Austin City Limits

S46 E4604 | FULL EPISODE

Rufus Wainwright

Enjoy an intimate hour with renowned singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright. The American/Canadian performer and composer sings songs from his latest album Unfollow the Rules.

AIRED: October 24, 2020 | 0:54:05
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TRANSCRIPT

-On September 10, 2020,

in the midst of a global pandemic,

Austin City Limits made history

with its first-ever show in 46 years

without a live audience.

-♪ Then going back 'round

-Join us now for an hour

with one of the most distinctive voices

in popular music -- Rufus Wainwright.

-♪ There's always trouble in paradise

♪ Don't matter if your drinks are neat ♪

♪ Or on ice

♪ And I pray

♪ That your face is the last I see ♪

♪ On a peaceful afternoon

♪ Leaving the living room

♪ La, la, la, la, la

-♪ All my favorite colors

♪ All my favorite colors

♪ Yes, ma'am

♪ My sisters and my brothers see them like no other ♪

♪ All my favorite colors

♪ It's good day to be, a good day for me ♪

♪ A good day to see my favorite colors ♪

♪ Colors

♪ My sisters and my brothers, they see them like no other ♪

♪ All my favorite colors

-Now, making his debut on "Austin City Limits"

and showcasing some of his newest songs,

here is Rufus Wainwright.

[ "Trouble in Paradise" playing ]

♪♪

-♪ I was going 'round from the town to the country ♪

♪ Then going back 'round from the country back to the town ♪

♪ I was making rounds from the back to my forehead ♪

♪ Then going back round from the front to the back of my crown ♪

♪ There's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ Don't matter if your drinks are neat ♪

♪ Or on ice

♪ There's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ Don't matter if you're good or bad or mean ♪

♪ Or awfully nice

♪ You see me here in my dress all in order ♪

♪ You see me there, my hair a solid steel bob ♪

♪ But all you see is in fact just the armor ♪

♪ Don't see me laughing with joy ♪

♪ And the occasional sob

♪ There's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ Don't matter if your drinks are neat ♪

♪ Or on ice

♪ There's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ Don't matter if you're good or bad or mean ♪

♪ Or awfully nice

♪ And when I'm gone you're gonna miss me so ♪

♪ But not for long because I taught you what's de trop ♪

♪ But there's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ And I bet I'll be there

♪ 'Cause you know in fact I'm actually ♪

♪ Rather nice

♪♪

Thank you so much.

That was "Trouble in Paradise."

My name is Rufus Wainwright,

and my dad, Loudon Wainwright III --

he did this show twice.

So I am now officially an adult.

And [laughs] I live now with my husband

in Laurel Canyon, in Los Angeles,

and we have become quite good friends with Joni Mitchell,

the great, legendary Joni Mitchell, and she --

And I've been listening to a lot of her music

over the last few years.

And this song, I think, is very much evidence of that.

So, it's called "Damsel In Distress."

Here we go.

[ Drumsticks clacking rhythmically ]

[ "Damsel in Distress" plays ]

♪♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a harbinger of loneliness? ♪

♪ Yes, I remember smiles

♪ Yes, I remember wiles

♪ Behind the Square of Sloan

♪ Under the English moon within the Chelsea sky ♪

♪♪

♪ Will you forever be wandering the wall ♪

♪ Looking for what you see?

♪ Your father's face in a waterfall ♪

♪ Yes, I remember smiles

♪ Yes, I remember wiles

♪ Behind the Square of Sloan

♪ Under the English moon within the Chelsea sky ♪

♪ Sooooo much

♪♪

♪ You got exactly that, yeah

♪♪

♪ You got exactly what you wanted ♪

♪ But what the hell is that?

♪♪

♪ Who do you think I am?

♪ A traveler on the wind?

♪ I am a prince of manwho was raised to soon be king ♪

♪ All I can do is fight

♪ All I can do is write

♪ Behind the Square of Sloan

♪ Under the English moon

♪ There I learned to survive

♪ Sooooo much

♪♪

♪ You got exactly that, yeah

♪♪

♪ You got exactly what you wanted ♪

♪ But what the hell is that?

