The drive from Montreal to New York City is one that American-Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright has taken many times in his life. This time, with his therapist in tow, Wainwright recorded his 10-hour drive for a new Audible Original that is set to premiere this week.
As a part of Audible’s Words + Music initiative, the company is releasing Wainwright’s new Original “Road Trip Elegies: Montreal to New York.” The three-part series follows Wainwright’s drive, which he took in 2019, while he speaks to his therapist Mark Stafford, as well as some performances from a recent concert that took place before the shutdowns mixed in.
“The conversations that [Mark and I] had over the years have been so interesting, so I thought it would be interesting to record some of them,” said Wainwright. “It was the fall, which is arguably the most beautiful time in that part of the world. I had a budget from Audible, so all the elements conspired and I was able to pull it off.”
Throughout the Original, Wainwright recounts memories or stories in his life for listeners, either directly or through the conversation with Stafford. “Road Trip Elegies: Montreal to New York” also splices in performances by Wainwright (as well as a few guests) recorded over 3 nights of performance at McCabe’s Guitar Store in Santa Monica in front of a live audience, which was performed in January 2020 and includes an exclusive song you won’t hear anywhere else. Wainwright says that he had always planned in weaving music into his Original.
“I totally dig the kind of sonic acrobatics that the mind can express when it’s given these sort of little challenges. If it was just a straightaway talk, that wouldn’t interest me,” said Wainwright. “I like how dramatically the human sensibility moves from one atmosphere from another through music and through words, so the brain can really get lost in those dynamics. It would never have just been a straight shot with me as usual.”
Wainwright drove the entire 10-hour drive himself while recording that part for the Original. Each area of Canada and upstate New York brings up memories for Wainwright growing up with his beloved late mother, Canadian folk singer, Kate McGarrigle, as well as memories with his father Loudon Wainwright. The route itself represents both a physical and metaphorical life journey for Wainwright, one that oscillates between the emotional poles of his divorced mother and father living in Canada and New York, respectively.
By the time Wainwright reaches New York City, he is understandably loopy from what is essentially the hours-long therapy session. Wainwright felt it was necessary to do all of the driving himself throughout the journey, even though he could have shared driving responsibilities with his therapist, because it was an integral part of the process.
“I‘ve done many types of therapies over the years and what I find is that the ones that work the best are the ones that disarm your defenses,” said Wainwright. “When you’re driving, you have to concentrate on that process, so when you start to speak about personal things, you’re less likely to be focused on covering up areas unconsciously.”
Wainwright says that fans may recognize some of the stories he tells throughout the Original and there are stories that he has not told before in public. Some of the content can get intense, but Wainwright says that it reflects the times we are living in now and that listeners will be able to appreciate them.
“I don’t shy away from scandal all the time, but some of it is right on the edge,” said Wainwright. “I think I managed in the speaking parts to really explain myself, give it context and explain my feelings, which at the end of the day is really what people gravitate towards. They want you to tell them the truth in the end.”
Wainwright hopes that his Audible Original can help bring a chance to escape and transcend while the world continues to cope with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like for the last seven months and for the next seven months, we are in a period of reflection and a period of inner growth,” said Wainwright. “I want to offer something that can be a part of that process for people.”
Wainwright’s Audible Original will be available on Nov. 5. To listen to “Road Trip Elegies: Montreal to New York,” visit audible.com or in the Audible app.