Photo by Sean James
We caught up with the lauded ‘baroque pop’ singer-songwriter before beginning his latest tour, which heads into L.A. on April 18. Wainwright chats with us from London about his growing family, turning 40 and Vibrate, his brand-new collection of songs. Just don’t call it a ‘greatest hits’ album.
London’s cool. I’m finally over the jetlag and ready to watch a lot of television and eat a lot of chocolate. [Laughs] I’m getting ready to start my tour. I’m doing a lot of gigs in Eastern Europe, so that should be interesting, especially with what’s going on in Kiev right now. I’m kinda heading into the fire. This should be interesting.
To say the least. How’s the family?
The family’s great. My husband is fantastic, and my daughter is in L.A. with her mother, where she lives. Martha [Wainwright, his sister] just had another baby, so I have a new nephew. These are the good times.
The family’s getting bigger and bigger. That’s exciting! Also exciting—how does it feel to have a greatest hits album?
Well, I have to correct you, because it’s not quite a ‘greatest hits.’ It’s more of a ‘best of.’ People keep saying ‘greatest hits,’ but there would only be two tracks. [Laughs] In terms of not having any massive radio hits, I’ve managed to maintain a level of integrity and a level of privacy and still get well-paid for what I do, so I’m fine with the ‘best of.’
Tell me about the process of choosing which tracks would appear.
There are a couple people who were very helpful, most notably Neil Tennant, who was really great, and also my publicist, Barbara Charone, in England. I felt it was necessary to open up the decision-making. I didn’t want it to necessarily be my opinion, because I tend to go for the more esoteric.
In the liner notes, your aunt Anna says about you, “He’s stronger and surer of what he’s doing with only a slightly more mature outlook.” Do you agree? Are you stronger and more sure?
I’m sure with certain things I am. Artistically I have somewhat of a firm footing in what I want to accomplish. When you have a child, though, your entire world is completely flipped over. Spending time with my daughter, I’m in wonderment over the knowledge and wisdom of a child, and how arguably you get stupider as you get older! [Laughs]
Do you have a maternal feeling over your songs? Is the old cliché true—are they all your babies, and you could never pick a favorite?
I’m very egalitarian. Each song is really imbued with a memory or an experience or some kind of trauma or celebration. I’ve always been a very personal and revealing artist, so they’re all from moments of my life. Without every moment in your life, you wouldn’t have a full one.