MU­SIC

THINGS GET HIGHLY PER­SONAL ON RYAN ADAMS’ NEW AL­BUM, WRITES Rod Yates.

Men's Style (Australia) - - Contents -

The pro­lific Ryan Adams is back with a lit­eral stack of new songs

You hear Ryan Adams be­fore you see him.

First with a bang as the front door of his Pax-am stu­dio com­plex swings open and slams shut, and then as he yells, “Could I be any later?”, his voice re­ver­ber­at­ing down the hall­way. Sec­onds later he bursts into the stu­dio’s con­trol room, which houses its com­plex col­lec­tion of ef­fects units and mix­ing desk. More solid in per­son than you’d ex­pect – a re­sult, he says, of his pen­chant for run­ning sev­eral hours a day and the en­durance that re­quires – and with his bird’s nest mop of hair ap­pro­pri­ately sweaty and mis­shapen, to­day the 42-yearold is wear­ing blue jeans and a redand-black checked shirt, which he re­moves to re­veal a worn Danzig tee.

Adams has called Hollywood home since mov­ing from New York with then-part­ner Mandy Moore in 2009, and he started con­struct­ing Pax-am not long af­ter. Os­ten­si­bly a two-storey home ad­joined to the famed Sun­set Sound stu­dios on Sun­set Boule­vard, the build­ing was “com­pletely gut­ted and ac­tu­ally kind of de­stroyed” when he took over the lease, and he’s since made it into what you imag­ine it’s like in Adams’ head – its walls are pep­pered with movie posters and ac­tion fig­ures still in their boxes, hung up by pins; there is mu­sic mem­o­ra­bilia ev­ery­where (a prac­tice amp that used to be­long to the Grate­ful Dead’s Jerry Gar­cia sits in the room where vo­cals are recorded); and there are myr­iad in­stru­ments scat­tered through­out. It’s here that he recorded 2014’s Grammy nom­i­nated self-ti­tled al­bum, and at one point or another Pax-am has been home to artists as di­verse as Fall Out Boy and Jenny Lewis.

Adams mo­tions to fol­low him up­stairs and into his of­fice, a wellap­pointed room that con­tains all his guitars stand­ing to at­ten­tion in racks, and a two-seater couch fac­ing an L-shaped wooden desk, be­hind which stands a book­shelf packed with more dolls, records, books and… a bong. In the mid­dle of the desk sits an Olympia type­writer on which he writes lyrics; a re­minder of the ro­man­ti­cism that Adams at­taches to song­writ­ing.

He has, over the past two decades – first as a mem­ber of alt-coun­try pi­o­neers Whiskey­town and then as a solo artist – writ­ten a lot of songs. For his new al­bum Pris­oner, for ex­am­ple, Adams es­ti­mates he penned around 80, with another 80 half-fin­ished ones still look­ing for an end­ing. “I say that not to make my­self sound re­mark­able, be­cause I don’t be­lieve that’s true,” he of­fers. “I just think I have an ob­ses­sion with song­writ­ing. But it re­ally was like, a crazy per­son amount of stuff.”

This is due in part, or per­haps even in whole, to the cir­cum­stances in which Pris­oner was cre­ated. In late-2014 news of his im­pend­ing di­vorce with Moore be­came pub­lic, send­ing the no­to­ri­ously pri­vate singer into some­thing of a tail­spin. He re­treated to New York and, more specif­i­cally, Elec­tric Lady stu­dios, where he be­came con­sumed with cap­tur­ing ex­actly what he was feel­ing. “I needed to be out of my head,” he of­fers. “I needed to see if there was psy­cho bab­ble. When peo­ple talk about your emo­tions and re­pressed dark­ness or hurt, I needed to see the stuff that’s down in you, the stuff that can make you sick. I needed to go get that stuff.”

Given that the al­bum con­tains song ti­tles such as “Do You Still Love Me?”, “Bro­ken Any­way” and “To Be With­out You”, it’s fair to say he ac­com­plished his goal. In the al­bum’s lush melodies and tightly con­structed songs, he’s also pro­duced ar­guably his finest col­lec­tion since 2001’s ca­reerdefin­ing Gold. Ar­riv­ing at its track­list­ing, though, was a feat in it­self. “I had so many songs that were so fuck­ing in­tense,” he chuck­les. “As soon as I let peo­ple hear them, there was lit­er­ally in­fight­ing about what were the best ones. And I would be like, I love them all! But my thing was, Star Wars is a tril­ogy. And if you’re go­ing to make one film, are you go­ing to kill off the Ewoks? Are we go­ing to lose Obi-wan’s char­ac­ter? To me, [fig­ur­ing which songs to cut] was like emo­tional Star Wars. But then ev­ery­thing is to me.”

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