Aftershocks From Ryan Adams Revelations Continue To Shake Music World

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Photo by Julia Brokaw

As more voices join the chorus of women accusing Ryan Adams of psychological abuse and sexual misconduct following the New York Times’ Feb. 13 expose, repercussions are already affecting his career — and others’ — including his bandmates and the co-founder of Bloodshot Records, the Chicago label that launched Adams’ solo career with the 2000 release, Heartbreaker.

On Tuesday, drummer Marshall Vore took to social media to echo guitarist Todd Wisenbaker’s remorse about believing “the weird web of lies [Adams] would tell,” then not acting when he realized the truth. A day before, Wisenbaker had implored, “Ryan, please get help.”

Admitting “there were times when I chose to believe his insane version of the truth because it was easier than believing that anyone is capable of being this much of a monster,” he added that he had previously told Adams to seek help and the artist had sought his assistance.

“I believe in forgiveness, redemption and recovery, but my life has become a complete shitstorm of someone else’s utter delusion,” he said. “I didn’t want to say anything because I’m actively afraid for the safety of my family, but I do realize that I have a responsibility to speak up. The women that spoke out are brave beyond words.”

Meanwhile, Bloodshot co-founder Nan Warshaw announced she was stepping away from day-to-day label operations indefinitely after Bloodshot artist Lydia Loveless accused the label of condoning years of harassment by Warshaw’s life partner, musician Mark Panick.

In response to people claiming to be “gutted and hurt” by the news of Adams’ behavior, Loveless wrote, “I’m gutted and hurt by an industry that claims to be creative and here for us and that only proves more and more every day to be just like everything fucking else. Not really at all surprising that a label who allowed a man to grope, paw at and mentally disturb me for over five years still touts Ryan Adams as a fucking genius.”

After detailing several allegations, she added, “I don’t think Bloodshot has maliciously encouraged this behavior but instead quieted it to protect their brand, and it has indeed been covered up in my eyes, as the behavior only ceased when I was informed they wanted to begin signing more women.”

Bloodshot co-founder Rob Miller addressed her comments in a lengthy statement in which he confirmed her allegations about Panick, then explained how he did address them by banning Panick from any interaction with the label or its artists (pointing out he couldn’t fire someone who wasn’t an employee). Assuring there was no cover-up, only an attempt to allow her to tell the story on her terms, when she was ready, he also expressed remorse, along with “shame, humiliation and rage” — noting it was “a fraction of what she feels.”

From the Folk Alliance International Conference in Montreal, Warshaw expressed shock and disappointment at the news about Adams, and the hope that “we all move towards eradicating such unacceptable actions in our creative community.”

But as fallout from Loveless’ comments grew (including Margo Price’s raised middle finger emoji next to the words, “Good for you for coming forward and screw Bloodshot”), Warshaw posted her own response on Monday.

“I apologize for any hell or even awkwardness I put Lydia or anyone through, due to my actions or inactions,” she wrote. “No one, and especially no one within the Bloodshot community, should ever have to tolerate sexual harassment.” Warshaw told the Chicago Tribune that she intends to remain involved as the label’s co-owner, unless at some point I decide it is no longer best for the artists.” 

The Tribune also printed a statement from Panick. “Anyone accused of something like this that doesn’t immediately do some kind of internal audit is just not paying attention,” he told the paper. “I am no saint and behaviors learned in the past can be unlearned. I do not remember the events Lydia describes in the same way. But I truly regret making her feel like that and really wish I’d have understood that at the moment.”

Meanwhile, “Fuck the Rain,” the first single from Adams’ now-delayed album release, Big Colors, had climbed to No. 20 for the week ending Feb. 16 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart, which measures airplay at 42 reporting AAA-format stations. On Feb. 11 and 12, the song earned 54 spins a day on Adult Album Alternative radio; on Feb. 15, it got seven graveyard-shift spins and one daylight spin, according to the magazine. On the chart for the week ending Feb. 23, the song was at No. 36, and falling. Some stations told Billboard they pulled Adams’ entire catalog — including two No. 1 songs and nine top 10s — following allegations including an online sexual relationship with a minor. Adams, who has appeared twice on American Songwriter’s cover, has denied the Times’ charges, though the FBI has begun an investigation into behavior that, according to the Times, was documented by 3,217 texts sent over a nine-month period when the young woman was 15 and 16. 

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, one of seven women who told Times reporters Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik about how Adams dangled career promises while seeking a sexual relationship, then becoming controlling and psychologically abusive, elaborated on Instagram, “Ryan had a network too. Friends, bands, people he worked with. None of them held him accountable. They told him, by what they said or by what they didn’t, that what he was doing was okay. They validated him. He couldn’t have done this without them.”

In a podcast about the Times story, the writers mentioned Bridgers had told them Adams was able to have negative comments she made about him removed from a feature story before it was published.

Artists from Liz Phair to Jenny Lewis and Neko Case (another former Bloodshot talent) have expressed support for women accusing Adams of improper behavior. Former Whiskeytown tour manager Thomas O’Keefe, for whom Adams served as a wedding groomsman (Adams also lived with O’Keefe and his wife for a time) posted, “Sadly, I find these disturbing stories about Ryan to be easily believable. He is very smart and charming and is quick to use that to be retaliatory and manipulative.”

Last year, O’Keefe released Waiting to Derail, his account of his years with “alt-country’s brilliant wreck.” He also toured with a young Mandy Moore, Adams’ ex-wife, who was quoted in the Times story and elaborated on their relationship in a podcast with Mark Maron that aired Monday. 

“My co-dependency fed into his co-dependency and some other issues, underlining issues where it was just the perfect cacophony of madness. I was so not serving myself. I felt like I was drowning. It was untenable and unsustainable and it was so lonely. I was so sad. I was lonely with him. The worst. There’s nothing worse.”

Editor’s note: Lydia Loveless’s manager told American Songwriter in a statement that Loveless is no longer under contract at Bloodshot Records.

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