BEING born into music royalty, the importance of being an open, honest performer was ingrained at an early age for Rufus Wainwright.
Despite acknowledging his career and life may have taken a different, more successful path if he hadn’t been so honest, the American-born, Canadian-raised singer/songwriter wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“There was a kind of backlash in terms of some major television spots and budgets for videos and things that especially at a certain time in your life, when you’re very, very young and you’re on top of the world, are incredibly important,” he said.
“However, I was able to create my own career and did very well for myself and I’m happy with the route that I took… I think I possibly would have made more money initially but would have spent that on drugs and alcohol. I would have been a much unhappier person.”
Wainwright said he had no control over his need to be himself.
“I had no choice about it,” he argued.
“I was so horny and I knew exactly what I wanted and it doesn’t seem possible now to have been any other way. I’ve always been very drawn by my passions and by my romantic sensibilities. I couldn’t imagine being any other way.”
Coming from a musical family — his father is folk singer Loudon Wainwright III, his late mother Kate McGarrigle and sister Martha Wainwright — artistic freedom was highly regarded.
However, Wainwright said that on a personal level, his parents initially struggled with his sexuality.
“Both my parents I have to say were not great when I came out of the closet. They were ill-equipped [to deal with the news] and also at that time AIDS was very prevalent, and to them being gay was a death sentence. I don’t really blame them,” he explained.
“But on an artistic one they were incredible and really encouraged both my sister and me to be unique. That was the most important thing; to be utterly different than anything out there.”
Being an openly-gay artist has attracted a sizeable LGBTI fanbase — one that will no doubt flock to his upcoming tour of Australia. However, Wainwright faced some negative feedback over comments he made last year about gay men having “terrible taste in music”.
“The feedback that I’ve had from those people who are thoughtful and wise and are slightly a little more experienced in the world, and perhaps also remember another time when the bar was set a little higher, I got a big thank you,” he said.
“I certainly don’t think that every gay man has bad taste in music, and if some people are just going to read a headline and that’s it, so be it. I can’t reason with them.
“I stand by it in a sense but also people have got to realise it was tongue-in-cheek as well.”
Wainright added that it was a discussion he’d “love to get into further”.
“But it seems the minute you want to talk about it, they’re off to the club,” he joked.
A 2013 collaboration with Robbie Williams that purposefully flirted with long-standing gay rumours about Williams achieved widespread attention, and Wainwright spoke of his adoration for the singer.
“Doing that duet was amazing. I recorded (the eponymous) song with him for Swings Both Ways and we wrote it together, and we’ve since written a few other songs,” he said.
“He is one of the most generous and kind and down-to-earth people you’ve ever met as well as being heartbreakingly straight. He’s so straight that he isn’t afraid to be gay. It’s just one of those terrible, terrible things… it’s kind of a double-edged penis,” he joked.
“He had been a fan of mine for years and it was really through [Williams’ writing partner] Guy Chambers that brought us together. It was meant to be.”
Wainwright’s tour starts off in Perth on March 2 and his Sydney dates will have him in town around the time of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival.
“I’ll see when I get around if I’m able to go to any of the events. I’m doing certain shows in Sydney then I have a couple of days off,” he said.
“So it seems I may have a few holes in my schedule… I may have a few holes in my future. I apologise, that was disgusting.”
Nonetheless, his final Australian show in Brisbane is also the end of his current global tour.
“[Australian audiences] are incredible, I can honestly say that with this latest album that I’m touring with, after doing America and Europe, I knew it was necessary that I come to Australia and end the tour there,” he said.
“Australia has been so supportive for so long and I’m always renewed and reenergised and reinvigorated by your wonderful country. It gives me strength so thank you, I can’t wait to be there.”
For details and tickets on Rufus Wainright’s Australian tour, which includes dates in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane between March 2-12, click here
**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.