By Tom Keogh
Special to The Seattle Times
When singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright embarks on the Pacific Northwest leg of a concert tour, he doesn’t mess around.
Wainwright is appearing in Medford, Eugene and Portland this week in Oregon, then Edmonds (Monday), Olympia (Tuesday) and Tacoma (Wednesday) next week. That’s six concerts in seven days — grueling, but underscoring a perception Wainwright would like his fans to hold onto.
“I’m just acting in the troubadour tradition I was born into,” he says by phone. “At the core I’m a traveling musician who rolls into town and leaves after the show. I’m happy to do that. I find that in today’s world of compressed moments of celebrity, I like to take the opposite approach, to be the guy you ordered and therefore the guy you get.”
The musical tradition Wainwright, 40, was born into has been a centerpiece of his life and career.
The son of two singer-songwriters — Loudon Wainwright III, an American, and the late Kate McGarrigle, from Canada — Wainwright was raised by his mother in Montreal. At age 13, he toured with her, his sister Martha Wainwright and aunt Anna as “The McGarrigle Sisters and Family.”
In decades since, Wainwright continued to perform with Martha and his mother (who died in 2010). His younger sister Lucy Wainwright Roche is appearing with him in his Northwest shows.
“What’s great about my family,” Wainwright says, “is we get to spend a lot of time together when we work, which is the best time to be real.”
A solo artist since his teens, Wainwright has been a favorite of critics and a recipient of Genie, Juno and Grammy nominations (with a few wins).
He has recorded seven studio albums, drawing from his latest release, 2012’s “Out of the Game,” as well as older songs, for his current tour. He usually accompanies himself on piano, though he sometimes plays guitar, as well.
“It’s whatever suits the evening,” he says. “A lot of elements I was writing about [on “Out of the Game”] I am now experiencing in life. Songs are about hopes and dreams. They’re maps for me in a lot of ways.”
A multifaceted artist, Wainwright calls recording pop albums and touring “my day job.” He often writes music for films (“Brokeback Mountain”), dance and theater. His first opera, “Prima Donna,” debuted in 2009.
“Great composers write their best work right before they die,” Wainwright says with a chuckle. “The goal is to get old and upset, weary and wise, and pour it into your art. I’m pretty early in that stage.”
7:30 p.m. Monday, Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds; $52-$62 (425-275-9595 or edmondscenterforthearts.org).
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, The Washington Center, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia; $24-$72 (360-753-8585 or washingtoncenter.org).
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma; $66-$86 (253-591-5894 or broadwaycenter.org).