RYAN ADAMS: Grows Up

“These are sort of the last moves that I need to be making in the situation that I’m in with Lost Highway,” Adams maintains. “So if they wanted a really stripped down record from me, whatever, I’m fine with it. Maybe they thought it would be easier to market it under my name. I don’t care. I don’t ego trip. But I really think I’ve done enough solo records. This is a nice way to cap off my time in this place with this label. And the good thing about it is, I’m not going to tour without this band. All commitments will be honored in a peaceful, awesome way. And I’m glad. I’m kind of happy to be getting off of this solo thing. I’m pretty sure that after this album and the box set, I’m just done; I won’t do anything else unless it’s collaboration.” Past Adams discs have featured collaborations with everyone from Norah Jones and Gillian Welch to Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Emmylou Harris and Smashing Pumpkins/Hole vet Melissa Auf Der Maur. On Easy Tiger, pop star Sheryl Crow sings on the lilting confection “Two,” because Ryan says, “I am a huge fan of her tunes. She’s a great songwriter…she can rock a bass and she’s as hot as Georgia asphalt. “Neal and I were looking for a third part harmony,” Adams explains. “We were thinking of how the band might bring in a third voice, and I think it serves the song really well.” When indie music websites first reported Crow’s participation on the track, they erroneously dubbed it a duo and offered a typical dose of unctuous remarks. Adams was New York-pissed. “They love to slam me and anyone who has anything to do with me,” he acknowledges, “because I work real fucking hard. I think people take it as a personal affront that I’m creative. But I’m not doing it to say ‘Look at me. I’m better than you.’ It isn’t even about that. I love working. Anyway, screw that site. They have to compete with internet porn and Star Wars fan sites. Star Wars fan sites are way cooler.” When it’s pointed out that Easy Tiger houses some of Adams’ most lucid vocal deliveries ever, with nary a Westerbergian growl to be found, the singer/songwriter denies it being part of any master plan.

“The vocals that ended up being the most usable were the ones where I was cutting it in with the record,” he says. “I can’t stand overdubs, and I don’t like listening to playback on my voice and doing comping and things like that. This was mainly done in one take. My thing is I run out of patience and then I’m done. And our Jamie [Condiloro, who has worked with R.E.M., The Cardinals on Willie Nelson’s Songbird and The Eagles] will tell you, I run out of patience quickly with vocals. Even when I’m in a producing situation, like when I worked with Willie on Songbird, my feeling is, “Let’s get the first take right.’” Although he admits Songbird didn’t turn out entirely the way he wanted, he still desires to return to producing again. “It’s definitely a nice discipline to learn, and it’s interesting to empower others,” he reveals. During the course of crafting Easy Tiger, Ryan admits listening to extreme metal- like Voivod when he wasn’t fixated on old school hip-hop like Eric B and Rakim, EPMD and Big Daddy Kane. “I’ve been making music for so long,” he explains, “that the music I listen to and the music I write are two totally different things.” He also grooved on Jay-Z. “He has clarity, he’s got vibe, he’s got soul,” Adams says. “And you know the guy’s not making it up…he probably does have a helicopter. I know if I had a helicopter, I’d figure out a way to write a song about it.” Clearly in an improved mood, Adams begins to sing a song made up on the spot with a chuckle, ‘Big helicopter/sad helicopter…’” ******* When the prolific songwriter befriended prolific, best-selling horror writer Stephen King, the end result was that the legendary novelist not only signed on to write the liner notes for the forthcoming box set, but fired off the bio that accompanies media copies of Easy Tiger. “Stephen is outrageously cool,” Adams asserts. “And once Jamie and I are finished with it, he will be the first person to hear the box set. I felt 20/20 needed liner notes in an old-school way like a classic jazz or blues album—to augment the experience of the record or talk about how the tracks unfold—and he agreed to do it. “I’m just a huge fan of his, and it should be fairly obvious because I slip in a lot of Stephen King references into my records,” Adams continues. “Love Is Hell represents that in spots. He’s just a bad ass dude. He doesn’t give a damn if people trash his novels in half. They always trash him because he works harder and twice as fast and has more valid ideas than many people know how to deal with. The work speaks for itself. He works like Rollins and Black Flag and The Minutemen—a punk rock work ethic, which is, ‘Get out of the house!’ When I actually needed a bio for the record, I figured I’d ask him. So I was talking to him while I was walking around trying to find a Philly cheesesteak. The phone rings, and I’m talking to this dude and he’s so cool. I’m out for part of the afternoon and when I got home, he had already finished it.” Equally productive, Adams likely sees some of King in himself. Adams writes songs every day and says he has the job that he wanted ever since he picked up a guitar as a kid. “I actually traded what at the time was my only skateboard for a guitar that belonged to a buddy of mine,” he says in a story that brings his life and art full circle. “It had this little speaker built into it. He had gotten it for a Christmas present but never touched it. And every time I’d go over his house I’d learn something new. Ever since I picked it up, I just knew this was the job for me. So it seems really wrong to just not work. I live my work. I don’t live and die by my work, but I think I’ve paid a lot of dues to be able to do what I’m doing.

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