SIX albums into her career, Martha Wainwright has established herself as a songwriter of considerable charisma and diversity. The daughter of famous musicians – folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle – and brother of songwriter Rufus, she grew up with music an intrinsic part of her life, and jokes that she has been “in the business for 40 years” – which is her age.

Her latest album Goodnight City was co-written with several musicians including her brother, and sees her turn her lyrical focus onto her young sons Arcangelo, seven, and Francis Valentine, two. Ahead of a UK tour, she spoke to EDWIN GILSON about two different generations of her family and reflected on her “insecure” younger years.

Some reviews have suggested your latest album Goodnight City, out late last year, is your most eclectic yet. Do you agree? If so, was that a conscious aim?

Well, it’s eclectic in the sense that half the songs on it were written by other people. That brings a certain theatricality to it and makes it seem freer. Things can get quite intense if it’s 14 of my own songs - that’s a lot of Martha Wainwright. This album is less autobiographical.

You said you were so out of practice when you came to make this album that your fingers bled. How long did it take to feel natural in performing again?

I felt a bit uneasy in a good way, in that I was kept on my toes - or at least my fingertips. The album is recorded mostly live in one take, and so every time we recorded it was pretty intense. It has a certain energy to it.

Why did you decide upon the live approach?

Mainly because of time. I’m so busy with the kids and everything that we just had to do it in limited time, we had to get the record out there. The songs are less about me and more about the kids. They’re a new kind of love song. I used to write mainly about my heartbreak and things that I was afraid of, and obviously there is still some of that in there, but in general the songs are kinder. I want to protect my kids.

When you say protect, did you have any reservations about compromising the privacy of your children by writing about them?

I don’t think the songs are overly revealing. I can’t help but write about what I feel. I’m someone who was written about as a kid, and I liked hearing those songs at that time.

Rufus wrote a song on the new album. How did he adapt his songwriting to suit you?

He didn’t adapt at all, really. He’s kind of a taskmaster. It really sounds like a Rufus Wainwright song. He told me in his big brother way how it goes. I fell back into that sibling role. I want to hear him in the song, that’s how I asked him to do it.

Another collaborator on the album is folk singer Beth Orton – have you known her for a long time?

I wouldn’t say we were best friends but we’ve lived through the same time, we’ve been at the same party.

You’ve spoken about how the person who wrote your debut album was angrier and more insecure. How does it feel to reflect back on that work now?

I do look back on it, especially as I think this record is most similar to the first record. That came out when I was 28, and I really think it was a good portrait of me at that time. I feel this record is a good reflection of a woman ten years later, and a different perspective of the same person. I think this latest one is more forward-gazing and less naval-gazing. It’s got more personality because I’ve what I’ve learnt over the years.

You said the album artwork for Goodnight City reflects you turning away from the past - do you look back much at all?

Well, I’ve been going through the exercise of writing a weird memoir over the last few years. That forces me to look back at my life and tell my story. It has changed my perspective of the mistakes I made and the things that were great that I didn’t realise. It made me realise the time I wasted.

What do you mean by wasted?

I hope I don’t have to answer this question again in 20 years, but I hope I’m somebody that is going to have a better second half of her life than first half. It’s not so much that it was so terrible, but I never thought I was good enough and I started in the shadow of my family. I pushed back against that and it took a long time to harness and train the talents I had. Now, I don’t care so much about what people think of me. I have children who I love and who I think about, and I prefer thinking about others more than myself.

Are you ever wary of talking about your family, in the sense that you don’t want to be bracketed in with them and stripped of your individuality?

I’ve pushed away from them before...well, not really, because I’ve toured with them and we’re kind of like the Von Trapps. I always struggled with what my work was, and wondered if ever would have been a singer if not my parents. Now, I embrace it completely. And probably partly because my mother died. I’m less conflicted about it now. I always felt they were better, but now I don’t think it matters. I always had the baggage of my family - I feel like I’ve been in the music business for 40 years.

You were a big Hillary Clinton supporter – the days and weeks after the vote must have been pretty shattering.

I know it wasn’t the most popular thing because a lot of artists supported Bernie Sanders. I think it’s very sad and angering. The tragedy of it is that not only did Trump get elected, but the glass ceiling still isn’t broken. Here we are with a crazy person in the White House. I’m glad I live in Canada these days.

Martha Wainwright, Komedia, Gardner Street, Brighton, Monday, January 23, 7.30pm, £22, 08452 938480