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

-♪ Ooh, ooh

♪ Ooh, ooh

-♪ I hope you find your way for the sake of what we've lost ♪

♪ And that there comes a day

♪ When you realize the precious cost ♪

♪ Yes, I remember smiles

♪ Yes, I remember wiles

♪ Behind the Square of Sloan

♪ Under the English moon, you in your disguise ♪

♪ Sooooo much

♪♪

♪ You got exactly that, yeah

♪ You got exactly what you wanted ♪

♪ What the hell is that?

♪♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

♪ Will you forever be a damsel in distress? ♪

[ Song ends ]

My husband and I and my friend Lorca Cohen --

we co-parent a daughter.

Her name is Viva, and she's 9.

And about, oh, three or -- three years ago, I believe,

she one day walked into the living room and said,

"Daddy, you know, I just want to unfollow the rules"

[laughs] and then walked out.

And I immediately --

Instead of, you know, scolding her or something like that,

I just started writing lyrics and turning it into a song.

And it became an album, and...

she should probably get an attorney.

So, um -- [ Laughs ]

So, here we go.

This is called "Unfollow the Rules."

It's quite a big sing, you know,

and I'm not sure totally what it's about, you know?

It's -- I --

When I first released --

When the album was first gonna come out,

it was right when COVID started,

and it didn't feel like the best kind of headline

to present to the world, to unfollow the rules.

But then our album -- the album was postponed.

And then of course all the BlackLives Matters protests happened,

and people started to really, you know, question

a lot of the structures of this world we live in.

And now it feels appropriate again to sort of ques--

to unfollow the rules, so it's -- Yeah.

Here we go.

[ "Unfollow the Rules" plays ]

♪ Sometimes I feel

♪ Like my heart turns to dust

♪ Unfollow the rules

♪ Unfollow the trust

♪ Sometimes I feel

♪ Like my brain turns to leaves ♪

♪ Unfollow the rules

♪ Uncover the thieves of the game ♪

♪♪

♪ Sometimes I reel in

♪ A fish far too small

♪ Back into the sea

♪ Hook, sinker, and all

♪ And the old ruins

♪ From before the fall

♪ Stop looking and see

♪ And just heed the call of the plebes ♪

♪ Just like Hercules in Thebes was just ♪

♪ By just being a man

♪ But I'm no Hercules

♪ And this is Herculean

♪ Tomorrow I will just

♪ Be feeling

♪ The pain

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Don't give me what I want

♪ Just give me what I'm needing ♪

♪ Unfollow the rules

♪ Unfollow the path to the seeding ♪

♪ I'll never know

♪ But perhaps I'll have a feeling ♪

♪ Unfollow the rules

♪ Unfollow the wrath

♪ To the stealing

♪♪

♪ But I'm no Hercules

♪ And this is Herculean

♪ Tomorrow I will just

♪ Be feeling the pain

♪ Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da ♪

♪ Da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da, da, da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da, da, da

♪ Da, da, da

♪ Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na ♪

♪ Na, na, na, na, na

♪ No, I'm no Hercules

♪ And this is Herculean

♪ Tomorrow I will just

♪ Be feeling the pain

♪ Don't give me what I want

♪ Just give me what I'm needing ♪

♪ I will never know

♪ But perhaps I'll have a feeling ♪

♪ Don't give me what I want

♪ Just give me what I'm needing ♪

♪ I will never know

♪ But perhaps I'll have a feeling ♪

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

-Two, three, four.

