Margo Timmins was born and spent most of her childhood in Montreal as one of six children of Barbara and John Timmins. She describes her mother Barbara as "a very honest person, and very confident in who she was and her emotions and her place in the world. And I think if she gave anything, that's what she gave us: the sense that you do what you do, and not to worry about it too much. A confidence. Not a confidence that we're necessarily right, but even if we're wrong, well, too bad".
Her father, John Timmins, spent his professional life working in the sales and marketing divisions of several aviation companies. His passion in life, however, was music and his love of song was passed on to his children, especially his son Michael (Margo's brother) who would eventually start Cowboy Junkies.
As a young girl, she remembered going through her brother Michael's extensive record collection. Some of her early favourites that influence her to this day include: Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, and Nashville Skyline, by Bob Dylan, Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen, Harvest by Neil Young, and Townes Van Zandt's, Flyin' Shoes.
It did not occur to Timmins that she could ever sing professionally. However, her youth was filled with music. She remembers singing while doing the dishes, singing in school plays and pageants and singing Carole King songs at camp.
As a child, her ambition was to grow to be like her mother – get married, stay at home and have seven children.
In 1977, the Timmins family moved from Montreal to Toronto. They lived in Etobicoke in the west-end of the city and Margo attended Richview Collegiate Institute in her high school years.
After graduating from high school, Timmins spent her evenings along with her brother Michael exploring the punk music scene in Toronto that was happening on Queen Street West. When Michael started his first band, the Hunger Project, she would hang out with the band, take the tickets, and carry the equipment.
Timmins supported herself by doing clerical work for her father and performing chores around the house.
But by her mid-20s, Timmins had left the night life behind and was studying social work at university. It was also during this time that Timmins developed her signature mane of long hair. As she tells it, "As a kid I was always mistaken for a boy. I didn't get long hair until my early 20s. That's when I discovered hair was important."
In 1985, her brother Michael recruited Margo as the vocalist for Cowboy Junkies even though she had never sung publicly before. Initially Margo would not sing in front of the other band members, she would only sing in front of Michael. Eventually, Michael convinced Margo to sing in front of the other band members and they liked her performance.
Michael knew that she had a pretty enough voice, but that she was shy and anxious. However, he also knew that Margo was really a show off at heart. "A little shaky" was how Michael remembers her first attempts behind the microphone.
Margo Timmins has said about that time, "So when he asked me I was freaked out, but I said 'Okay, so long as if I don't do a good job you fire me' I didn't want to hurt his music, because his music is so important to him." It took a long time for her to get comfortable singing in front of an audience. In fact, many of the early shows had Margo singing with her back to the audience.
She has stated, "In those early days, I wouldn't turn around to face the audience. But nobody forced me and I slowly turned around and I slowly opened my eyes and I slowly began to say hello. And now they can't shut me up! I see Mike looking at me as I tell a story that has no relevance whatsoever and I lose track. Now, the guys have to start playing songs because my on-stage monologues go on so long."
While Timmins has stated that it took her ten years to get comfortable singing in front of an audience to this day, She suffers from stage fright and has a ritual she performs prior to each show. Timmins says, "I do two things. One is, I iron my dress and I post the set list on the wall and stare at it to get a sense of the flow of the songs. After that, I arrange my flowers. I always have flowers on stage. Once they're arranged, I hand them to my crew guy to put on stage and that's the cue that we're about to start. Arranging my flowers is my meditation. I focus on the flowers and think about nothing. I have no problems being on the stage nowadays. But it's still difficult for me to get from the side of the stage to the microphone. Just that initial walking out is hard. I have my tea. I always bring my tea out with me because I think it's an anchor, it's something to carry, something to do with my hands. I stand on the side of the stage drinking my tea before I go out. That's my nervous time. I go out, I say hi, and we go into a song. Within that song, I calm down, catch my breath and relax. Then it's like, Yeah, I like it up here. I forgot how much I like it up here."
As the lead singer of Cowboy Junkies, Timmins is more comfortable being the focal point of attention than she used to be. But she admits that if she is invited to party, and no one wants to talk with her, she is quite happy sitting quietly by herself. She claims that she is not an extrovert and does not have a lot of friends. She is close to one girlfriend, a sister and her mother. She likes being at home. This is exemplified by the three essential things she brings with her on the road while touring with the Cowboy Junkies - her toothbrush, needlepoint and hot water bottle.
She believes that the best song she ever wrote is "Misguided Angel". When asked what was the best thing ever written about Cowboy Junkies, Timmins replied "I think it was about my hair".
She lives in Toronto with her husband Graham Henderson and their son Ed. However, she likes to spend most of her time at their 100-year-old farmhouse in Grey County, Ontario.
She married Graham Henderson in 1988. She met her husband, an entertainment lawyer, in the mid-1980s after he heard the band's demo tapes and went to see them at Toronto's nightclub/restaurant The Rivoli. Shortly thereafter he was not only working to get the Junkies their deal with BMG in the U.S., but he and Margo started dating. Graham Henderson has been a partner at the law firm of McCarthy Tétrault and served as vice-president of business affairs and e-commerce at Universal Music Canada until 2000 when he was named president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA).
While Timmins recently celebrated her 20th year of marriage she admits to having a crush on Bruce Springsteen. She has said, "When I got married, I told my husband that if Bruce ever wanted me, that I would be his. And my husband said, OK".
She loves animals and she and Graham have had two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Achilles and Drusilla, as well as Sparticus the cat. In 2002, Margo and Graham suffered a significant loss in the death of their dog Gaius. Graham described the loss this way, "On August 20, 2002 our dog Gaius was diagnosed with pneumonia. Margo and I had just finished a three week vacation. I left to come home for work on the Sunday evening. Margo noticed trouble almost right away. Though he was in hospital almost immediately, the disease ravaged him and his great, loving heart gave out in the early hours of August 25, 2002. For those of us without children, our animals often become our children".
It was after the death of this beloved pet, that Margo and Graham started exploring the possibility of adopting a child. The adoption process took a year, during the recording of the Cowboy Junkies CD One Soul Now, but Margo and Graham were rewarded with a blond-haired, cherubic-cheeked son named Edward.
When Timmins is not on the road touring with Cowboy Junkies, she is home on the farm with her son Ed. Ed travels with the band on longer tours, but for shorter tours stays in Canada with his grandparents.
In 2009, she released a solo album of covers Margo's Corner: Ty Tyrfu Sessions, Volume 1.
In 2016, she was made a member of the Order of Ontario.Every square inch of her refrigerator door at her farm house is covered with a personal photo gallery of famous people she has met over the years, including Molly Ringwald, Sylvester Stallone, Meat Loaf, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Lovitz, Stephen Huff and Sean Penn.
She sang "O Canada" at the 1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, while Meat Loaf sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the same game.