Published Jan 01, 2006Sometimes it's hard to believe what someone you admire really thinks. "I didn't like being in Whiskeytown, I didn't like struggling to make a band work that just wasn't meant to work. It was just supposed to be fun ? things went wrong when we got serious."
As the one-time enfant terrible of alt-country, Ryan Adams is now a solo artist and much happier. His first album, Heartbreaker, is a deliberate break from his past, an often quietly beautiful recording that also brims with the spontaneous energy of a mid-60s Dylan album. "These sessions were very spontaneous," he concurs. "[Producer] Ethan Johns and I have such a great working relationship he knows exactly what I want and doesn't waste a lot of time getting it. If I got a reputation for being short-tempered, it was because I was always getting bullied around by these record company people to make records that fit their specifications. I don't want to be on the radio; those were the record company's dreams, not mine."
In fact, the whole project was completed in just two weeks in Adams' new Nashville surroundings, with help from neighbours such as Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Emmylou Harris.
"There's actually a super bad-ass rock scene here, better than anywhere I've been in a long time. It reminds me of the scene in Raleigh and Chapel Hill [North Carolina], when I first moved there from my hometown. I'm starting to play with a lot of really cool new people, along with being close to people like Gil and Dave and Steve Earle."
Although Heartbreaker is just released, Adams' new-found independence will allow him to release another stripped-down album in December before jumping back into a full band situation next year. Fortunately by then, fans will have filled in the gaps with the imminent release of the long-delayed final Whiskeytown album, Pneumonia.
"If it had come out when it should have, I think people would have been less shocked by the supposed changes on this solo record. There was a lot more thoughtful stuff on Pneumonia and a lot more new influences. I feel like Heartbreaker is a great companion piece to some of the dark and beautiful shit I went through after Whiskeytown was over. I think the next album will be less about love and more about life."