Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright talks to Russell Baillie about his inviting new album
The most surprising aspect of the new record it is that it's not that surprising. It's an album of perfectly pleasant pop songs.
Oh, thank you. What I am enjoying about this album and the process to make it, was there is a kind of relaxed, very open and light factor to it that seems to be drawing people in. More than perhaps than when I dramatically declared everyone had to listen to what I was doing. Now I'm a little more subtle. If you want to hear it, it's fine ...
Is it a reaction to the last album?
I guess it would be a reaction to the last four years of my life - with my mother's illness, her first being diagnosed, then the opera, and then her death and Lulu and having a child and being in a relationship. I've just been in this incredibly adult universe and so I was in desperate need of a break and just a moment's respite and I got that with this record.
But the title song effectively says "Finally, I'm a grown-up".
Yeah, I think it's a bittersweet acknowledgment of the fact I have all this bloody experience and my skin is better from a distance. That said, I think it's a very playful observation. I am not horrified by this shift in events. I'm rolling with the punches.
What came up in your early conversations with Mark Ronson about how it should sound?
I gave him most of the music before we made the album and I let him live with it. Since we started working I essentially handed over the reins. He was very comfortable with me letting him do this thing.
The album moves from the 1960s soul sound he's best known for to something akin to the West Coast pop of the 1970s. You've cited Elton John and Fleetwood Mac as an influence too.
I can't say I know much about the 70s technically [but] I was born in 1973 and do have memories of a lot of garbage, tight pants and big hair, kaftans. It isn't a total stretch for both Mark and I to be re-examining the dawn of our lives.
Song-wise Montauk addresses your daughter Viva about the place where it sounds like you want to grow old.
It's the tip of Long Island. We have a place there and it's the first time I have ever had a garden. It's right by the sea. The town is very beautiful.
And Song of You is for your husband to be...
Yes, he requested a song as always and I duly deliver them. I love writing songs about him. He is one of my greatest muses and we both share this real passion for opera and classical music and culture.
Will be there be arguments about the wedding music?
Oh yes. We are starting that soon. Needless to say there is an orchestra that has agreed to play. I am not sure if we will take them up on it.
You played for the Queen at a Commonwealth concert at Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago. Was there any rolling over in the crypts?
Ha ha. In terms of what? Mary Queen of Scots or something? And I am from Quebec which is even more crazy. But I wanted to sing in Westminster Abbey and it was a great honour.
Given the venue, the guest of honour, and recent Elton influence, you weren't tempted to break into a few bars of Candle in the Wind?
Ha ha ha. No.