rock, country, and chanson singing. The folk inspirations comes naturally and inescapably to Wainwright, as she was born into a family of folk musicians. She has also drawn inspiration from folk legend Leonard Cohen, to whom she paid tribute at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 24, 2006, singing Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel". She also performed "Tower of Song" and "The Traitor" at the Cohen tribute concert which became the film and album Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.
Her folk influences give her an acoustic sound, with an autobiographical and poetic lyricism. Her infusion of pop-rock, alt-country, and cabaret-style chanson singing contributes to the unique sound of her mostly folk-based style.
It is her vocal density and versatility which sets her apart from her peers and contemporaries. She has an uncommon vocal ability which allows her to casually leap from a simple sensuality to a longing yodel, then back to a whispering timbre; this versatility is heard in her track "Bleeding All Over You". She also displays a dynamic vocal range, which journeys from a guttural lower range ("In the Middle of the Night"), to a deep, powerful and sustainable upper range (heard in the chorus of "Comin' Tonight"). Her vocal versatility has grown throughout the years since the release of her debut album. As a result, she is now able to slide in and out of these varying stylistic degrees, while exuding a newly found air of fearless confidence.
Performance and media attention
Since the release of her latest album, I Know You're Married..., Wainwright has been touring extensively throughout Europe, Canada, the United States and Australia. She has received positive reviews; Tricia Summers, of Spin.com, describes Wainwright's stage presence, of July 23/08, as: "Slowly strumming her guitar and along on stage with a powerful voice, she knew she had the crowd wrapped around her finger".
Wainwright has received positive reviews for her performances. She appeared at the 2007 Bonnaroo and at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Inverness-shire in August 2007. She recently duetted with Snow Patrol at the V Festival and Lollapalooza, and performed with her brother at the Hollywood Bowl in September 2007.
She married her producer Brad Albetta in September 2007.
Annie Lennox joined forces with Wainwright and 22 other female artists to raise awareness of the transmission of HIV to unborn children in Africa. The single "Sing" was released on World Aids Day on , 2007, when Lennox appeared at the Nelson Mandela 46664 concert in South Africa.