Bill DeMain and I were on the phone one day, talking about music, predictably. He's a great songwriter and a noted music journalist, an old friend. It was one of the few times that he told me I had to get a record, it was Poses, by Rufus Wainwright. Although Bill had many things he needed to be listening to for present or imminent assignments, he said he couldn't take this disc off his player. More than merely hooked on a sound, it was clear that he was in awe of this person's music, so that piqued my interest all right, and I got on that in a hurry.

I was prepped but not prepared for the place that Poses was going to take me. I'm simply unaccustomed to that level of genius in pop music. It did and still does make most records I hear sound as stupid as they truly are, the contrived refuse of narcissistic underachievers, even when they're not corporately funded. (Corporate rock sucks? The sad truth is, most rock sucks.)

Rufus Wainwright, on the other hand, is pretty unbelievable. He grew up the child of brilliant musicians, his famous dad left very early, he got into opera in his teens. Mostly he grew up in Montreal, but New York is his home today--if he has any home that is not the road, since he's on it a good portion of the time. His inability to sustain meaningful relationships as a result has been a fertile songwriting ground. Good for us, but his way does not seem to have been very easy. He's just out of Hazelden, a famous Rehab up in MN, and he brought a whole new sober power to his new release, the brilliant Want One. The partnership of this artist and producer/arranger Marius DeVries is sublime. This record only took six months (and only represents half of the tracks they did, Want Two is even more so, and will be released later), which is only a third of the time Rufus spent on Poses. It is somewhat more spartan, but that is truly relative, since some of the tracks were said to have a hundred or more background vocals. (And believe us, the background vocals are a beautiful work unto themselves.)

I've read some of the press out there on Rufus, and I'm appalled by how he is sometimes undervalued and misunderstood, especially by the cauliflower ears of the online press. This is one of the great artists of our time, doing brave and unusual, inspired music. We feel so lucky to have his records, and were grateful for the time he took with us a week ago. Enjoy the conversation, but most of all, enjoy the clips on the Listen page, and do buy these two utterly fantastic recordings. continue to interview