Rufus Wainwright hopes Lawrence won’t ‘renounce’ him after lyrics in new single seemingly bash the city

photo by: Contributed Photo

Rufus Wainwright

Singer Rufus Wainwright has played in Lawrence multiple times, but, according to his new single, “Lawrence, Kansas / Doesn’t really matter at all.”

That’s right. In “You Ain’t Big,” a track from Wainwright’s upcoming album, “Unfollow the Rules,” Wainwright seemingly disses Lawrence while lauding Topeka and Wichita. The song begins:

“You ain’t big unless you’re big in Alabama

Don’t know who you are, unless you made it in Wichita

Gotta get back to Kansas

Or at least southern North Carolina.”

But by verse three, things take a turn for the worse for one city in Kansas:

“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.”

Huh? That’s debatable, Rufus.

In an interview with the Journal-World, Wainwright explained that, though he does bash Lawrence a tad, he’s doing it in a “loving” way, as a “kind of testament to Lawrence’s uniqueness.”

Wainwright is drawing a difference between Lawrence and the rest of America’s Heartland, he said.

“You Ain’t Big” is about how an artist has to make it in rural America before being considered a true star, Wainwright said. “(If) you can’t get belted, you ain’t big,” he wrote in a Tweet explaining the song, meaning that artists aren’t considered successful until they have an audience in the rust, Bible or sun belts.

“I love Lawrence, and it does matter,” but not if an artist wants to be a country and western star, he said. For that, “you want to be able to play to the rednecks.”

“I didn’t feel like I was necessarily breaking through the barrier of middle America,” Wainwright said of his experiences playing in Lawrence.

Wainwright guessed that he had performed in Lawrence three times. He said that when he first experienced the city he was surprised by how progressive it was. He said that as a gay man, he felt he could “relax” in Lawrence before hitting other parts of the Heartland, where he occasionally felt a bit more apprehension.

“Once you rolled into Lawrence it was like this kind of oasis of tolerance and a liberal mindset, which is where I come from,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright grew up in Montreal, where he said people thought of the American Midwest as a “monolithic” place, but through his tours he has discovered that many Midwestern cities have a uniqueness, and Lawrence especially so.

During the interview, Wainwright also discussed and disputed the fourth verse of his song, in which Lawrence also gets a bad rap. The verse ends:

“Gotta get back to Kansas

Except of course back to Lawrence”

“I want to come back. I hope you’ll have me back,” Wainwright said. “I’m not renouncing Lawrence by any means. And I hope Lawrence doesn’t renounce me.”

“Unfollow the Rules” will be released on July 10.

Rufus Wainwright – You Ain’t Big (Official Audio)


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