MADELEINE PEYROUX & MARTHA WAINWRIGHT
2023 CANADIAN TOUR DATES:
||Venue & Ticket Links
||Danforth Music Hall
||Quebec City, QC
||Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe
||Burton Cummings Theatre
||Centre for Performing Arts
About Madeleine Peyroux (jump to Martha Wainwright bio)
Much like songbird Edith Piaf, Madeleine Peyroux spent her teenage years busking the busy streets of Paris. Just like the ‘little sparrow’, Madeleine befriended the city’s street musicians and made its Latin quarter her first performing stage. Years later, Peyroux would cite iconic Piaf as an influence on her music and record a rendition of the classic La Vie En Rose, soulfully capturing the tune’s romanticism and melancholy.
Born in Athens, Georgia in 1974, Madeleine “grew up in a house filled with music” and from an early age “instinctively realised music’s soothing power” but it was her teenage years in the French capital that turned the childhood notion into an all-consuming vocation for life.
Young Madeleine moved to Paris with her mother in 1987 following her parents divorce. “To soothe me during the upheaval”, she recalls, “I was given a guitar and took to playing in the streets almost immediately.”
The curious teenager started skipping school to frequent the city’s Latin Quarter where street musicians dwelled, keen to learn about their music and way of life. At 16, the fearless teen joined the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band with whom she toured the streets of Europe, discovering Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday while “voraciously picking up all the songs and all the guitar playing” she could.
The two-year touring adventure set Madeleine on a creative path for life and proved to be a gateway to greater things. In 1991 the band travelled to New York where Madeleine’s unique talents were spotted by Atlantic Records’ Yves Beauvais. The young singer declined the music executive’s initial record deal offer but relented several years later and in 1996 her breakthrough album Dreamland was released.
Dreamland sold a striking 200,000 copies and Madeleine’s dusky voice was likened to that of Jazz greats Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Featuring top musicians Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, Cyrus Chestnut, Charlie Giordano, Greg Cohen, Kenny Wollesen, Regina Carter, Leon Parker and James Carter, the album included Madeleine’s renditions of Holiday’s Gettin’ Some Fun Out of Life, Bessie Smith’s Lovesick Blues and Fats Waller’s I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.
Dreamland cemented Madeleine Peyroux as a ‘classic’ musical talent that was here to stay, and the soulful singer found herself touring the world, singing with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and opening for Cesaria Evora.
Extensive touring took its toll on Madeleine’s voice and Jazz’s new star failed to complete recording sessions for her second Atlantic record. Unable to “make money without singing”, Madeleine made several futile attempts at odd jobs, and soon “went into hibernation”.
The new millennium signaled new hope with a return to the Big Apple and a Sony Records deal but the collaboration was short lived. Madeleine was dropped from the label in a move she remembers as casting a “big blow” to her ego.
The defiant artist rolled up her sleeves, continued playing on the street, booked herself in New York clubs through local promoters who remembered her Dreamland heyday and began collaborating with William Galison.
Madeleine’s never-say-die spirit bore fruit. In 2003 she signed to Rounder Records and embarked on a game-changing, lifelong collaboration with multi Grammy winning producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Walter Becker, Herbie Hancock).
The prolific partnership has now spanned many years and created universally acclaimed albums, hailed by many as timeless classics.
Careless Love (2004) was a rich collection of cover versions with tunes from Bob Dylan to James P Johnson, and included Peyroux’s milestone rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love. For the sole original on the album, producer Klein and Jesse Harris co-wrote Madeleine’s signature tune and many fans’ favorite, Don’t Wait Too Long. With sales of half a million copies the album shifted Peyroux from the exclusive Jazz realm into the mainstream arena.
Madeleine went on to collaborate with Klein on her 2006 album Half the Perfect World, and Bare Bones in 2009, her first try at an album of entirely new compositions.
In 2011 Madeleine interrupted her Klein collaboration streak with Standing On the Rooftop, produced by Craig Street. Aside from renditions of Lennon/McCartney’s Martha My Dear, and Dylan’s I Threw It All Away it was mostly new material including The Kind You Can’t Afford written with The Stones’ own Bill Wyman.
In 2013, Madeleine released The Blue Room, her and Larry Klein’s sensuous tribute to Ray Charles’s iconic album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The Blue Room included tracks from the 1962 timeless original as well as Ray Charles’s distinctive style applied to contemporary songs, all masterfully accompanied by Vince Mendoza’s mesmerizing string arrangements. Helik Hadar’s tonally nuanced perfection earned a Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
She self-produced her next album, Secular Hymns, in 2016, recorded live at a church in Oxfordshire, England. A collaboration with her touring trio, guitarist Jon Herington (Steely Dan) and bassist Barak Mori (Avishai Cohen) the album features an eclectic mix of Jazz, soul, dub and blues, with covers of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Townes Van Zandt and Willie Dixon.
In 2019, Madeleine released Anthem, her next collaboration with Klein. Reflecting on the contemporary political conversation, Anthem featured all new songs (excepting the title track by Leonard Cohen), co-written with Larry Klein, guitarist and lyricist David Baerwald, organist Patrick Warren and drummer Brian MacLeod.
Thirty years after her formative busking days Peyroux is the proud curator of nine beguiling albums and an accomplished performer with sell out worldwide tours under her belt. Her atmospheric version of Serge Gainsborough’s La Javanaise was used in the soundtrack of Oscar Winner The Shape of Water and her countless accolades include the coveted BBC International Artist Of The Year honour.
