In Rina Sawayama, Elton John Found a Collaborator and a Friend

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E.J.: You should bring the world together as a musician, that’s your job. I truly believe that as a musician, you travel and see for yourself. There’s nowhere that I have been treated badly. I mean, yes, Ive played in Arab nations where people have said, You shouldnt be here since youre gay, but the crowds are great. I was so upset when the U.K. left Europe because you know, we will need to come together more than drift apart. I’m a staunch believer in that. It had been such a colossal mistake.

R.S.: I really haven’t traveled that much, since this is my first album and I haven’t managed to tour it. But my version of travel is social media. I receive messages from people in Kuala Lumpur, from individuals in Turkey. I have fans that are L.G.B.T.Q. in countries where it’s illegal to be. It’s nice to know that the music resonates with people. And not always people from the community or people who I intended the song to be for, you know? That’s what I would like to do. What they say about queering a distance, that’s kind of what I’m hoping to do with music by injecting a bit of an interest in regions besides heterosexual love. I think the pressure of needing to write heterosexual love songs. Like, I just genuinely cant. meve tried.

E.J.: Originally my collaborator, Bernie Taupin, wrote songs that I knew were about girls and I didn’t care. But as he came to understand who I was sexually, it is possible to take some of our songs written after about 1974, and they can apply to a man or a woman. Because you know, for me to go onstage and sing, “Oh, Maria, I love you so much. ” It would be crazy.

R.S.: Although, of course you, Elton, are so meticulous. Gaga, so theatrical. The songwriting is just like a musical. I love Disney songs. I love theater songs. Songs that really get a story across and you’ve got to make the decision to go that way. A lot of people don’t need it. They wish to stay subtle.

E.J.: Rina’s composed kind of a musical spectacle with “Sawayama. ” The record is fantastic once you hear it, but if you see it done, it’s going to take on another dimension completely.

R.S.: I fantasize about it every single day. It’s so dramatic. I’m not playing stadiums, but I’m still going to perform three outfit changes, because the songs have different personalities and I need to bring a distinct character to each one. Some songs will have choreography. With Chosen Family, Im going to play acoustic guitar. I want it for a moment with, you know, candles and lighters in the air. And I wish to talk to the audience a little. Because it’s not about me. It’s about how people feel, you know? I despise gigs where it’s all about the artist. That’s so boring. I would like people to feel connected to one another. I would like people to feel powerful.

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