Coming out as a homosexual while still in his teens, Wainwright sought solace in opera throughout his adolescent years, also becoming an enormous fan of performers including Edith Piaf, Al Jolson, and Judy Garland. After attending the prestigious Millbrook School in upstate New York, he briefly studied music at Montreal's McGill University, eventually turning away from classical performance toward pop and rock. Becoming a fixture on the Montreal club circuit, Wainwright soon cut a series of demos with producer Pierre Marchand; Loudon Wainwright III then passed a copy of the tape to friend Van Dyke Parks, who in turn handed it on to DreamWorks exec Lenny Waronker. The label signed him soon after, resulting in the release of Rufus Wainwright during the spring of 1998. The album landed on several critics' "Best of 1998" lists, while Wainwright spent the next few years touring and appearing sporadically on soundtracks (Shrek) and compilations (The McGarrigle Hour). His sophomore album, Poses, brought similar acclaim in mid-2001.
After spending much of 2001 and 2002 touring on his own and with Tori Amos, Wainwright settled into Bearsville Studio in Woodstock, New York with producer Marius de Vries to record sort of a double album. The first project, Want One, was released in September 2003, with Want Two following a year later. In 2007, Wainwright released both Release the Stars and Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. In 2010 Wainwright delivered his sixth studio album, the stripped-down All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, a 12-track, Shakespeare-influenced collection of new material that relied almost solely on the artist's voice and piano. The following year, Wainwright embarked on his seventh album with the intention of returning to the ornate pop of his early days. The resulting Out of the Game, which was produced by Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Duran Duran), arrived in May 2012. In 2014, Wainwright delivered the concert album Live from the Artist's Den and the compilation Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi