By Jason SchneiderWith his three-album binge in Œ05, fans of Ryan Adams got to experience the impetuous singer-songwriter's swings between hardcore country, rustic psychedelia, and bleak introspection on a grand scale. But all of them have blended together on his latest effort, Easy Tiger, and the result is the most concise and immediately satisfying solo record he has made since his 2000 debut, Heartbreaker.
I’ve tried to follow pretty closely everything you’ve done in the last few years, putting out three records and producing some for other artists, so first I wanted to ask if it was as much of a whirlwind for you as it seemed? Hmm, probably not. It probably wasn’t as intense as it should seem to me, mainly because it was fun for the most part. The making of this stuff was really fun, and it didn’t really seem like it was going that fast, just because the material was there. But I noticed that everyone around me was up for the challenge of getting it done, and knew that it was going to be really hard. And at that time I wasn’t necessarily into doing a lot of press for anything because I knew the work schedule itself was going to be really intense. I thought that it was going to go really quick, and in retrospect I don’t think it strained me in some kind of unreasonable way. The only negative projection that I can think of now is that the songs were happening so fast that if they had not gone down and been released, then we would have lost some great tunes. Most of them were really great live, and in fact I’m just starting to find my footing with some of them. The Cardinals and I are just musically falling in love with parts of Cold Roses that never got a chance to get played, and "29” has become a band favourite to play. If those songs weren’t out there, we probably wouldn’t be playing them now, and playing them better in some cases. So the process is super-important to serve the songs the best we could at that moment. They had to come out.
On Easy Tiger, the band is still the Cardinals? It is the Cardinals. Some of the tracks are just me — not doing everything, but close to doing everything with [guitarist] Neal [Casal] or [pedal steel guitarist] Jon [Graboff] coming in later to fill in the blanks. I kind of looked to them when I started making it, because I wasn’t really sure I could make it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do a record more stripped-back, more from my perspective, because they’re such good friends and good band-mates. I just care to be around them when I’m playing, so I think they gave me a lot of confidence. At some points, a track would come up and I’d be like, "God, I’ve gotta cut this track but I don’t want to play all the parts,” so they were just there for me. It’s a weird example, but I like to think of it like how it was with the Grateful Dead when Bob or Jerry wanted to do solo records and they would end up calling the rest of the guys to play on them. For me, I just have a comfortability with those guys. The funny thing was, I wasn’t confident about many of those tunes because they were just so me, you know? The way I found a way to live in them was by asking those guys, which ones do you want me to pursue, or which ones do you think are worthy? Those guys would always pick the hard ones. They’d say, like, look man, this is a good tune. I know it’s kind of heavy and you might not want to go digging through all that emotional information, but that ended up making it fun for me by giving me a different perspective through the arrangements. Neal’s very pushy when it comes to that. Whenever I’d be like, ‘Ah, this song sucks,’ he’d say, ‘Come on, let’s just play it a couple times and by then you won’t be thinking about it.’ He’s usually right. I typically like the songs that are more riffage, or have a more general overview. So I’m so glad that they were there in that way. If I had done it myself with just acoustic guitar or piano, it would have been such a different record with such a different approach.
Yeah, my initial reaction was how concise the record is. It made me think that it might shut up some of your critics who think that you don’t know how to edit yourself.
But what are they really talking about when they say that? I know what you mean, and I’ve wrestled with that when I think about what some critics have said about me. But then I think, well, they’re not a gang, they’re individual people, although sometimes they seem to get a vibe about what something is by looking at what other critics have said or written. The idea that I’m prolific — I just see that word and hear it in questions all the time. It’s one of those things that’s been passed from journalist to journalist. It’s a fail-safe thing to ask me about, whereas my opinion is that the work speaks for itself. It isn’t really about whether I’m prolific, it’s just the output that I have. In my mind I always think, I’m prolific compared to what? Is it the modern idea of what a consistent musical flow would be for a person? I guess for me, music is so often not dangerous, or not bothersome, that I don’t understand the negative connotation.