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Interview:
Rufus Wainwright in Ann Arbor, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Rufus Wainwright at a folk festival? You betcha.



The son of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle, music, and folk music in particular, is part of Wainwright's DNA. His own career has gone in many different directions, of course, from pop to opera to a Judy Garland tribute. His last album featured musical adaptations of nine Shakespeare sonnets. But he still embraces the music that can be called his "roots."



But rest assured Wainwright, 45, has more on the horizon and will likely have more surprises moving forward...



Wainwright says by phone that, "I am arguably one of the most qualified artists around to fit into the folk configuration, being that I was brought up going to folk festivals with both my parents. My earliest memories are of hootenannies and workshops and camping, so it's in my bones. I decided at a fairly young age that I would go in another direction than folk, but I would say that having this folk base is one of the real secrets to my success, because those songs last a long time and, thankfully, I was brought up in that."



Wainwright's next recording effort brings him back to pop for the first time since 2012's "Out of the Game." Working with producer Mitchell Froom, Wainwright is putting the finishing touches on the set, though it might not be out until early 2020. He has, however, been previewing some of the new songs at his concerts. "It's a deepening on many levels, both in terms of music and my life situation, which is being a dad and being married and being over 45 -- those are some heavy duty situations there. So all of that factors into it."



As for his lyrics, Wainwright promises that "I have some funny numbers; I maintain the Wainwright sense of humor, which is a familial trait. But most of it sort of dwells within the eternal feelings that I like to engender in my material, where it can be sung by anyone at any time."



Age, Wainwright adds, has its benefits. "I've never sun better than now. My voice is sort of at its very peak right now. That's not unusual for someone in the opera world; It's really in your 40s when you kind of hit your stride. And in terms of the folk connection, that's something I grew up with, working with Joan Baez or Pete Seeger, Emmylou Harris -- all of those artists were really at their best in their 40s and 50s. There's a kind of eminence that was really respected and worshiped and revered."



Wainwright is grateful that throughout his career his audience has been open to his stylistic adventures. "It's a really kind of curious and unprogrammed individual who gravitates towards my work. If they're not open to opera necessarily they're willing to allow me that grace period and know it will bring something interesting to the table. And some people just adore all the different things, too. But I do feel there's a large portion of my audience that will be very excited to get a new pop record and has been very patient."



Rufus Wainwright performs Saturday, Jan. 26, as part of the 42nd Ann Arbor Folk Festival at Hill Auditorium on the U-M campus. $42.50--$200. 734-761-1818 or theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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