Rufus Wainwright on Leonard the Grandfather

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Rufus Wainwright on Leonard the Grandfather

Postby Born With The Gift Of A G » Fri Aug 29, 2014 6:57 pm

Rufus Wainwright: rock dynasties, gay marriage and my battle with addiction

The Times (UK)
Sathnam Sanghera

Last updated at 9:48AM, August 29 2014

If he’d kept quiet about being gay, he would be more successful, the singer-songwriter says, but with a husband and a child with Leonard Cohen’s daughter, life is sweet

Rufus Wainwright is sitting in a dressing room at the Royal Festival Hall, preparing to go on stage to sing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina with the BBC Concert Orchestra at “a celebration of the songwriting of Tim Rice”. With a soundcheck in progress, various harried presenters and performers including Rob Brydon and Michael Grade can be seen striding up and down the corridors outside. A fellow performer is warming up next door by playing the piano very loudly and badly. And several PRs and handlers are hovering around to make sure our brief conversation doesn’t go on a second longer than necessary.

It’s not, frankly, the most tranquil setting for a conversation. But the Canadian-American singer-songwriter turns out to be a relaxed interviewee who is a master of the efficient one-liner (“What advice would I give to my younger self? Work on your abs”). He positively enjoys talking to groups, playing up to his audience for shock effect, remarking variously that the fad for selfies means that fans’ mobile phones should come with “deodorant sticks”, that he is fortunate not to have a huge gay following because “gay men have terrible taste in music” and that he is grateful to have recently fathered a daughter rather than a son because he would “hate to be attracted” to a son.

What? You can’t say that. I’m not even sure you can think it. “I don’t think it would happen,” he laughs in response, explaining that it’s just that “when I’m old and he is 35 and gorgeous . . . Well, he would probably look like me. And I would be like, ‘Oh my God! I’m falling in love with myself!’ ”

Everyone in the room laughs along. Some of us more nervously than others. Though if the 41-year-old singer-songwriter and composer who has recorded seven albums of original music can afford to be more risqué than your average pop star, it might be, as The Sun put it rather brusquely recently, because he has a “reputation as pop’s biggest star who has never had a hit single”.

It’s a subject on which the son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III is characteristically open, saying that while France is “waking up to me after a severe battering” and while the UK has “probably” his “most solid and loyal and largest audience”, America has been a struggle.

“They constantly want the new thing right away. The United States of Amnesia, as Gore Vidal would say.” His accent drifts between Canada and America, as does his sense of identity, with the one-time Montrealer saying that while he sees himself as American, “when political winds shift I can easily head north”.

Does he think that being gay has held back his career in the US? “Totally. If I had been somewhat more strategic and less honest and gone with an asexual or bisexual persona, I think I would have been given a lot more opportunity and attention. But that being said I feel that my public, who have been with me a while now, have been grateful and appreciative of my honesty and are loyal.”

Of course, the other aspect that has probably hampered his success is that which makes him the most intriguing: his deliberate and challenging blurring of pop and classical boundaries. Having studied piano at McGill University in Montreal, Wainwright got into opera as a teenager and its influence can be detected in some of his most famous songs, including Barcelona, which includes lyrics from his Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth; the Shakespeare sonnets he has set to music; the ballet that he has composed; Prima Donna, the opera he composed and premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2009; and Hadrian, the opera he is presently composing and which will have its premiere at the Canadian Opera Company in 2018.

Indeed, the peg for our meeting is typically boundary-busting — Wainwright’s forthcoming performance of his most famous songs at this year’s BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park, preceded by his own Late Night Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on September 11.

Does he think his pop fans keep up with his experimentation? “Well, the classical work that I do is very much an offshoot of my songs and popular work. I don’t want to alienate anyone, but I guess I alienate certain purists who can’t hear a melody any more.”

Given a choice between having a critically acclaimed opera or global smash pop hit, what would he choose? “I try to write more pop stuff now than I did when I was younger. I have become really interested in what makes a pop song tick, but I would have to say the opera only because I could grow really fat and grow a beard and nobody would care and I wouldn’t be hounded down and crucified and paparazzied to death by the pop machine.”

He laughs like a drain and as the room joins in I suggest that he would actually be very good at being very famous. “Well, I am somewhat famous!” he hoots in response.

He continues: “I think one of the reasons that I am not considered megafamous is that I don’t really do that thing that the very famous do, of shunning attention. I have always been one to say, ‘Hey, take as many pictures as you want. Yeah, sure, I’ll sing at your party. I’ll sing at the after-party too. And at breakfast’.”

This ease with life on the stage doubtless has something to do with being born into it. Wainwright was just six when he began playing the piano and started touring at the age of 13 with “the McGarrigle Sisters and Family”, a folk outfit featuring his sister Martha, his late mother Kate and his aunt Anna.

Indeed, another of the charming and distinctive things about his music is that it celebrates family life — with songs such as Martha and Dinner at Eight addressing episodes with his parents and sibling.

