Interview:Brave and Broken-Hearted

Part 1: Ryan's Work in Whiskeytown/Going Solo/Closing the Book on an Alt-Country Favorite

Part 2: Exploring New Topics/Themes and Directions/Writing From the Heart




Ryan Adams: Brave and Broken-Hearted


Part 1: Ryan's Work in Whiskeytown/Going Solo/Closing the Book on an Alt-Country Favorite


Originally the frontman for the raucous North Carolina punk rock outfit the Patty Duke Syndrome, Ryan Adams has since developed into far more than a power-chord pounder. His alt-country band Whiskeytown has unraveled some of the best, most heart-stricken country-rock tunes since the demise of Gram Parsons, and when the group got lost in record label limbo, Adams picked up a guitar and started writing solo material. There's no telling when the world will finally hear what appears to be the final Whiskeytown disc, but the songs Adams wrote during a two year hiatus in New York are his finest to date. While Whiskeytown was self-consciously immersed in the "No Depression" alt-country scene, Adams' solo disc Heartbreaker transcends categorization - not because it's diverse or unconventional, but because the songs are too good to require genre specification. Adams influences include Parsons, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Emmylou Harris (who guests on the record), yet his tender string plucks and cracked, weary voice reveal sentiments and experiences wholly his own. Written in the midst of an intense relationship, Heartbreaker is an ode to loneliness and uncertainty, yet it's also a testament of self-reliance and survival and a clear sign that with or without Whiskeytown, Adams will brave continue to the storm, whatever the elements throw his way. Why did you decide to record a solo album. Is this a new phase in your musical development?


Ryan Adams: This is definitely a new phase for me. I am interested in pursuing some solo records just for the mere fact that I really want to get into some things that I'm more about and there's a lot of variation in that. I have a lot of different types of influences that's a little bit wider ranged than [that of] the bands I have been in. It's really nice to pursue things that are a little bit more intimate and personal or hectic and chaotic stylistically with the solo thing cause I am able to be in control of what's happening. Whiskeytown the band are gonna have a final record coming out either at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year. There aren't any plans to tour for it but we do want to release it because it's a really cool record. It's two years old, but it's out of time and out of sync with everything enough that it could be released at any time. I think that Whiskeytown fans who dig rock records in general will dig it. When did you nurture your solo material?


Adams: In that time period of when the Whiskeytown record was not released, I started developing as a solo artist. I still believe in the concept that I could go out and create things that might not make a lot of sense to other people, and have that really be a good thing. I don't consider the new record a side project. It really doesn't have anything to do with Whiskeytown. Why did you close the book on Whiskeytown?


Adams: Things pointed naturally in this direction. It's hard to take a rock 'n' roll band on the road when they're not supporting an album. We had no record out and weren't ready to jump back in the studio because the record we'd already finished took two years to complete, and it wasn't out yet. We were so ahead of ourselves. To hop scotch over that time would have been impossible. So what did you do during that time?


Adams: I lived in New York for two years and I didn't freak out too bad. I just played on my own. When you do write for a band, you can't write a completist form of music and then hand it over to six other members because then there isn't enough room there for them. I wanted to feel the power of that kind of writing. I was listening to a lot of Tom Waits and lots of old Stones songs that I thought were so complete before the band touched them. I realize that of all the songs we have, there weren't too many that could operate on their own with just one person. It seems like if I could have been nudged spiritually into it, I couldn't have been nudged any harder. I get tired of stuff pretty quick.


Part 1 | Part 2