Ru­fus Wain­wright on why he has noth­ing to com­plain about,

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some of the most tur­bu­lent in his life. The sub­ject of death – pri­mar­ily that of his folk singer mother Kate Mcgar­rigle, who died in Jan­uary 2010 – is ad­dressed on sev­eral songs, most notably Some­times You Need and Can­dles.

“Well, that song [ Can­dles] is par­tic­u­larly holy for me. I mean, I’m not bap­tised Catholic, but I do light can­dles for the Vir­gin Mary. I’ve al­ways had a thing for her. I’m more of a ‘real Madonna’ fan; her early, early phase – like Byzan­tine,” he dead­pans. “And lo and be­hold, hav­ing a han­ker­ing for that ho­cus pocus busi­ness, I would light can­dles for my mother all the time while she was alive. And once she died, I went to three dif­fer­ent churches in one week to light a can­dle for her, and all three churches were out of can­dles. So I took that as a mes­sage, like my mom was say­ing ‘Don’t worry Ru­fus, I’m on my way, I’ll be OK – take care of your­self’. But the next church I went to af­ter that was in Paris, Notre Dame. And as I was light­ing it, I thought ‘Oh, of course. Kate wanted it done at Notre Dame. None of these silly lit­tle sec­ond-rate corner churches in New York City,’” he laughs. “And then the song came to me.

“I guess I’m a be­liever; if you be­lieve, it will come. Maybe I’m an idiot in that way, but I get a lot of good songs.”

If death in­spired one lyri­cal thread on Out of the Game, it’s bal­anced by its op­pos­ing

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tenet: birth. Wain­wright be­came a fa­ther last year to Viva, whose mother is Lorca Co­hen (daugh­ter of Leonard). The beau­ti­ful pi­ano bal­lad Mon­tauk ad­dresses the one-year-old and makes ref­er­ence to both “dad” and “other dad” – Wain­wright’s part­ner, Jorn Weis­brodt, whom he will marry later this year. To say that he is in a dif­fer­ent per­sonal space these days would be some­thing of an un­der­state­ment.

“I think I’ve al­ways been some­one who’s con­sci­en­tious about stay­ing on the bright side of the af­fair,” he says of the highs and lows of the last two years. “I can be cut­ting, I can be witty, I can be con­tro­ver­sial – but I’m never, ever mean. Never.

“Ex­cept, y’know, to cer­tain crit­ics con­cern­ing opera re­views,” he adds, arch­ing an eye­brow. “And the same goes for writ­ing a song about my daugh­ter. I’m mind­ful that there is a sil­ver lin­ing in any­thing I’m gonna say about her – or any­one else, for that mat­ter. I mean, I grew up with Loudon Wain­wright, and part of his bril­liance is that there is no fil­ter: he will write about any­thing – what­ever he’s feel­ing. He can be re­ally reck­less at times, but he re­ally goes for the truth of the mat­ter. And I’m very lucky to have that ex­am­ple in my con­scious­ness, be­cause he al­ways pushes the en­ve­lope. Some­times it ex­plodes, and some­times, y’know . . .” he smiles, a glint in his eye, “. . . it’s full of cash.”

His tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship with Wain­wright Snr has been well doc­u­mented in the past, but re­cent events have brought a re-eva­lu­tion of their re­la­tion­ship.

“Well, es­pe­cially af­ter the death of my mother, there’s not much point in be­ing neg­a­tive about your par­ents, be­cause once you lose one . . . well, it just gives you such a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive,” he nods. “I do ad­mire him. I es­pe­cially ad­mire his singing voice. I mean, he’s singing bet­ter now than he ever has, and he’s act­ing in a play right now in New York, and I know he’s hap­pi­est when he’s ac­tu­ally act­ing, he loves the theatre.”

As the ti­tle track of Out of the Game makes clear, the 38-year-old Wain­wright – some- thing of a fire­brand in his early 20s – has come to ac­cept that he’s now older and wiser. “Well, I feel like I gotta keep my nose clean a lot more now, in terms of hav­ing kids and be­ing in a mar­riage and want­ing to write an­other opera, and be­ing deep in that field,” he says.

“You gotta work out, and mois­turise, and sing your scales and stuff. But I think that’s how I’ve sur­vived in my life. My ex­is­tence is that I just throw these big projects in front of me, and do whatev- er it takes to ac­com­plish them. Num­ber one thing: stay alive!”

Now that “project pop” has been com­pleted, what ex­actly does he hope to achieve from it? Is su­per­star­dom an ob­jec­tive?

“I mean, I think I should win some Gram­mys . . . I think I should be heard in el­e­va­tors, that sort of thing. And also, I wouldn’t mind some kind of . . . not so much recog­ni­tion, but ummm . . . money?” he jokes.

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve done very, very well, and I’ve noth­ing to com­plain about – and if worst comes to worst, I’ll just keep play­ing Carnegie Hall, so I shouldn’t be that con­cerned about it. But that be­ing said, whether it’s Neil Ten­nant, or El­ton John, or Sting – a lot of the peo­ple that I know per­son­ally who are just more wildly suc­cess­ful than I am – I’d like to bridge that gap a lit­tle bit. I’m tired of be­ing the poor cousin.” A Broad­way mu­si­cal may be the next scheme on the cards. “I think that’s the one big thing that has to come to fruition at some point, aside from op­eras, or song cy­cles, or what­ever – es­pe­cially liv­ing in New York,” he says, stretch­ing his limbs and smil­ing. “But Steven Sond­heim is what, 85 or some­thing? I’ve still got

time.”

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