Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2017 Jan-Feb Contents 40 Rhythms
gone are the days when she was the centre of her universe
and could take whatever time she wanted to write songs and
work on her music. And aside from the time restrictions she
finds herself in the same situation as any other artist with
multiple albums behind them - what to write about, how not
to repeat yourself.
And of course with enforced time away from writing - or
limited time to do it - comes the concern that the skills
and intuitive abilities to write lyrics and sing them are
slipping away. Many songwriters have talked of panic
attacks and anxiety at the thought that these abilities have
deserted them and a fear that it may not be temporary but
Wainwright knows exactly what all of those concerns are
all about and has traversed their emotional terrain herself
between her previous album and Goodnight City.
“I think with this record I came back to songwriting after a
second child so it was almost like a new thing for me again,”
I’m not that disciplined as an artist in general. For instance
I go for long periods of time not playing the guitar and not
writing a song, and then I get very antsy and anxious and
scared and I try and return to this person that I was and is
an artist, and I try and become this person, this artist who
has a need to address things. And then there’s the family.
“So there’s the constant need to remind myself of who I
am and what I do and remind myself that I need to write
some songs. I was lucky with this record. Maybe because
there was a lot that hadn’t been said so when I started
writing songs again there was a lot for me to say - some of it
possibly for the very simple reason that I’d experienced a lot
but hadn’t written songs for awhile.
“And a couple of the songs on this record are about my kids.
And that’s a whole new subject matter to tap into which
I hadn’t rally tapped into before. Also I tried to do some
different things with this record. I trued to be a bit more
creative with my songwriting. In the past, especially on my
earlier records, the songs were super autobiographical and
super reflective and very emotional and angry - and this
set of songs, well, they’re about me but they’re also about
other people and there’s little sets of stories I’m telling. It’s
more outward looking and in that way they’re different from
songs I’ve written before.”
In the light of this discussion Wainwright has embarked on
another form of writing - one that’s even more demanding
of her time than coming up with songs. And that combined
with kids and anxiousness about writing and performing in
general has caused more than a few sleepless nights.
“Yes, I certainly have periods where I wonder if I’ll be able
to do it again, and whether that part of me is gone,” she says.
“I have periods when I become very very busy with the
kids and on top of that I’m writing a book which has
been fucking devastatingly difficult. So certainly I’ve had
moments when I’ve thought that I’ve forgotten to play the
songs and I absolutely have to make myself go and practise
and feed my brain. And I get very nervous about it, I really
do. And then when you go out on the road again and you’re
doing it every day, the muscles have always returned and I
hope they do continue to come back.
“But honestly, I’d be a better artist if I worked more in it and
I hope to get to a place where I do that, but for the moment
with two young children the last couple of years have been
exhausting and so much of the time has been taken up
with them. But that’s how it is and how it should be. And
the record got made and so that’s kind of a feat that I’ve
achieved too. And I really put a lot of myself into it.”
Songs are like snapshots of a particular time and place.
And given that Wainwright admits that much of her early
songwriting was heavy autobiographical I wondered if she
really does consider songs as being cast in stone or whether
as she grows older and her perspectives change whether
she considers from time to time rewriting a few words or a
verse to reflect her changed viewpoint. Maybe she doesn’t
dislike that old boyfriend - or her Dad - as much as she at
least pretended to at the time.
“I think my reason for writing songs back then . . . and
maybe it really is still the same . . . . is that usually I would
pick a little bit of time to write them and even if they were a
snapshot in that little moment, I tried to make them poetic
enough that you could focus in on little parts of the song,”
“So certain elements of songs become more important at
different times, or at least that’s how I find it. I also find that
the way that I can express the song can be different and
I feel that with the best songs, they’re the ones that I can
still play over snd over again, and that they are still correct
in some way, certainly in terms of what I still want them to
say. Having said that, with some older songs, if it’s about
partying or something it can be a little harder to get back
there and feel the same way about the song and the lyrics
as I did when I wrote them - and they’re the songs that are
harder to go back to. Then there’s other songs from back
then that still feel like they were written yesterday.”
So, this incredibly demanding and time consuming book
that Wainwright mentioned a little earlier. What’s the deal
with that? What’s it all about? She laughs out loud as if
the subject matter should be obvious to anyone. Note dear
reader, it’s not obvious to me.
“What would you expect,” she chortles. “It’s a memoir.
There’s clearly been some success with memoirs by
musicians and artists in the recent past so there’s some
By that I’m guessing a publisher thought that Wainwright
would deliver some fascinating an intriguing observations
on her Dad, her mother, the late Kate McGarrigle, brother
Rufus and half-sister Lucy. Whether she has remains to be
seen but for Wainwright the process of writing the book was
a bigger undertaking than what she had possibly expected.
And a more demanding form of writing - certainly in the
time required - than a three minute song.
“Everyone wants to think and believe they’re a writer,” she
says. “I’m like that too. And I love the idea of taking the
cheque, cashing it and then writing a book. But it’s very,
very hard. Writing a three minute song is a lot different
from writing a 300 page book - but it’s almost done and it’s
going to get done. I have to say though that it’s been a real
eye opener and I can honestly say that I hope to not have to
do it again for another 20 years.”
Links Archive 2016 Nov-Dec 2017 Mar-Apr Navigation Previous Page Next Page