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2013 Vancouver Folk Music Festival/Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright III is a humourous, sh*t-disturbing folk musician that’s part of a hugely-talented musical family. His father, Loudon Wainwright Jr. was a well-known American writer; his kids, Rufus, Martha, and Lucy are all successful musicians in their own right. For the past 40 years, Loudon III has looked politics in the face and written one relevant album after another, filled with engaging, thought-provoking stories.

He won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, even though many of his numbers deal with death and decay. You just have to go with the flow and relish his honesty and wit. And that’s just what we did on Saturday afternoon between his afternoon workshop and early evening Main Stage performance at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival. He’s a very colourful self-mocking character who originally hails from North Carolina.

2013 Vancouver Folk Music Festival/Loudon Wainwright III

Q: Do you see songwriting as a sort of therapy?
A: “No. It’s not particularly therapeutic. In fact, it could be argued that it exacerbates my neuroses, don’t you think? Hopefully it’s therapeutic for other people. If people laugh at a song, or get pissed off at a song, or are moved, then it’s been therapeutic to them. I provide therapy; I don’t partake in it (except when I go to a shrink and pay him $180 an hour).”

Q: How do you describe your father’s work on stage in relationship to your own?
A: “My Dad was a famous journalist who wrote for Life Magazine. I’ve used a few pieces of his work in conjunction with two of my songs, because his work was great and I realize that we were writing about a lot of the same stuff. I combined his work and mine; it was a post-humous collaboration. I’m developing an entire show of eight of his columns with my songs that will be done in North Carolina in September.”

Q: What’s it like writing songs about death and decay without being a complete miserable git all the time?
A: “I knew I wanted an album where every song dealt with the ‘double d’, but my producer and I realized that we had to somehow make it not a complete bummer, so we had novelty songs (“My Meds”, a song called “I Remember Sex”) and then we also had other guest singers: my kids, Dame Edna, Chris Smithers, Rambling Jack Elliott (who’s one of my biggest idols). If it was one guy singing these songs, it would have probably been unbearable.”

Q: Do you enjoy the experience of performing now as much as you did back in the day?
A: “Yeah. I love to perform. I’ve always wanted to be a performer. Performing is one of the best damn parts of the job, and I derive a lot of pleasure from it – and it is a dream come true. YES with a capital “Y”.”

Q: First musical hero?
A: Rambling Jack Elliott. “While I was a kid in boarding school in Delaware, I used to take weekends and go see Jack Elliott play at a club in Philly called The Second Thread.”

2013 Vancouver Folk Music Festival/Loudon Wainwright III

Q: Are you enjoying being here for the first time for the Vancouver Folk Fest?
A: “Here in Seattle (laughs)? I can’t talk with the Canadian crowd (more laughs). I’ve been to Vancouver on a number of occasions, but I’ve never played the Vancouver Folk Festival. Having a good time today.”

Q: How would you compare the dynamic of Vancouver’s Folk Fest to other folk festivals?
A: “Well, the tie-dye is different here. And the funnel cakes, meh, Winnipeg takes it on the funnel cakes thing.”

Q: Working with your kids?
A: “Well, I get ‘em for cheap. I just tell them, look, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be here. I have four children, three of which are professional musicians, Lexi (in college) can also sing. They’re all good singers and on my new album.” He then jokingly referred to the Wainwrights as a dysfunctional Von Trapp family.

Q: Do you acquire new fans through Rufus and Martha?
A: “Yeah. Sometimes they come along to check me out. I’m happy to have anybody at my shows that wants to come see it.”

Q: How about your acting career?
A: “My original life plan was to be an actor. I played the guitar and sang other people’s songs, but didn’t think I was going to be a songwriter, so I went to drama school in the 60’s and then dropped out. I trained to be an actor. Man, if I had to earn a living as an actor (laughs), I’d be a waiter.”

Q: Greatest inspiration living or dead?
A: “Uhhh, why am I thinking of Mary Tyler Moore?”

2013 Vancouver Folk Music Festival/Loudon Wainwright III

Q: Are you planning on writing more political protest songs such as the song you did today about the Aurora shooting, “I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas”?
A: “It’s a song that makes people feel uncomfortable and I’m aware of that; people want to have a good time at a festival, but it’s such a bad situation. The anniversary of that shooting was a year ago. I sang that song in Colorado about six months ago and after the show, at the CD table, a person came up to me and told me he really liked the show but it’s way too soon to do that (sing the song). He was very upset. So, I didn’t do the song for awhile. Then a few months ago, I was in Blacksburg, Virginia (where the biggest mass shooting took place at Virginia Tech) and I thought, well, this is crazy, I can’t just not do the song. And that time, people came up to me and thanked me for it. It’s part of the job. It’s great to entertain people and make them laugh, but you also got to nudge a little.”

Find our 2013 Vancouver Folk Music Fest recap here.

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