Ryan Adams, an American singer, songwriter, record producer, artist and poet, chats with Kevin Cooper about how he managed during lockdown, why his albums Blood On The Tracks and Nebraska were free to download, the last piece of music that made him cry and his forthcoming 2023 tour of the UK.

Ryan Adams is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, artist and poet. He was a former member of Whiskeytown, an alternative country band formed in 1994. In 2000 he left the band and released his debut solo album, Heartbreaker, to critical acclaim.

After breaking his wrist during a live performance in 2004, he took a short break and formed The Cardinals. In 2009 after the release of Cardinology, he disbanded the band and announced an extended break from music due to complications of his Ménière’s Disease.

Not able to stay away from music for long, the following year he resumed performing. In 2011 he released his thirteenth studio album, Ashes & Fire. In 2020 he released Wednesdays, in 2021, Big Colours and in 2022, Chris. He also released a further three albums during that year.

In all, he has released twenty-four albums, the last being in 2023 called Blood On The Tracks.

He has also written a book of poems called Infinity Blues, and Hello Sunshine, a collection of poems and short stories.

Whilst busy preparing for his forthcoming tour of the UK, Ryan Adams took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Ryan, good morning, how are things with you today?

Hello Kevin, all is good thanks for asking. How are things with you today?

I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, it’s a pleasure to speak to you today. I am so pleased that you are interested in just what I am currently up to so thanks for your time. It really is appreciated.

I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at this moment in time is absolutely fantastic thank you. I really can’t complain.

And just how did you manage to stay sane during lockdown?

Well, what can I say. I’ve spent the majority of my life isolated in some way or other so for me, the lockdown really wasn’t that big a problem. I grew up in a very small town which was far from other places and with long summer hours that felt like an eternity every hour. When you find yourself in a place like that you very quickly learn to stay busy with books and crafts and generally keep yourself entertained.

I have to tell you that I first became aware of you and your music during a holiday in Florida just after the release of Gold back in 2001. You were everywhere on the radio. Were they good times?

(Laughter) I’m really not so sure that they were good times because with fame comes responsibility. What I can say in all honesty is that there were interesting times. Every day was different and opened up a new opportunity to find out something which, until that point, I never knew. I was like that back then, and I have to be totally honest with you and say that I am now very much the same as I was back in the day. What I struggled with was that I was new to all of that fussy corporate record company bullshit back then, not so much now (laughter). They tell you it’s an honour to knock on every radio station door that will have you. I have to say that it’s hard now not to see the subtleties confusing notoriety with self-esteem.

Needless to say, I bought the album and still play it to this day.  After some 22 years I still have four go to tracks. They are New York New York, Answering Bell, Somehow Someday and Gonna Make You Love Me.  I think they are superb.  Will any of them make the forthcoming tour set list?

Some will (laughter). Every set list is different as I view them as being a new story for a new day.

Writing, recording, performing, and producing.  If I pushed you, in which order would you say that they would fall. Which gives you the most satisfaction?

Being totally open and honest with you, satisfaction is not an element in any of my work. It’s more like devotion, lucid dreaming or magic. I love writing and then subsequently, I love recording what I’ve written. I love sharing songs with people in an audience like I’m in their movie and they’re in mine and we are both in God’s movie maybe. But speaking of God it would take an act of God to get me to produce anything again. My own production is like an anti-production. It really is like an untethering.

Are there currently any thoughts on a new studio album with new, fresh, original material?

As you know, I released four albums last year. Songs are inanimate until they are truly finished. The great Bob Dylan finishes songs he started in 1968 with only four lines (laughter). For me songs are the living currency of my faith and the dreams I am having openly through music.

It has been well documented and reported upon the fact that you suffer from Ménière’s Disease.  Personally, being a long-time sufferer with Tinnitus, how do you cope because I personally still wake up hoping that it has gone.

You just work with what you have that day. I have done a lot of hypnosis so that I cannot hear what I cannot hear. I hear a lot of things through my skeletal system and skin. I absorb what I cannot hear.

In April you will be back here touring the UK. Are you looking forward to that?

Indeed, very much so. It will be great to get back out onto the stage after the last couple of very strange years. Hopefully, things are now getting back to normal, if someone can please tell me just what is normal (laughter).

Do you enjoy your time spent here in the UK?

