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A singer Loudon clear - Lucy Wainwright Roche says playing music professionally has been a way of getting to know her father, Loudon Wainright III
Lucy Wainwright Roche says playing music professionally has been a way of getting to know her father, Loudon Wainright III
Published on 8 Mar 2010
The last time we saw Lucy Wainwright Roche, in the summer of 2009, she was in Glasgow’s Bar Brel singing a Michael Jackson song with Eddi Reader.
Before we move on, a brief explanation seems appropriate. “I met Eddi when I was on tour with my dad in Australia in 2008, and she invited me to be the support act on her tour,” she says. “We really connected, and when I came to play in Glasgow the venue was right next to her house, so she said I should stay with her. Michael Jackson died while I was there, so we learned The Girl is Mine.
It was really fun – we have a good time together.”
It’s possible to deduce by the clue buried in her double-barrelled surname that the “dad” mentioned is none other than Loudon Wainwright III, further consolidating his position as the founding father of an entire musical dynasty. Rufus and Martha, the product of his marriage to folk singer Kate McGarrigle, who recently died, are now established acts; their half-sister, on the other hand, is just setting out on a great adventure.
Following his divorce from McGarrigle, Loudon married Suzzy Roche, the youngest member of close-harmonising sibling trio the Roches. The couple split, but not before the arrival of their daughter Lucy in 1981. She spent her
toddling years touring with what sounds like virtually the entire Roche family.
“I never went to summer camp. I’d go on the road with mum and my aunts,” she says. “My uncle was the tour manager and would open the shows, and sometimes my grandmother would sell the CDs. I loved it. We were having adventures all across the States.”
As she got older, however, she started to resist the idea of joining the family business. Her way of rebelling was to go to college, study for a Masters degree, and get “a real job”, teaching pre-teens at an elementary school in New York. Her attempts at leading a conventional life lasted until Rufus invited her to tour with him in 2005, at which point the old bug bit hard. “When I was reminded what it felt like I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that this was where I belonged,” she says. “So I left my job eventually and started doing this. I loved teaching, and would do it again, but I’m very happy doing what I’m doing now.”
Playing music professionally has also been a way of getting to know her father. She was only two when her parents divorced, and although Loudon was always “a presence in my life,” time spent together was limited. Touring with him – first in 2008, and on regular occasions since – has “transformed our relationship. We’ve got back some lost connection.”
She admits there are pros and cons to being part of a famous musical family. “I have a lot of people to ask advice from, and the downside is I have a lot of people giving advice even if I’m not asking, while comparisons can be a drag. But it’s overwhelmingly positive. Although my family have been very inclusive, we’re not stepping on each other’s toes, which is quite important. We’re not in each other’s way.”
It helps that Wainwright Roche has established her own identity, making considerably less dramatic (some might say overwrought) music than either Rufus or Martha. Instead, her debut album, Lucy, is filled with gentle acoustic textures and very traditional songwriting, shot through with a dark undercurrent that occasionally brings to mind Judee Sill. Featuring contributions from her father, the Roches and the Indigo Girls, as well as a cover of Paul Simon’s America, the album was partially funded through donations from her fans, many of them pledging $30 to enable her to record and release it independently. “It was amazing to see that kind of support,” she says.
It’s tangible proof that a return to the classroom shouldn’t be necessary any time soon. “My desire is to continue to make a living doing this,” she says. “To travel and have the richness of that life.” Chalk up another talented recruit to the family firm.
Lucy Wainwright Roche plays Brel, Glasgow, tonight. Lucy is out now (visit www.myspace.com/lwrlwrw).