The past couple years have been full of changes for Rufus Wainwright. The singer, who’d long courted an image as a libertine, settled into fatherhood and married life, as Wainwright married his partner Jörn Weisbrodt this past August in New York (earlier this year, he spilled the ceremony music to us). 2012 also saw the release of what may be his finest album, the Mark Ronson-produced Out of the Game. Hive recently caught up with Wainwright backstage at the Austin City Limits Festival to learn what all of these changes have meant to him, and why the self-professed Libertarian has had a change of political heart.
Your album came out earlier this year. Are you working on anything new yet, or are you still pretty focused on this one?
I’m pretty focused on this one still. There’s also a great film — my mother was an amazing songwriter, and she passed away three years ago from a rare form of cancer called saucoma. But we made a great film of her material called Singing the Songs That Say I Love You. It’s with Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Jimmy Fallon, and the whole family all singing her songs. It’s premiering at the New York Docs Fest in November, so we’re doing a lot of work around that, too.
You work in other media from time to time. Are you interested in doing more of that?
I’ve written an opera and a musical, yes. I’m always pretty versatile, as I think I must be in order to survive in this very, very dicey climate of the record business. It’s something I’d like to do more of, definitely, definitely. Especially considering I don’t have to do photoshoots in my mid-40’s [Laughs].
You’re a father now. How has that affected your songwriting?
I’ve written songs about my daughter, as I write songs about every aspect of my life. It’s just sort of what I do. It’s been amazing, although it’s a learning experience, of course. I would be a fool to make any general statements about it right now. She’s not even two yet, so it’s all new.
Watch the video for “Jericho”:
That’s just one of a few changes for you as you’ve also gotten married recently. Is that something you’d ever have expected for yourself?
No, not at all. But that’s the beauty of life. You’re constantly placed in these compromising positions of beauty. [Laughs.]
You used to identify as a Libertarian. Is that still true?
That was a while ago. But I still am, I still believe in the idea that people should be able to do whatever the hell they want. If that’s being a libertarian, and I suppose it is. But at the moment, I’m much more of a Democrat, in terms of this election. For me, it’s a no-brainer, because Obama and Biden have come through on key gay rights issues, whether it’s don’t ask, don’t tell, or marriage equality, they’re definitely on the right side of that story. And I’m gay, so that kind of solidifies that position. That being said, I don’t like being lied to, and I feel like with Romney, there’s a constant fluctuation of positions. I feel like I’m being duped all the time with whatever he’s saying. He’s just telling you what you want to hear. For me, it’s just a matter of common sense.
Watch the video for “Across the Universe”:
As a fairly high-profile gay man, what’s it like to have a stark decision like this, where you have Obama and Biden, who have done things? In the past, John Kerry would have been better than George Bush, but he wasn’t really an advocate.
I don’t think it could be starker in terms of a number of things — the Republicans want to go to war, and the Democrats want to get out. Though that’s not a picnic either. And also, women’s rights. The Republicans are attacking them vehemently, and the Democrats believe in freedom, on that front. I guess it’s just economics where it can get a little bit blurry, but I’ve never been good at numbers anyway. [Laughs.]
The record is very complex, and there’s not a lot that sounds like it, especially with a man’s voice. Was that an opportunity for you to put something out there that doesn’t sound like anything else at the moment?
Well, I’ve always done that. My first record was like that. I’ve always tried to be different, which, oddly enough, is very unusual. My original strategy was to not sound like everybody else. I thought that would be a good way to get people to notice me. That kind of made sense in my mind. But then I was immediately met with this conundrum, where it’s the complete opposite — you’re supposed to sound like somebody else, or fit into some category. But I didn’t go over to that side. I stuck to my guns, and hey, I’m still around.
How do you find spaces other people aren’t working in after so many records?
A lot of that has to do with opera. I’m a huge opera fanatic, and when you really go into that realm, it’s the cathedral ceiling of opportunity. There’s just so much to take from, and be influenced by. Hundreds of years of music and writings and history, so that to me has always a huge source of inspiration.
Out of the Game is out now on Decca/Polydor Records.