Rufus Wainwright once thought he’d be the biggest pop star in the world but things didn’t quite work out that way.
But making his Best Of album’s been a chance for him to take stock - and he has a lot to be proud of.
He spends much of his time in California these days, “in Hollywood”, as he says, adding a typical sense of glamour. His main base is New York, however, where he was born before being raised in Montreal, Canada.
Wherever he is, he’s a long way from the start of his first solo tour in Washington, some 20 years ago. With a Best Of collection, ‘Vibrate’, ready for release, he’s been thinking back to that first gig.
“The years have gone by in a flash,” he says. “It was only yesterday I was leaving for that first tour; I remember very vividly driving through Washington in the springtime with the cherry blossom blooming. It was a new beginning and I had the sense that it was the start of a very long journey.”
‘Vibrate’, named after a song from his 2003 third album ‘Want One’, sees him at a crossroads in his career. He’ll continue to tour as he has done with regularity since that defining day in Washington, but will carry on pursuing opportunities in areas he’s only so far dipped his toe into, mainly opera and writing film scores.
Now seven studio albums, plus a handful of other releases into his career, Wainwright says choosing the songs for ‘Vibrate’ was relatively easy. Largely because he farmed the job out to his dear friend and one half of the Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant, and his publicist.
He did insist on a couple of changes though - the addition of a couple of songs, ‘Foolish Love’ and ‘April Fools’, from his 1998 self-titled debut. “I really fought for their inclusion,” he says. “I know that record wasn’t a big deal in the UK, but it was in the States.”
Here in Britain, it was his second album, 2001’s ‘Poses’, that made his name, with songs like ‘Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk’, ‘Grey Gardens’ and the title track - all three included on the Best Of - marking him out as a startling talent.
The son of masterful singer-songwriters Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he’s so musically gifted.
“Listening back to my albums reminds me of what I was going through at the time,” says Wainwright now. “The first record was my adolescence, the second my blissful decadence and the third the payback for that.
As much as I wanted to sell out and be this pop sensation, I did actually maintain a certain degree of sophistication.”