Interview: Sloan Wainwright

Sister of Loudon, and aunt to Rufus and Martha – family life is music to the ears of Sloan Wainwright. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH talks to a member of a famous musical family.

Family and music are the two things she is most passionate about in life – and they are inextricably entwined.

Sloan Wainwright, who performs in Norwich this week, is happy to celebrate her famous familial connections while also forging her own path in the world of music.

Sister of Loudon, aunt to Rufus and Martha, and former sister-in-law to the late Kate McGarrigle, she admits music is in her DNA as well as her soul.

But despite being a member of America's 'first family of folk', and growing up with the sound of song about her, it has been only relatively recently that she has been able to give her musical career her all.

'I grew up in a wonderful but complex family, where I was always encouraged in my music,' she explains. 'But I made my own way and made certain choices at a young age.

'I fell in love with my husband and had children, and then went on to run a bakery restaurant. That was great because it made it possible for me to have a musical career but it was always very busy and family came first.'

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In the last few years, however, Sloan, whose husband George McTavey died in 2008 following a long battle with leukaemia, has thrown herself into her singing and song-writing. And she is now playing a few carefully-selected dates in the UK, including Norwich, on Wednesday.

'When my brother Loudon started writing songs I was about nine years old, and it was really exciting – he was really exciting!' she recalls. 'We would sit in the kitchen and my mother and I would listen to his first couple of songs and I would think: 'That's so cool'.'

She goes on: 'We were all encouraged to be ourselves, however, by our parents and when I started to become interested in music myself that is what my brother said to me too.

'I was also encouraged as a kid by Kate, who was like a wonderful older sister to me when I was a teenager.'

Loudon Snowden Wainwright III is a Grammy award-winning songwriter, folk singer and actor. His career began in the late 1960s and since then he has recorded more than 20 albums. He won the Grammy for best traditional folk album in January 2010, and has appeared in a number of films, including The Aviator, Big Fish and Elizabethtown.

His former wife Kate, who died last year, was also a well-known folk singer, and his children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and Lucy Wainwright-Roche, have all made names for themselves in the world of music as well.

Sloan, who is known for her rich and soulful contralto voice, performs a diverse blend of folk, jazz, rock and blues. She has a solid and impressive discography of seven original CD releases to her credit, and has written numerous musical compositions for theatre and dance.

Her latest album, Upside Down and Under My Heart will be available at the show next week.

'I am looking forward to performing in Norwich,' she says. 'This will be my first visit to the city but I love the UK.

'The performance will be a wonderful journey of original songs and I think we will unpack a few covers too – to put people at ease and help lead them into the trip to 'Planet Sloan!'.

'This is a very exciting time for me. I can go where I want to go and do what I want to do. There are all sorts of doors open to me and I am enjoying that.'

Sloan's son Sam McTavey, 28, has inherited the musical genes and is also a singer, songwriter and musician. She hopes that next year the pair may travel to Britain together to perform.

She spends as much time as possible with her immediate and extended family, often getting together for social occasions, as well as to perform.

'I do enjoy playing with family. When Rufus and Martha invited me to be part of their Christmas show it was wonderful,' she says.

'Like any family, we have our complexities but we always give each other a lot of support behind the scenes.

'When we do play together there is this amazing connection. It feels very natural and we all kind of fit together.'

t Sloan Wainwright performs on Wednesday at 8pm at Olive's Caf� in Elm Hill. For more information or tickets, price �7, e-mail