This much I know: Martha Wainwright

The singer-songwriter on her brother Rufus, sharing a hot tub with Cyndi Lauper and being an energetic drunk

My earliest memory is of my brother, Rufus, when I was three. I don't remember seeing him, but I remember hearing him singing at the top of his lungs from across the corridor.

I realised I had a voice at the age of five. I've just always known that it's what I wanted to do with my life. Like most kids I loved to sing, and my mum [the late folk singer Kate McGarrigle] used to record me singing and play it back – I had a very raspy voice for a child.

I was a huge fan of Cyndi Lauper and Annie Lennox. My mother and her boyfriend took Rufus and me to LA for the Grammys when I was 11 – I shared a hot tub with my two idols at the hotel we were staying at. It was pretty great.

Smoking is my worst habit. I've smoked, on and off, for the past 20 years. It's very hard to quit, although I'd like to knock it on the head at some point. But I'd want to have the freedom to go back to it, too.

I like to think I've absorbed some of my mother's personality since she died. Her death has made me more aware of how I treat people. We were very close, but we had a typical mother-daughter relationship. I think I was pretty nasty a lot of the time, and I regret that.

Sex is important to me. Although I don't do sexual games – using my sexuality to get ahead isn't something I'm into.

The secret to a happy marriage is a big house. My husband Brad is the greatest love of my life. He is my best friend. It works because we have a mutual respect.

I'm an energetic drunk. I'll break out into contemporary dance moves in the living room that I later regret. But, you know, you've got to express yourself.

My mother's death has brought Rufus and me closer. We're working together a lot more now. It's always been a bit of a sore spot: how do we both fit in the same industry? Is there enough room for both of us? It did feel like a competition. Now any sibling rivalry has dissipated. At least for the moment.

Having my son, Arcangelo, has been a great relief. I used to write songs about myself, but now the focus has shifted and I have something else to write about.

Songwriting takes discipline. Usually a song comes to me as a melody; then hopefully some words will come. I don't think I'm a great songwriter yet.

I have broken the law in the past. I've bought narcotics, but never sold them.

My temper manifests itself when my ego has been bruised, but I try not to take it out on the people around me.

We have a duty to look after our planet and consume less. I'm going back to how my grandmother used to live: reusing, recycling, using my own bags.

My favourite part of my body is my feet. Everything else has changed over the years, but my feet haven't – they're the only part of my body I have control over.

Life, so far, has taught me that things never turn out how you think they will.

Martha Wainwright has been performing in the House of Rufus shows at the Royal Opera House. She is currently working on her new album (


Shahesta Shaitly

The GuardianTramp

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