[ "You Ain't Big" plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

-♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Alabama ♪

♪ Don't know who you are unless you made it in Topeka ♪

♪ Gotta get back to Kansas

♪ Or at least southern North Carolina ♪

♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Mississippi ♪

♪ Don't know who you are unless you made it in Wichita ♪

♪ Gotta get back to Kansas

♪ Or at least southern West Virginia ♪

-♪ Virginia

♪♪

-♪ Ahh

♪ Ahh

♪ Virginia

♪♪

♪ Ahh

♪ Ah

♪ You ain't big if you're little in Texas ♪

♪ Don't know who you are

♪ Unless you made it in Lawrence, Kansas ♪

♪ Wait a minute, Lawrence, Kansas ♪

♪ Doesn't really matter at all

♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Alabama ♪

♪ Don't know who you are unless you made it in Topeka ♪

♪ Gotta get back to Kansas

♪ Except of course back to Lawrence ♪

-♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Alabama ♪

-♪ God forbid, southern Pennsylvania ♪

-♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Alabama ♪

-♪ God forbid, eastern California ♪

-♪ You ain't big unless you're big in Alabama ♪

-♪ God forbid

♪ Western New York

♪ State

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

This next song --

I've been married to my husband, Jorn, for eight years.

We just celebrated our eighth anniversary,

and we've been together for 15.

And he is from Germany.

Tuned.

He is from Germany.

And, um -- And there's a --

You know, the Germans are quite demanding at times

[laughs] and in a wonderful way.

One of the requirements for our marriage now

is that on every album I have a song about him.

[ Laughs ]

So, it's called "Peaceful Afternoon."

And, uh, thank you, Jorn, forforcing me to write a love song.

[ Guitar strums ]

Okay.

[ "Peaceful Afternoon" plays ]

♪♪

♪ Well, it's coming on to 13 years together, babe ♪

♪ I pray that it's the luck

♪ A lucky, lucky number

♪ And although I know

♪ I've brought you joy and happiness, babe ♪

♪ I've also been a f--

♪ Fecund resource for anger

♪♪

♪ 'Cause it's all a part of the game ♪

♪ Yeah, it's all a part of the symphony ♪

♪ And I pray that your face is the last I see ♪

♪ On a peaceful afternoon

♪ And now that our machine is running at full steam ♪

♪ I pray that nothing shucks a wrench into the matter ♪

♪ But between sex and death

♪ And tryin' to keep the kitchen clean ♪

♪ Remember wild roses bloom best in ruins forever after ♪

♪ 'Cause it's all a part of the game ♪

♪ Yeah, it's all a part of the symphony ♪

♪ And I pray that your face is the last I see ♪

♪ On a peaceful afternoon

♪ Leaving the living room

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, ♪

♪ Eeeee

♪ 'Cause it's all a part of the game ♪

♪ Yeah, it's all a part of the symphony ♪

♪ And I pray that your face is the last I see ♪

♪ On a peaceful afternoon

♪ And just in case you go before me ♪

♪ Rest assured that of this I can guarantee ♪

♪ That my face

♪ That my face is the last you'll see ♪

♪ On a peaceful afternoon

♪ Leaving the living

♪ Living room

[ Song ends ]

You know, I have -- The thing with the tuning is that --

I usually play the piano.

And my mother played the piano --

Kate McGarrigle, the great Kate McGarrigle

from the McGarrigle sisters.

And they sadly never did do this show.

They should have, but...

So I'm here to vindicate them. [ Chuckles ]

[ "Only the People That Love" plays ]

♪♪

♪ Only the people that love

♪ May dream

♪♪

♪ In the world of

♪ The silent scream

♪♪

♪ Only the people that love

♪ Mean God of love, mean

♪ 'Cause love means go on and do it ♪

♪ Love means go ahead and do it ♪

♪ Love means go on and say it ♪

♪ Love means go ahead and say it ♪

♪ E-E-E-E-Everything

♪♪

♪ Only the people that love

♪ May cry

♪♪

♪ In the world of

♪ Eternal goodbye

♪♪

♪ Everyone else ought to just

♪♪

♪ Die, God of love, die

♪ 'Cause Love dies

♪ Go on and do it

♪ Love dies, go ahead and do it ♪

♪ Love dies, go on and say it ♪

♪ Love dies, go ahead and say it ♪

♪ With your eyes

♪♪

♪ Go on and do it

-♪ Go on and do it

-♪ Go ahead and do it

♪ Go on and say it

-♪ Go on and say it

-♪ Go ahead and say it

♪ Do-o-o-o-n't

♪ Be shy

♪♪

♪ Only the people that love

♪♪

♪ Only the people that love

♪♪

♪ Only the people that lo-o-ove ♪

♪ May fly

♪ May fly

♪ May fly

♪ May fly

♪ May fly

[ Song ends ]

