Ryan Adams on his 'beautiful' bromance with Bryan Adams
"He showed me kindness when I wasn't at my best"
Ryan Adams gets the Bryan Adams comparisons, even if he hasn't always had the best sense of humour about it.
"Bryan Adams has been, throughout the time that I've known him, an extremely supportive and generous person in the way that he showed me kindness when I wasn't at my best," Adams says over the phone, reflecting on his well-documented younger years when he was best known as alt country's enfant terrible.
In 2002, Adams infamously asked a relentless heckler to leave his concert at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, even pulling the $40 ticket price out of his pocket and handing it to him. Why? The man consistently screamed out requests for Bryan's international hit, "Summer of 69," which, according to Ryan, ruined an otherwise special night. What Ryan didn't know then was that the request would haunt him for years to come. As he admits in a recent New York Times piece, "I soon became an attraction for people who wanted to pay money to hurl insults at someone." Ryan lashed out, was quoted insulting Bryan Adams in the press, and he admitted that the continuous requests for "Summer of 69" sent him into therapy.
More than a decade later, however, Ryan would cover that very song at the same Nashville venue where it all started.
It was like the circle had finally closed, capping off the end of a turbulent chapter in Adams' career. At 40 years old, the musician had matured, and was even enjoying the beginnings of a late career resurgence. "That was the beginning of who I am today," he writes in the Times. But more to the point, it was the fruition of a beautiful bromance that crossed generations, genres and borders, much to the joy of his fans and the internet at large.
Before covering "Summer of 69," Ryan had also covered Bryan's "Run To You," both on the same tour in support of his self-titled album, which appeared to mimic the cover of the older Adams' 1984 breakthrough, Reckless. On Nov. 4, 2014, the two artists even exchanged mutual birthday wishes (Ryan's 40th, Bryan's 55th) on Twitter, because of course Ryan and Bryan Adams also have the same birthday. Little did the public know, but prior to that exchange, Ryan had already begun to e-mail Bryan birthday wishes every year.
As it turns out, not only were the two artists getting along, but the Canadian icon was, through his equanimity, teaching the younger Adams how to be a better person.
"The way he conducts himself, I consider him a mentor for sure," Ryan says. "As I've gotten older, it was beautiful and mesmerizing to me to think that this guy, this tremendous artist who I was screwed up and listening to …" he says before trailing off. "He's just always awesome to me. Once in awhile we'll check in and say hey, wish him happy holidays, whatever. He's just great. I'm very fortunate that he has been this stable influence that I can look at, and as I got my shit together, so to speak, I sort of was like, wow, I see how he's doing it. That's pretty cool."
It helped Ryan not only come to terms with himself as an artist, but also make peace with the comparison he'd been dealing with his entire life.
"I mean it's not that unusual," he says. "His name is Bryan Adams. I feel like that's a pretty common name. And my name is Ryan Adams, cus that's also pretty common. … In middle school people would go like, Ryan Adams, like Bryan Adams, and like, it never bothered me. I just thought that it really spoke to how popular he was. He is an ingrained part of our culture and we should all be so lucky."
[Bryan Adams] sort of transcended the line of what was cool and not cool, and to me that is the coolest possible thing.- Ryan Adams
He goes as far to say that Reckless, which came out when Ryan was 10, was so ubiquitous that it was akin to "almost like the army issued record of my generation. Everybody had a cassette of it, you know?" he says. "He sort of transcended the line of what was cool and not cool, and to me that is the coolest possible thing."
As far as Bryan Adams' legacy is concerned, Ryan doesn't think he gets enough credit for his artistry.
"'Run To You,' in my opinion, is one of the best, most unbelievably recorded songs. The guitars are insane. [Producer] Bob Clearmountain and Bryan together were like a sonic tornado of great," he says, adding that covering a Bryan Adams song is deceptively difficult.
"I've played ['Run to You'] a few times and what's interesting is that song and 'Summer of 69,' they both get to these parts that are way more complicated and hard than you would think," he says. "'The bridge on 'Summer of 69' is just crazy. That's how you know what kind of a singer you are dealing with. He just knows what he's doing."
Ryan Adams new album, Prisoner, is out Feb. 17.
Jesse Kinos-Goodin, q digital staff