Although now he has a family of his own, having recently married the German Jörn Weisbrodt, who has just been appointed artistic director of Toronto’s annual Luminato Festival, and becoming father to Viva, with his childhood mate Lorca Cohen, daughter of the legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Has being a father changed his life? “It is definitely changing my schedule,” he jokes. “My daughter lives with her mother in LA. I think with children especially the more time you spend with them the better. Actually I’m skyping with her in 15 minutes.” He raises an eyebrow for the benefit of his small audience. “See, I’m a great father.”

We move on to the subject of his mother — McGarrigle died of cancer in 2010 — whom Wainwright touchingly describes as “always the most talented person in the room”.

I can’t resist asking how his father and Leonard Cohen compare as grandfathers. “They are very different. My dad almost becomes a child with children. He regresses. Leonard is always Leonard. What you see is what you get. He is very wise and imposing and he is like that with his kids too. It’s funny.”

Wainwright has covered several of Cohen’s songs during his career, most famously Hallelujah, but his version of Chelsea Hotel No 2 is especially worth hunting down.
Though he has recently had the experience of being covered himself, with George Michael singing Going to a Town on a live album and telling a story while on tour about phoning Wainwright while stoned only to pass out mid-conversation (“So I’ve no idea how it ended and I’ve been too embarrassed to ever call him back to find out”).

“That was an entertaining evening,” recalls Wainwright. “He apologised.” Alluding to his own problems with drugs and alcohol, he adds: “I’ve been down that road as well. I know exactly what is going on and how it can be exhilarating and harrowing at the same time.”

A question about whether he attends AA or NA provides the only moment of reticence during our conversation, with Wainwright saying, “I don’t really talk about that stuff.”

But he immediately returns to his relaxed self, dismissing the significance of performing at Hyde Park, where he was sexually assaulted after picking up a man in a bar at the age of just 14 (“I played a concert in the park years ago, commented on it from the stage and felt that at that point I exorcised it”) and talking about the problems his parents had accepting his sexuality, describing their reaction as “horrific” but “understandable”.

“I can’t blame them. I was very young, it was [the] late Eighties and Aids was everywhere.” Has he forgiven them? “They have never really asked for forgiveness. I think there is still some stuff there. At some point I would like to retouch on that subject with my dad. Just a little bit. I think he would be up for that.”

At this point yet another person enters the dressing room, a man who turns out to be his tour manager, and it is clear that Wainwright has to leave for a soundcheck.

As a parting question I ask if turning 40 was a big deal. “You know, I actually believe that it is a big deal. I am very close to my family and there are people getting old now. There is this recurring situation where once every few months one of them will fall and break a bone.

“But it is also the greatest period of one’s life. If you are in good health and successful in one’s career and satisfied in your love life, this is the main act.”
"Little lady.....I AM Kris Kristofferson....."
London: 10 & 11 May 1993; Manchester: 17, 18, 19 & 20 June 2008; Vienna: 25 September 2008; London: 17 November 2008; Paris: 26 November 2008; Manchester: 30 November 2008; Liverpool: 14 July 2009; Paris: 28 September 2012; Manchester: 31 August 2013; Leeds: 7 September 2013.
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Re: Rufus Wainwright on Leonard the Grandfather

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:49 pm

rufus on bbc radio 4 - front row :
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Re: Rufus Wainwright on Leonard the Grandfather

Postby 199Dan » Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:21 pm

;Wow...... thanks for sharing .
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Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:41 pm

Re: Rufus Wainwright - mastertapes

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:04 pm

rufus on mastertapes.

two programmes.

John Wilson returns with a new series of Mastertapes, in which he talks to leading performers and songwriters about the album that made them or changed them. Recorded in front of a live audience at the BBC's iconic Maida Vale Studios.

programme one -

programme two -
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the chief scout's favourite song - hallelujah

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:22 pm

Quickfire with adventurer Bear Grylls

By Clare Geraghty For You Magazine

31 May 2015

Karaoke song of choice?

‘Hallelujah’ by Rufus Wainwright ... rylls.html
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simon sebag montefiore likes rufus wainwright on Leonard the Grandfather

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:59 pm

private passions - bbc radio 3 - simon selects rufus's version of chelsea hotel from 2005 album "what".

scroll down for simon's playlist - rufus is played 30 minutes approx into the programme.

simon's dad was a psychiatrist and also enjoyed listening to leonard.

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a prizewinning writer whose books return again and again to Russia...
Posts: 928
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:41 pm

simon sebag montefiore likes rufus wainwright

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:00 pm

private passions - bbc radio 3 - simon selects rufus's version of chelsea hotel no 2 from 2005 album "what".

scroll down for simon's playlist - rufus is played 30 minutes approx into the programme.

simon's dad was a psychiatrist and enjoyed listening to leonard.

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a prizewinning writer whose books return again and again to Russia...

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