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Interview: Rufus Wainwright

| August 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

First comes love and then comes marriage. For some, the sacred vows of holy matrimony signal the arrival of a baby carriage, but not for Rufus Wainwright. The closest thing pop music has to an old-guard opera diva eschews the traditional route in both his career and personal life. Yet, this month he’ll enter into a civil union with longtime partner, arts administrator Jorn Weisbrodt. Wainwright never envisioned walking down the proverbial aisle.

“I wasn’t a big gay-marriage supporter for a long time. Initially, I thought it was a ridiculous concept, only because one of my main philosophies in terms of the history of homosexuality is that it’s so unique and counterculture and really shouldn’t be equated at all with heterosexual life. But, that being said, I now feel that marriage – sure, let’s screw that up too,” he chortles.

Appearing: 8/8 at The Vic (3145 N. Sheffield) in Chicago with Adam Cohen.

Fatherhood and the passage of time also shifted the 39-year-old’s perspective. The couple play doting dads to Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen, the bouncing baby girl Wainwright sired last year with Leonard Cohen’s daughter, Lorca.

“My romantic notions have been somewhat developed over the years, and you get to a certain point where you just want to go to that next level. You want to see what possibilities lie ahead and all the options,” Wainwright admits. “I think that’s sort of my main argument for gay marriage. Why not? Why not?! Why not try it? Why not see where it leads? Why cut off certain paths that other people can go down? I’m just really curious. And I’m in love. Curious and in love.”

One path Wainwright fully embraces involves mining those nearest and dearest to him for song fodder. Call it family tradition. His own father, troubadour Loudon Wainwright III, excels at masking biting social commentary as folk ballads, but really shines when examining the fraught relationship with his offspring. Will little Viva have to live down her own version of “Rufus Is A Tit Man”?

“Whether it’s songs like ‘Rufus Is A Tit Man’ or ‘First Born’ by my mother [the late Kate McGarrigle], or even songs by certain friends, it’s just a natural part of my life and I guess the earlier you start the more you get used to it,” he says laughing heartily. “And considering how many songwriters there are in her family, be it on her father or mother’s side, I think she’s just got to get used to it.”

Wainwright obviously adheres to the “no time like the present” adage since the centerpiece on his latest release, Out Of The Game (Verve), delicately peeks into the future around Viva’s teenage years when chasing after boys and whiling away the hours with her besties trumps hanging out with the ‘rents. Plaintive, with the distant roar of undulating ocean waves supporting swirling keys, “Montauk” finds Wainwright tucking away any fantasies about life mirroring a sitcom. Because a clip of a girl dedicating her entire summer vacation to rose-pruning, kimono-wearing middle-aged men only happens on “My Two Dads.”

— Janine Schaults

For the full feature, click on the issue cover or grab a copy of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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Category: Featured, Features, Monthly

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