So, now, after my husband, Jorn,

required that there was a song about him,

my 9-year-old daughter also required

that there's a song about her for every record.

[ Laughs ]

So, here we go. This is one I wrote for her.

It's a little ditty.

[ "My Little You" plays ]

♪ You were thought of in the dressing room of La Divina ♪

♪ Where your parents spent too much time ♪

♪ In front of the mirror

♪ In the Conservatorio Musicale Luigi Cherubini ♪

♪ My little you

♪ Daddy putting on his makeup and wearing black feathers ♪

♪ Mama wading through the River Styx ♪

♪ With all the answers

♪ Back and forth between the living and the dead ♪

♪ Lipstick glances you

♪ My little you

♪ Don't let anybody out here

♪ Tell you what you gotta do here ♪

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

[ "Early Morning Madness" plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Early morning madness

♪ Everything is wrong

♪♪

♪ Early morning sadness

♪ Everything is crap and long

♪ Gotta take a nap later on

♪ Then the early morning longing

♪ Will be gone

♪ That's the thing

♪ Just in time for the chime of the dinner gong ♪

♪♪

♪ Early morning madness

♪ I'm a perfect mess

♪♪

♪ Early morning sadness

♪ Gotta get some rest, I guess

♪ Gotta take some time to be well ♪

♪ Then the early morning longing ♪

♪ Will dispel

♪ That's the thing

♪ Just in time for the ting of the dinner bell ♪

♪♪

♪ Early morning madness

♪ Early morning sadness

♪ I don't have the senti-sentiment ♪

♪ Senti-sentiment

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ♪

♪ Ah, ahhhhhhh

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Early morning madness

♪ You're a total bore

♪♪

♪ Early morning sadness

♪ Don't wanna ride that ship no more ♪

♪ Sailing at that clip evermore ♪

♪ But the Flying Dutchman's calling me a boy ♪

♪ That's the thing

♪ it's a scare

♪ I can hear the ring

♪ Tling, tling, tling, tling, tling, tling, tling ♪

♪ Of a flaying funeral snare

♪ Early morning madness

♪ Early morning sadness

♪ I don't have the senti-sentiment ♪

♪ Senti-sentiment

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ♪

♪ Ah, ahhhhhhh

♪♪

♪ Early morning madness

♪♪

♪ Early morning sadness

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

Okay.

We're gonna stay in a positive mode

and do this next song, which is called "Hatred."

Okay, and, uh, you are gonna hear some of the track on this.

Uh, and, uh, I feel like -- I'm not gonna pretend.

So, but this is, um, uh,

you will hear my amazing sister, Martha Wainwright, on this --

on this track, so...

Here we go.

[ "Hatred" playing ]

♪♪

♪ Hatred on the horizon

♪ Must be assumed for the ascension ♪

♪ Shatter the scepter

♪ Lower the drawbridge

♪ Drain the moat

♪ Empty the catapult

♪ Hatred on the horizon

♪ Must be assumed for the ascension ♪

♪ Unlock the padlock

♪ Swallow the key

♪ For any prisoners

♪ There won't be any need

♪ Hatred on the horizon

♪ Must be assumed for the ascension ♪

♪ Sit out and wait

♪ Wait on the throne

♪ For it to take

♪ And for the beasts to come

♪ Devils, devils and angels

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ Dispense with the niceties

♪ Over, over to neither

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ To the monstrosities

♪ Hatred on the horizon

♪ Must be assumed for the ascension ♪

♪ I hear it galloping

♪ Scent of blood

♪ Under the fire

♪ Behind the flooding

♪ Devils, devils and angels

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ Dispense with the niceties

♪ Over, over to neither

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ I'm gonna give myself away ♪

