My first memory She is my mother [folk singer Kate McGarrigle] singing to me. It was the song Go Tell Aunt Rhody, which is about a dying goose and the depressed goose. Very morbid. I was very small. I remember his hand gently stroking my arm as he sang it to me. It is a lovely memory. It’s a sad song, scary even. But it was comforting.
I’m still grieving for my mother. I’m very into it. She has been gone for more than 10 years, but I wear a lot of her clothes, I live in the house where she lived and I sing her songs. His death at 63 has defined me in many ways. She was only 33 when I lost her. But this year I have been thinking about it differently. Dying young means that you are saved years of old age. There is much suffering in old age. That has helped me to think like this.
I don `t believe there is something beyond death. With that said, I went out for a walk the other day and briefly thought otherwise. I have two children and I was thinking about how to explain death to them. I would like them to understand that I am going to die, and other people are going to die, and that has to happen so that other people can be born. I think that’s healthy, even though I know how scared and sad it would make you feel. So briefly, I started thinking about reincarnation. But I don’t believe that, although I feel that we, the animals, the people, the plants, are one.
I’ve been going down roots like never before. Normally I’d be on the road, Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk Festival, all these places that I miss, but since I can’t be, I’ve been walking the streets of my neighborhood, looking at the people I live with. At the moment I am running a day camp. I am wearing an apron. I have clay under my nails. Later I will prepare lunch for 12 children. It is very different from what I know, but I like it.
Middle age is a transformative time. There is a real A and B side to my new album. I wrote the title song at the beginning of my divorce. [to producer Brad Albetta] Five years ago. He was not very happy and he was scared. But I think subconsciously it pushed me to do something good out of something really bad. So there are songs about a terrible and terrifying divorce, the loss of access to your children, the lawyers and the courts and the darkness. But also love and new beginnings.
Divorce has given I wisdom. But also a deep feeling of anger and hatred, which he had never had before. It is a terrible feeling not to love someone so much. I constantly try to remind myself that at one point I loved this person very much and that I chose to have children with them. I have to look at my children and see their father in them and find a way to be okay. I’m trying to really focus on the positives, which I’ve never done. When I was young writing sad songs about how terrible life can be, I never thought like that. But you have to find the good in things. The river is calling, you know.
Music has been saved my life. It makes me feel good. Expressing myself makes me feel good. Playing and singing to people makes me feel good. I really think that’s what has kept me out of the way.
Martha’s new album, Love Will Be Reborn, will be released on August 20 on Cooking Vinyl
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism