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Ryan Adams

Mixing the heartfelt angst of a singer/songwriter with the cocky brashness of a garage rocker, Ryan Adams is at once one of the few artists to emerge from the alt-country scene to achieve mainstream commercial success and the one who most strongly refused to be defined by the genre, leaping from one spot to another stylistically while following his increasingly prolific muse. Adams was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina in 1974. While country music was a major part of his family's musical diet when he was young (he's cited Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash as particular favorites), in his early teens Adams developed a taste for punk rock and began playing electric guitar.

At 15, Adams started writing songs, and a year later he formed a band called the Patty Duke Syndrome; Adams once described PDS as "an arty noise punk band," with Hüsker Dü frequently cited as a key influence and reference point. The Patty Duke Syndrome developed a following in Jacksonville, and when Adams was 19 the band relocated to the larger town of Raleigh, North Carolina in hopes of expanding its following. However, Adams became eager to do something more melodic that would give him a platform for his country and pop influences. In 1994, Adams left the Patty Duke Syndrome and formed Whiskeytown with guitarist Phil Wandscher and violinist Caitlin Cary. With bassist Steve Grothman and drummer Eric "Skillet" Gilmore completing the lineup, Whiskeytown (the name came from regional slang for getting drunk) released their first album, Faithless Street, on the local Mood Food label.

The album won reams of critical praise in the music press, and more than one writer suggested that Whiskeytown could do for the alt-country or No Depression scene what Nirvana had done for grunge. But by the time Whiskeytown had signed to a major label -- the Geffen-distributed imprint Outpost Records -- the band had undergone the first in a series of major personal shakeups, and in the summer of 1997, when Whiskeytown's Outpost debut, Stranger's Almanac, was ready for release, Adams and Wandscher were the only official members of the group left. Cary soon returned, but Wandscher left shortly afterward, and Whiskeytown had a revolving-door lineup for much of the next two years, with the band's live shows become increasingly erratic, as solid performances were often followed by noisy, audience-baiting disasters. Consequently, as strong as Stranger's Almanac was, Whiskeytown never fulfilled the commercial expectations created for them by others. In 1999, the band -- which was down to Adams, Cary, and a handful of session musicians -- recorded its third and final album, Pneumonia, but when Geffen was absorbed in a merger between PolyGram and Universal, Outpost was phased out, and the album was shelved; shortly afterward, Whiskeytown quietly called it quits.

Following Whiskeytown's collapse, Adams wasted no time launching a career apart from the band, and after a few solo acoustic tours, Adams went into a Nashville studio with songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and cut his first album under his own name, Heartbreaker, which was released by pioneering "insurgent country" label Bloodshot Records in 2000. The album received critical raves, respectable sales, and a high-profile endorsement from Elton John, and Adams was signed by Universal's new Americana imprint, Lost Highway Records. Lost Highway gave Whiskeytown's Pneumonia a belated release in early 2001, and later that same year the label released his second solo set, Gold, which displayed less of a country influence in favor of classic pop and rock styles of the 1970s. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the album's opening track, "New York, New York," was embraced by radio as an anthem of resilience (though it actually concerned a busted romance), and Adams once again found himself touted as "the next big thing."

Always a prolific songwriter, in a bit more than a year following Gold's release Adams had written and recorded enough material for four albums. He opted to whittle the 60 tunes down to a 13-song collection called Demolition, which was released in 2002 as he went into the studio to record his official follow-up to Gold. A year later, Adams' concept album Rock n Roll was released alongside the double-EP collection Love Is Hell. Tours around the globe kept Adams busy into the next year as he maintained momentum writing songs and keeping his ever-changing presence in the music press. In May 2005, Adams released his first of three albums for Lost Highway, the melancholic double-disc Cold Roses. Jacksonville City Nights, a more classic-sounding honky tonk effort, followed in September, and 29 appeared in late December. Always prolific, in the interim period before his next album was released Adams posted a large selection of tracks -- including several hip-hop tunes -- on his website, but fans were greeted with more straightforward material on 2007's Easy Tiger and 2008's Cardinology with the Cardinals.

Adams decided to disband the Cardinals in 2009, precipitating an unusual period of quiet from the prolific singer/songwriter. He slowly returned to active duty in 2010, releasing the heavy metal Orion on vinyl only in the summer and then issuing III/IV -- a double album recorded with the Cardinals during the Easy Tiger sessions -- in November. For his 13th solo album, 2011's Ashes and Fire, the singer/songwriter recruited Norah Jones and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' keyboard player Benmont Tench, as well as legendary producer Glyn Johns, who had helmed the Who classic Who's Next.

Following Ashes and Fire, Adams' musical career was temporarily put on hold while he suffered with an inner-ear disorder, which resulted in a collection of canceled shows. However, after hypnotherapy treatment, Adams began writing music again, and he holed himself up in his L.A. Pax-Am studios with bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, drummer Jeremy Stacey, and guitarist/producer Mike Viola to work on new material. The resulting self-titled album was due for release in 2014. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Easy Plateau

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Track List: Gimme Something Good (Single)

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Track List: Lucky Now (Single)

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Track List: My Wrecking Ball (Single)

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Track List: Tired Of Giving Up (Single)

Comments

I like Ryan, he's one of those that are hard to categorize, he's gone a little country as he as aged, which only makes sense. The garage days were the most fun, but energy starts running low and that's when the real feelings start to shine. I was probably my rowdiest when he started to settle down, so we're not keeping pace, as he is a little older than I in sight and mind.
If you think he is rude to his audience while on stage: I've seen people yell at the performer, throw things at them, & just be annoying a**holes who do not want to listen b/c they have the attention span of a flea & cannot or will not be still & silent & enjoy the process of opening up their minds to what a performer is sharing with them. Maybe they are not 'true fans'- just a tag along to someone who wants to be there. Think what it must feel like for him... to have at least 1 at every show.
@jeff gray: I like Conor Oberst too, but this is the Ryan Adams artist page and no one is a modern day Dylan... simply because most of these songwriters are largely ignored in a way that Dylan never was... Dylan was seen as someone with all the answers to everything by fans and media. No one does that to Conor or Ryan... I'm a big fan of each of them though.
Coner oberst is the modern day Dylan !!!!
Always liked this cat, he is no Jason Molina but he is still pretty rad!!!
danzigirwin
He may be a pain in the butt to those who know him, but he writes and plays some great music.
A stone cold genius. One of the greatest songwriters of his generation. He seems like a genuine throwback. A troubadour out of his time, singing like the old timers did. Beautiful, sullen, joyous, melancholy.. . all at once
randy_mager
He writes great songs and sings a bunch of them at his shows. So maybe he gets a little snarky on stage. So do some of his songs. I've been going to Dylan shows for decades and only 1 in 5 are any good, but WOW!, when they're good, it's magic. I haven't seen Adams enough to be able to say the same thing, but he seems to be cut from the same cloth. Cut the guy some slack. If you want to hear very polished tunes, and the ones you want to hear, then stay at home, select the track and enjoy
cynfreely
I saw him several years ago in Minneapolis. Mesmerizing in the way that Dylan had been in an earlier concert. He was really wonderful to the audience- funny, generous, energetic. Why an audience expects an artist to play hits is beyond me. They do these concerts night after night and it is deadening to the creative spirit to play or do one's art in a prescribed manner. Yeah he's brash or was but I loved that in him. He played Blue twice and had the lights turned down with the disco ball. Magical
love this song Easy Plateau
melissabr00
@davecasty, so agree with this! : 1) One of the best songwriters of our day. 2) He's too good to be classified. 3) He's an amazing talent 4) He's pure emotion
To those who think he should play his "hits" at his live sessions you obviously don't understand the art's so just b quite stop going to shows until u open urself up. Thank u
@rock25: I think the comments are misleading. I have seen him live several times and each concert is a wonderful experience, but you have to be willing to listen to what he wants you to hear. Adams does not tolerate fans shouting out requests for his radio hits. If all you want to hear are his hits, then don't go to a show. If you want to hear Adams at his best and completely unhindered then by all means buy a ticket and enjoy!
decal_12
@ michael06060 : you assume the two are mutually exclusive...
The comments about him being kind of an a-hole in concert just make me sad..I adore his music, as all his fans do, but doesnt he realize that the way he treats the audience isn't cool like maybe he thinks it is? WTF, like someone here said we pay way too much for concerts these days as it is and then to be made to feel like we're just bothering him by making him get out of bed go to work??? Maybe he needs some therapy or at least a reality check! I've never seen him live and dont think I want to
michael06060
Friend saw him SF. In middle of his argument with his label about whether he was country enough. Out on stage by himself with just a guitar, playing twang, turning up the lights every 15 min or so to see who left. After an hour and a half, saw half the crowd was gone, came out with a bunch of local musicians and played an hour past curfew, refusing to get off the stage until they were done. 4 hour show, and a douche? Or he just wants to play for people who appreciate who he really is?
awesome singer songwriter. saw two of his concerts--on e great, one not so much. that's what you get with him i guess. i hear his shows as of late have been a lot better. i guess married life must agree with him.
stevesmyth30
who cares if he is a douche bag? Listen to the music...clos e your eyes........ i t s brilliant
johnsprater
Who is Jay Navarre? Do you mean Jay Farrar?
@micdig - that is why I included Jay Navarre. He most definitely was not in Wilco.
@Davecasty - good points. Ryan Adams definitely has his own style and he is a phenomenal talent. Unfortunatel y , both he and Jeff Tweedy also share a reputation for being total douchebags, as evidenced in some of the posts here. It doesn't diminish the talent, but it certainly makes me less likely to pay good money to go see them.
mjeblack
I've seen Ryan Adams in concert and have heard tales from a very big fan of Ryan Adams who has seen in concert several times. My experience was a big negative - very petulant performer, not appreciative of his audiences. My friend had prepared me, as he has seen RA's semi-tantrum s in performance, but I was still was appalled how disrespectfu l l y he treated his audience. The guys may be a musical genius but he needs a serious 'get-over-yo u r s e l f ' slap upside the head.
I love Ryan Adams, but not a big fan of his new CD, at least not yet. Maybe I need to hear it a few more times =)
There are some songs that Ryan sings that remind me of Neil Young...I just love him...Will always be a fan.
mcdgig
A trivial debate but....Uncle Tupelo were the fathers of No Depression Rock (Alt Country)...n o t Wilco (some of the same players but different band). Ryan Adams great albums but saw him in concert once and it may have been the worst performance of any show I've ever seen. Literally. Maybe it was just a bad night? I heard he was struggling with hearing problems at the time so maybe this affected his ability to perform.
Though Whiskeytown was more rooted in country, Ryan started experimentin g with the hybrid of rock and country w/ Whiskeytown before he went solo. Anyway, this article will plead ur case: http://www.a v c l u b . c o m / a r t i c l e s / j e f f - t w e e d y , 6 2 7 6 4 / Claims Jeff as a pioneer of alt country in the late 80s. Good to know. Ryan is still the man and u could say he mastered or re-invented the genre!
pstanley57: that's why I stated its debatable. but even still, though I've know very well of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, it certainly wasn't him and Jay who brought that particular genre to NY and the indie scene like Ryan did. Though I absolutely love Wilco, I don't really consider Wilco in the same genre class. Invented may be too strong of a word but + Ryan was producing tracks w/ Whiskeytown in mid/late 90s and Heartbreaker came out in 2000.
And Davecasty, I have to disagree with the comment that he invented alt-country. He is very good, I will give you that, but I think credit for the alt-country explosion of the late 90s really belongs to Jay Navarre and Jeff Tweedy.
I have commented about this before, but I still have issues with an inherent flaw in Pandora's Music Genome Project. For artists who have been in multiple bands that have similar styles, you can sometimes have several songs in a row from the same artist in different bands, which can lead to overdose. I have noticed this with Ryan Adams (solo/Whiske y t o w n / C a r d i n a l s ) , Jeff Tweedy (solo/Wilco/ U n c l e Tupelo) and Colin Meloy (solo/Tarkio / D e c e m b e r i s t s ) .
LOVE HIM...always
LOVE HIM...always
jonnyg418
some ineffable quality about his song writing and originality makes the comparison to Dylan unavoidable. all this despite the fact that they're very different people and very different musicians.
modern day bob dylan maybe, I used to say that. I'm not sure it fits other than that he's a country/folk boy moved to NYC and a genius songwriter. Those are where the similarities end. Ryan Adams invented his own genre: Alt-country or Indie Cntry / Rock. That's all debatable of course. What's not: 1) One of the best songwriters of our day. 2) He's too good to be classified. 3) He's an amazing talent 4) He's pure emotion
jennylynnfie l d s
I second that...if you don't listen to Ryan you are missing out on talent..this of course is rare these days...
its quite simple...if you are not listening to ryan adams, then start listening.
The next Bob Dylan no doubt!
Good, good , good!!!
Seriously a genius!
Has Ryan found happy, solid ground?
Such a talent!
webersf
ryan adams is one of the very best !
jimstone
Hard to beat Ryan Adams!
monahans208
You can never have too much Ryan Adams.
He comes up at least twice per hour that I listen to my Josh Ritter station. Either solo, with the Cardinals or as Whiskeytown. Not complaining, but I think the MGP could mix it up a bit more.
rayraybann
Come to Austin Texas to live and record. We love ya man... Raybann
This guy is a music machine inclusive of many styles. Amazing.
THE best
One of the best!! I call him my era's Neil Young... Seen him 4 times all unreal. Miss his solo stuff like Rock N Roll
nice and real - smooth and peaceful.
Ryan Adams is just amazing. LOVE him!
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