♪ To the monstrosities

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

[ "Alone Time" playing ]

♪ I need

♪ A little alone time

♪ A little dream time

♪ But don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ I need

♪ A little be gone time

♪ A little on my own time

♪ But don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ To get you on the Mists of Avalon ♪

♪ To save you

♪ From the cliffs of lovers leaping off ♪

♪ And on

♪ And off and on and off and on ♪

♪ I need

♪ A little alone time

♪ A little dream time

♪ Don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ I need

♪ A little be gone time

♪ A little on my own time

♪ But don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ To get you

♪ On the wings of a perfect song ♪

♪ To save you

♪ From the stings of having to turn off ♪

♪ And on

♪ And off and on and off and on ♪

♪ I need

♪ A little alone time

♪ A little of my own time

♪ But don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ I need

♪ A little be gone time

♪ A little on my own time

♪ But don't worry, I will be back, baby ♪

♪ To get you

♪ To get you

♪ To get you

♪ To get you

♪♪

[ Song ends ]

Yeah, so we're gonna end with this song,

which is another up-tempo number

about how everything's so terrible, so here we go.

It's called "Going to a Town."

[ "Going to a Town" playing ]

♪♪

♪ I'm going to a town that has already been burnt down ♪

♪ I'm going to a place that has already been disgraced ♪

♪ I'm gonna see some folks who have already been let down ♪

♪ I'm so tired of America

♪♪

♪ I'm gonna make it up for all of "The Sunday Times" ♪

♪ I'm gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes ♪

♪ They never really seem to want to tell the truth ♪

♪ I'm so tired of you, America ♪

♪ Making my own way home

♪ Ain't gonna be alone

♪ I've got a life to lead, America ♪

♪ I've got a life to lead

♪ Tell me, do you really think ♪

♪ You go to Hell for having loved? ♪

♪ Tell me, enough of thinking ♪

♪ Everything that you've done is good ♪

♪ I really need to know

♪ After soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood ♪

♪ I'm so tired of America

♪ I really need to know

♪ I may just never see you again, or might as well ♪

♪ You took advantage of a world that loved you well ♪

♪ I'm going to a town that has already been burnt down ♪

♪ I'm so tired of you, America ♪

♪ Making my own way home

♪ Ain't gonna be alone

♪ I've got a life to lead, America ♪

♪ I've got a life to lead

♪ I got a soul to feed

♪ I got a dream to heed

♪ And that's all I need

♪ Making my own way home

♪ Ain't gonna be alone

♪ I'm going to a town

♪ That has already

♪ Been burnt down

[ Song ends ]

Yeah, I'm gonna focus on the positive

and -- and be very proud of being part of this new era

of the world and part of the solution

as opposed to, uh, you know, the problem.

But it's been really, really great to be out

and singing again, and thank you for allowing me to do that.

These were all songs that I've written over the last 10 years,

'cause I was away producing operas.

I produced two operas -- "Prima Donna" and "Hadrian" --

and did some other projects.

Anyway, so but in that period, I found myself writing songs --

I finally found myself writing songs

just to kind of pleasure myself

and really express my inner feelings

in order to, like, survive in the world.

It wasn't about, you know, the next record

or, you know, what was the hit single.

I just wrote these songs 'cause I needed to.

So these songs came from that -- that position,

which was very -- which I was very fortunate

to be able to have...

to get away for two seconds.

-♪ There's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ Don't matter if you're good or bad or mean ♪

♪ Or awfully nice

♪ And when I'm gone, you're gonna miss me so! ♪

♪ But not for long because I taught you ♪

♪ What's de trops

♪ But there's always trouble in paradise ♪

♪ And I bet I'll be there

♪ Because you know in fact

♪ I'm actually rather nice

♪♪

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