Wainwright to share tunes, art and soul
By Han Sang-hee
Rufus Wainwright may be one of the most talented singer-songwriters in the world, but when it comes to food, he’s an ordinary culinary craver who enjoys exotic food, such as Korean cuisine.
“I’m a big Korean food fan, so I’m very excited. I’ve never been to Korea but I’ve always dreamt of going there,” the singer told The Korea Times in an email interview.
The 37-year-old is holding a special performance here in Seoul for the first time, lining up some of his best works and also a unique theatrical performance arranged by visual artist Douglas Gordon.
When talking about Wainwright, it’s hard not to notice the critical acclaim he receives from fellow artists. His works from films including “I Am Sam,” “Shrek” and “Brokeback Mountain” had fans wonder about the songwriter and when he finally emerged from the shadows, Sir Elton John eventually called him the “greatest songwriter on the planet,” while the New York Times hailed him as an artist with “genuine originality.”
Perhaps his talents come from his genes: he’s the son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. Growing up with such parents naturally led him to start music at an early age: he learned to play the piano when he was six and started touring with his mother as a teenager. While most musical families tend to share similar tastes and genres, his family was a bit different, according to the singer, for they were all “extremely different in our musical language.”
“I personally think it’s because we don’t have a huge star. We didn’t have pressure of extreme success. Therefore, we were all able to develop and concentrate on art and music,” he said.
When his mother died this January, he obviously had a difficult time coping with it, yet he was lucky enough to have had the chance to share music and love with family, friends and fans at a Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, a month before she passed away.
“It (turned) out that in the history of the Royal Albert Hall, there’s never been that many people, about 6,000, in that room. We sold out more than anybody in the history of almost 200 years. So I think it was an amazing end of the first chapter of my family and it helped me a lot with my mother’s death,” he recalled.
His sixth studio album “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu” depicts his emotions concerning his family, especially his mother, and also brought out the simpler side of his musicality, using only the piano.
“We live in recession. There’s a serious economic downturn. So everything is being cut back. Everybody has to tighten their belts to survive. So, for me to return to piano was that I was doing what everybody else was doing in life,” he explained.
“Also, my mother was dying. The piano became a kind of surrogate to her. It was a communication with her soul and her identity.”
His new album also includes Shakespeare’s sonnets, which is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his vast interest in the arts, including ballet, film and opera.
“I did a project with Shakespeare’s sonnets a few years ago with theater director Robert Wilson. I wrote music to 10 of the sonnets. The poems are so powerful and so deep that once you swim in them, the current and depth of the words just capture you and affect your life. They had to reflect back to my music career. (You) can’t live with Shakespeare then be the same person. They change you,” he said.
In the case of operas, the singer explained that it was indeed a refreshing experience and also a great chance for him to learn about so many things.
“When you write an album or record in the studio as a pop musician, you are the center of the attention and whatever you do is what is important. Your intention has to be protected and has to be No. 1. That’s important in opera, too, but the reality is that when you get into the room with other powerful individuals of opera singers, conductors or classical musicians, you have to immediately learn how to share and learn how to integrate into that world.
“It’s not necessarily about becoming smaller or even being nice, but it’s a kind of a negotiation. If those musicians don’t like you, they play badly and that’s it!” he said, adding that he felt the need to come back to pop music and enjoy show business.
“While I’m still relatively good-looking,” he joked.
Rufus Wainwright will perform on Oct. 10 at AX-Korea, northern Seoul. All tickets cost 99,000 won. For more information, visit www.interpark.co.kr or call (02) 563-0595.