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“I like writing operas and classical pieces.” - Rufus Wainwright
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Still in the game

Rufus Wainwright's last album, Out of the Game, is almost three years old now but the singer-songwriter has been busy with a number of side projects.
Feb 27, 2015 5:50 AM

MOVE over, the Osbournes. When it comes to the antics of a showbiz family, things can get quite rock and roll even in the folk-singing Wainwright household. They don't even need a reality television show to air their dirty laundry - you'll hear it all in their songs.

Father Loudon Wainwright III - a folk-pop icon in the seventies - wrote I'd Rather Be Lonely, about wanting downtime from his daughter Martha (whom Snow Patrol fans might recognise as the guest vocalist on the Britpop band's hit, Set Fire to the Third Bar); in turn, she fired one back at him with a ditty titled B**** Motherf***** A**hole; mother Kate McGarrigle penned Go Leave after her husband walked out on the family; while son Rufus took a shot at his estranged father with Dinner at Eight and another at his sister in Martha, after she failed to return his calls following the death of their mother in 2010.

It's all in a day's job for the Wainwrights as they make an art out of family feuds; though these days, things have mellowed slightly and it's common to often find the children sharing the stage with their dad. Just earlier this month, father and son performed together, to critical acclaim, in Toronto.

Rufus, himself, will also be heading to Singapore next month, playing his first-ever show here at the Esplanade. Suffice to say, performing runs in his blood, and he's happy to be on the road even though he doesn't have a new album to plug at the moment. His last, Out of the Game, is almost three years old now.

"I grew up touring with my mother quite a bit and my father was on the road most of the time," says the openly-gay singer-songwriter over the phone from Denver, Colorado, where he was playing last week. "I'm a working musician and I feel (playing shows) is necessary to finance my other exploits - I like writing operas and classical pieces."

Some of those side projects include Five Shakespeare Sonnets, commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony; and Prima Donna which he has recently finished recording through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The New-York-born, Montreal-raised Wainwright is already writing a second opera, based on the story of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Antinous, that is set to premiere in Toronto in late 2018.

But fans need not worry about the 41-year-old ditching pop for classical - "I've been writing a lot of songs in between and going to the studio secretly," he reveals. "One thing about writing an opera is when I'm sick of it, I'll just write a pop song so there's no way I will abandon my rock and roll career!"

Highly revered by his peers (Elton John calls him "the greatest songwriter on the planet"), his musical genes were evident from the critical success he enjoyed with his self-titled debut (1999) and the equally strong follow-up, Poses, two years later. Both records won Best Alternative Albums at the Junos, the Canadian music industry's version of the Grammys.

The prolific artist has also released seven studio albums to date; three "live" albums including one which he pays tribute to his idol, Judy Garland; and he has collaborated with a range of pop stars from Elton John to David Byrne, Boy George, Joni Mitchell, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams and Mark Ronson, who produced Out of the Game.

Wainwright promises to play a selection from across his entire discography at his Singapore show and possibly even new songs like the three which he has written about his daughter, Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen.

Conceived with Lorca Cohen, daughter of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, the four-year-old is also being raised together with Wainwright's German theatre producer husband/"deputy daddy", Jörn Weisbrodt. On parenthood, the typically-flamboyant Wainwright coos: "It's exciting and terrifying - like opera on steroids - and she's very smart so I have to try not to let her dominate my ego!"

Rufus Wainwright performs at the Esplanade Theatre on March 17 at 8pm. Tickets from S$48 to S$108 are on sale now at Sistic and at the venue's box office