Madeleine’s thirst for creative exploration is unfading and her willingness to face creative challenges remains as solid now as it was three decades ago.
With endearing passion and great curiosity the unstoppable genre-defying virtuoso continues her search for the good and examines life with the treasured William Congreve belief that Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.
Madeleine might attribute her success to “mostly luck” but to the industry and loyal fans alike, it is the immense talent and utter dedication to her craft that shines through. “Peyroux is a tremendous talent and almost a total intuitive” reflects Larry Klein, “she has the capacity to get the magic. When she sings and plays her guitar, great things happen.”
About Martha Wainwright:
Martha Wainwright is beginning again.
The beguiling performer and songwriter returns with Love Will Be Reborn. Not since 2012’s Come Home to Mama has a Martha Wainwright record been so full of original written material. Wainwright’s fifth studio album follows recent years of loneliness and clarity in search of optimism and joy.
Wainwright wrote the first song—and what would become the title track— of the record a few years ago. It was a very dark time, she says, but the positivity and luminosity of “Love Will Be Reborn” signalled what was to come. Wainwright was at a friend’s home in London to collaborate on something else entirely when she was struck by the need to write the song. Wainwright demures when songwriting—her process is undisciplined and she prefers to be alone. That day, soon left to that solitude, “Love Will Be Reborn” poured out of her.
“I wrote the song in its entirety within ten or fifteen minutes. I was bawling.” The track feels very English to Wainwright with a soft melody and thrumming guitar, evoking pastoral scenes. Wainwright croons, “There is love in every part of me, I know/ But the key has fallen deep into the snow / When the spring comes I will find it, and unlock my heart to rewind it.” It’s poetic and mysterious, yet still there is a yearning for joy and renewal. Wainwright sang the as-yet recorded “Love Will Be Reborn” on tour, serving as an anthem, giving her hope in a time when it was hard to have some.
Much of Wainwright’s songwriting since 2016’s Goodnight City felt too raw. “There were several years where I picked up the guitar, and I was so, so sad and depressed. I would just put it down because It was terrible.” Before writing it out, or writing through it for catharsis, Wainwright had to live it. Album opener “Middle of the Lake” reinforces Wainwright’s path forward as she sings over voltaic chords and percussion, “I sing my songs of love and pain / Winds of change or simply singing, I’m singing in the rain.” Her work never shies away from an existential throbbing wound. “There are a couple major subjects on the record. From what I can tell, there’s really dark and then light,” she says,” It really is reflective of a very difficult period of divorce. Then, after that, it’s meeting somebody new and amazing. And so you hear certain songs about this new love.”
Love Will Be Reborn does have its playful and sensual side running parallel to some grim honesty. “Hole In My Heart” is an upbeat song, with Wainwright singing, “I got naked right away when I saw you / My love was like the rain when I saw you,” as is the track, “Getting Older,” which is about aging. And this new love. Other songs, she says, “represent me trying to shake away the past a little bit, the ball and chain of that anger, trying to escape from it.”
There is no song more gripping than “Report Card.” The song is stripped to essential instrumentals punctuating her anguish. Wainwright expresses on the sombre track a feeling of deep loneliness, evoking emotional nuances particular to parents and individuals separated from their children because of custody arrangements. “I was able to crystallize that sadness by portraying this woman alone in her house.” Wainwright sorrowfully sings, “My heart is always broken and I don’t want you to feel the way i do and “If I seem sad it’s because I am.”
Singing about her children and family is also familiar to Wainwright, a child from such a prestigious musical family. Wainwright has long carried this narrative featuring her famous father, Loudon, her mother, Kate McGarrigle, and her brother, Rufus.
Wainwright’s writing has, of course, evolved as she has grown older and become a mother. She has changed simply by living. While she was, as she says, extremely autobiographical before, her writing has altered to protect her children in some ways. But, and more important, she says, “I can’t deny myself the need to express myself. As a songwriter, I have to be able to express myself, and it would be crazy to me to not have songs that are about these two people who I care the most about in the world.”
Back in Montreal, in the basement of her brand new cafe, Ursa, serving as a studio, Wainwright got to work. She enlisted the help of Toronto musicians Thom Gill, Phil Melanson and Josh Cole to perform in her band, and producer Pierre Marchand. His best known collaboration is with Sarah McLachlan, producing some of her iconic 90s songs. Marchand also has a familial connection to Wainwright. Marchand produced her brother Rufus’s second album poses as well as Wainwright’s mother and aunt’s record, Heartbeats Accelerating. It was a record made after sometime, much like Wainwright’s gap since Goodnight City, and McGarrigle was the same age that Wainwright is now. It seems like a musical synergy only the late McGarrigle and Wainwright could have.
Like many records, Love Will Be Reborn was made during a global pandemic. But the process, both freeing and infuriating, offered Wainwright a new way of creating. She let go a little more, giving way for Marchand to play around with vocals, emphasizing the beauty in its inherent scratchiness and edge. This record, Wainwright jokes, is her Canadian record, as she’s back in Montreal, working with musicians from Toronto, and Marchand as producer.
Martha Wainwright’s role as an artist has always been to embrace her wildness and sketch out her raw depth. This edge is what makes Wainwright uncompromisingly herself, and continues to draw in an audience two decades on. To begin again does not mean starting over. This process of rebirth honours the past to move forward. Love Will Be Reborn captures Wainwright’s heart in transition. In an effort to rise out of some painful depths, as she says much like a phoenix from the ashes of an existential twilight, Wainwright bore witness to what her heart endured to find a new joy once more.