Yes, I do, very much. Once I am here, I never want to leave. Sometimes I just stay after and kick around in book shops and wherever.

Do the British audiences treat you well and respect what you are doing?

(Laughter) what can I say, they show up and I show up and I think we are both there to listen and have an experience. I have no expectations. I never find myself thinking about the show. I just walk onstage and whatever crazy wild unplayable set list of thirty plus songs rolls out one at a time. I often crack a joke or two but usually at my own expense (laughter). I talk to myself onstage sometimes by accident, but I do that at home too. Either my cats or I will realize I’ll be talking about the Friday night fights to no one.

Some boxer will be getting rolled in the 4th round and I’ll comment on his stance slipping and look over and realize no one is there. Sometimes it feels like my brother is there. I miss him. It would be so nice if he was there and Theo, who I lost last year was purring on his lap. The lights do things in my house. Sometimes they will shut off and on in front of me. A few people have seen it but I only know a few people in Los Angeles because it’s Los Angeles and people are horrible here (laughter) Just joking. But seriously my home is quite active in that way; I have four cats and a library in the centre of my home so I’m quite happy.

Your music style has been praised by Sir Elton John, Noel Gallagher, Willie Nelson, and Taylor Swift to name but a few.  How does that make you feel?

To be totally honest with you I don’t feel any particular way. Anyone who creates songs, paintings, stories, or plays are showing their faith in things. Their love of life is evident, and I celebrate everyone from a garage Rush cover band to Dylan with the same enthusiasm. There is just so many people tearing the world apart. I honour anyone taking the time to build new dreams; new songs, new places to travel to in our imaginations.

They always say that you should never believe your own publicity but when someone like author Stephen King is quoted as saying “I won’t say Adams is the best North American singer songwriter since Neil Young… but I won’t say he isn’t either.” That must make you feel appreciated.

I really love Stephen’s work and he’s pretty funny too you know in real life but always at a distance (laughter). Thinking about it, I haven’t heard from him in a minute. You can tell he is a master writer because if you really think about that quote, it says absolutely nothing (laughter). It means nothing. I love that though.

Are you always writing?

Yes, I am in some way or other.

You recorded your interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. Are they albums that are special to you in some way?

Yes, they are, and they are two albums that really were regarded as being impossible to cover, so, I had to try (laughter). I’m really surprised that I actually got to finish them. However, in some ways I’m not. I know how to work; I am very disciplined, and that discipline is matched by my love for the craft. It’s just so cool. I love everything about making songs, playing guitar, recording and just all of it.

In this day and age where artists are struggling to make ends meet and sell units, what was the rationale behind making both albums free to download?

People are having enough trouble keeping food in the cupboards. It made me happy to think maybe a few folks out there had something cool to look forward to and not have to worry about it. I’m sober but it’s that ‘this one’s on me’ sort of thing.

Testing your memory now, what was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) well, the very first Cassette that I bought was Sister by Sonic Youth. The first 45 rpm that I purchased was Alien Autopsy by Sonic Youth. I had only read about Sonic Youth in Thrasher magazine which was a skateboard magazine, but that cover called to me. Without a doubt, in my opinion, Sonic Youth are one of the best live bands of all time.  When it comes to vinyl albums, there was Purple Rain by Prince, Hatful Of Hollow by The Smiths and Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. That kind of explains it all in itself (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live?

I used to really enjoy going to live gigs and a few of the early ones that I went to were Superchunk supported by Firehose, Grifters supported by Hole, REM with Pylon and Corrosion of Conformity being supported by Confessor.

What was the last song or piece of music to make you cry?

For me, that’s easy. I was out on a run the other day and I heard Haim’s Something To Tell You. In my opinion it is one of the best albums ever made.

What is currently on Ryan Adam’s rider?

(Laughter) now that really is nosey. Let me see, right here goes, Apricot La Croix, good old PG Tips, complete with a ceramic mug and metal spoon. There is also a bottle or two of Apple cider vinegar, some one hundred percent lemon juice, and copious amounts of boiled eggs.

On that note Ryan, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. Stay safe and I hope to see you here in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin it’s been a blast, you stay safe and I hope to see you up there in Nottingham. Bye for now.

Tickets for the UK tour which starts on 8th April are now on sale.