Volume 92, Issue 29

Tuesday, October 27, 1998

purple haze


Selling the melodrama

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

Make no mistake about it, Rufus Wainwright is not your average pop star.

At the tender age of 24, Wainwright has already lived through and seen things which many people may never experience. As the son of Canadian folk icons Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarricle, Wainwright was raised in a liberal, music-laden environment. While as a child he enjoyed the benefits of having famous parents, he also had to learn to adjust to an unorthodox and bohemian lifestyle. Compound this with Wainwright's early realization of his own homosexuality and it's easy to see why his music conveys such bleary-eyed road-weariness.

On his eponymous debut album, Wainwright has married his classical influences with a more contemporary sound, resulting in a unique and engaging listen. The album is so elaborately arranged it's sometimes difficult to even fathom how one would begin composing such a work.

According to Wainwright, the initial recording sessions were both time-consuming and painstaking processes. "We had a lot of time to do this. I recorded 56 songs and it took another two years to finish the record. The piano arrangements were quite sophisticated and we didn't want to 'mush' them. You don't want to screw with the piano because it'll definitely bite back," Wainwright smirks.

Wainwright's dedication and determination paid off in spades. His debut album has received boatloads of critical acclaim and Wainwright has already established a core group of diehard fans. What's even more impressive, he has done this largely without the benefit of radio or television support.

Although Wainwright's music isn't necessarily conducive to mainstream radio, he feels there is a place for his work in the collective consciousness. "I'll always have my influences. I still mainly listen to classical music and all that crap and I know I'm a little poncy artsy-fartsy boy, but I'd love to have a hit," Wainwright muses. "I wouldn't mind being played on the radio. I don't think it's beneath me. I signed the record contract to become a pop star – I can't fool myself."

Wainwright's opening spot on Sloan's Canadian tour has functioned as somewhat of an eye-opener for the veteran performer. "The size of the rooms that I'm playing [on the Sloan tour] are bigger. I'm actually really getting into that. There's something about hearing the reverberation from your voice bouncing off a high school [gym] wall." Wainwright is also conscious of the hazards of trying to translate his classically informed music to a room full of Sloan fans. "I think that as long as it's an earlier [show] and it's all ages, then it should be okay."

So Wainwright continues to traverse the nation, selling his unique brand of classically-infused pop to both jam-packed clubs and spacious concert halls alike. It's only a matter of time before he carves out a name for himself, but it's a guarantee that once he does achieve stardom, he will have done it on his own terms.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998