Rufus Wainwright is grateful that he has fans who will indulge, and largely follow, his wide-ranging musical exploits, which most recently have included opera and Shakespearean sonnets. But the singer-songwriter acknowledges that “there’s a large portion of my audience that will be very excited to get a new pop record and has been very patient.”
That virtuous patience will be rewarded with Wainwright’s next recording project – which he’s told recent concert audiences may be called Unfollow The Rules, after something his daughter Viva said to him. Wainwright has previewed new songs “Montauk” and “Peaceful Afternoon” as well.
Though it may not come out until 2020, Wainwright has “put the finishing touches” on a new pop album, his first since Out of the Game in 2012. Wainwright recorded the set, which is currently being mixed, in Los Angeles with Mitchell Froom producing and players such as guitarist Blake Mills and drummers Jim Keltner and Matt Chamberlain. “It’s a deepening on many levels,” Wainwright tells Billboard. “Being a dad and being married and being over 45, those are some heavy-duty situations here.” He also 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.”
Wainwright is finding that being a little older has some benefits, however.
“I’ve never sung better than now,” he says. “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 forties 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 forties and fifties. There’s a kind of eminence that was really respected and worshiped and revered.”
While the album is finishing, Wainwright is also looking for other venues where he can stage his second opera Hadrian, which the Canadian Opera Company premiered last year in Toronto. “It’s a really kind of curious and unprogrammed individual who gravitates towards my work,” he notes. “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. I’m fortunate I have an audience that’s open and indulgent like that.”