Pretty damn good for a "gay opera queen"

Rufus Wainwright finds greater success with new disc

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright knows how to write a good song. Currently touring to promote his fifth studio album, Release the Stars, Wainwright has the right mix of talent and well-deserved “arrogance” to know what he does well "even if it took him a while to get there.

“I’ve been [songwriting] for so long now that I’ve refined it into a bodily function,” Wainright explains. “Whether eating, peeing or writing songs, I don’t use notes, they just kind of come and go when I’m full of influence.”

But working on his craft hasn’t always been easy for Wainwright.

“[It] took a lot of work,” he says. “There were many, many years in the beginning when I had to sort of force myself to write and edit myself.”

In order to stay focused, Wainwright looks for the deeper meaning of his calling.

“It’s my God-given responsibility to exert my full potential... that’s what being human is all about, and thank God that I know what I can do,” he explains, “I think everybody has that drive but not everybody knows what it is they should be doing. Because I know what I should be doing, and I must be grateful for that, I do it as well as I can.”

Knowing his own style has given Wainwright the confidence to experiment with different techniques. He stayed in Berlin to record Release the Stars, and the city’s atmosphere heavily influenced the album.

“Many things converge with this record. Notably, I think I was sort of overwhelmed by my romantic underbelly, which has always existed... but when I went to Berlin to record the album, I initially had this idea of making it kind of bare-boned and dark and very intimate and not at all orchestrated.

“But once I got to Berlin, the wave of German Romanticism and classical intensity really kind of took over my imagination. Because I produced this album, I was forced to give up my more lavish sensibility.”

While Wainwright was surprised at Berlin’s effect on his music, he welcomes the changes it had on his syle.

“It was pretty amazing because I still wanted to make a very intimate record, maybe even a solo counter-record " but my life at the moment is just too crazy and too big to fold up at this point,” Wainwright says. “So I think this album is so fused with this life force that even I can’t know what to do.”

Recording Release the Stars may have been transcendant, but promoting the album was in many ways a trying experience " but extremely positive in others.

“[Touring is] beyond mundane,” Wainwright says, “I mean, it’s utter treachery and inhumane behaviour. That said, for that one and a half hour or two hours on stage, it’s all worth it. In the end when you get up there and you’re doing your thing, it’s just the conundrum of show business, what you put up for a buzz.”

Despite its hardships, touring is no new challenge to Wainwright, who toured with his musical family at a young age.

“I often do music with my mother and sing with both my sisters, Martha and Lucy, and my dad " I’ve sung with my dad many times. I think having a family you can sing with is a sort of secret weapon of this business. I love doing it. There’s something about genetic bonds meeting in the air, there’s a certain ring there that you can’t recreate with someone you’re not related to; it’s strange.”

Wainwright’s personal life has affected his career in other ways. He is a prominent member of the gay community and a gay icon for music lovers.

“I am kind of arrogant in terms of the fact that I started my career completely open about my sexuality and have survived in the mainstream and thrived,” Wainwright says. “By no means was I getting super successful but I have remained current and viable, so I think just by the nature of that decision I have no choice but to be kind of politically or socially relevant, just because there is no one else. I’m the Litmus test for that whole situation.

“I mean, it’s kind of made me make the other new artists like Mika and certain artists say, “Oh, I’m kind of a bisexual.’ People are still very clouded about [sexuality] and I never was.”

Wainwright has defied expectations, finding success in spite of the limitations imposed on members of the gay community.

Release the Stars has gone gold in the UK. It’s definitely my most impactful effort yet,” Wainright says. “And I think for a 34-year-old gay opera queen, that’s pretty good.”

"With files from Desiree Gamotin

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