Music in Wainwright's blood

DAVE VEITCH

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

In all likelihood, nothing could have stopped Martha Wainwright from becoming a singer-songwriter.

Not even Martha herself.

The 23-year-old has music imbedded in her genes. Her mother and aunt are Canadian folk icons Kate and Anna McGarrigle; her father is American folk satirist Loudon Wainwright III; her older brother is acclaimed cabaret popster Rufus Wainwright. For years, Martha had no intention of following in any of their footsteps.

"When I was young, my parents were heroes," recalls Wainwright in a telephone interview. "But when I reached a certain age -- my early teenage years -- I rebelled against them and everything they were attached to. And I pushed music aside."

She entered Montreal's Concordia University with the intention of becoming an actress. But while attending her drama classes "it sunk in," she recalls. "I thought: 'What am I doing?' I thought I wanted to be an actor because everyone else in my family is a musician. But I was sitting with a bunch of actors, going: 'This is not what I'm passionate about.' "

Drama's loss would become music's gain. Wainwright -- performing tonight at the Uptown Stage, sharing the bill with Mae Moore -- has quickly emerged as an artist to watch for. Judging from the six songs on her self-titled debut CD, Wainwright possesses mother's folk grace, her brother's artful, cabaret-pop sophistication and passionate, personal lyrics that offer much more than catharsis.

"That's good to hear," Wainwright says, "because you never want to be a ranting, screaming, woe-is-me chick. Like, who cares about other people's problems when it's all they're putting on the table."

As a child of divorce -- her parents divorced in 1979 -- Wainwright surely has a few tales of woe herself. Yet she speaks of her upbringing with affection and delight.

"We grew up in a rich neighbourhood in Montreal," says Wainwright, who now resides in Brooklyn.

"We had a nice big house that was falling apart. And we were definitely the oddballs on the block. I think my mom was the only working mother and certainly the only artist mother. I grew up with Kate, Anna, Anna's two kids and Rufus.

"We also lived with my mom's bass player for 10 years, who was this six-foot-four Englishman with this huge, booming voice. He is a complete eccentric. We just looked like really crazy bohemians who lived in this really nice neighbourhood. It was really fun."


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