Ryan Adams :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

I was in Michigan in the middle of a deadline at work when I first heard Ryan Adams. A friend of mine who I can credit with introducing me to some of my all-time favorite artists and bands, time and again, shared the song Harder Now That It’s Over, and soon after, Sylvia Plath. I remember playing both songs over and over and over that day, the melancholic melodies of both songs soothing my overtired and overwhelmed nerves. I recall doing a frantic search via one of those popular music sharing sites of the early 00’s (was it Kazaa then? I think this was post-Napster), and then going out and buying Gold that weekend. After that, it is a bit of a blur as to what came next for me and Ryan’s music because a part of me feels like his music has always been in my life. I am not sure there is another artist that makes me feel things the way he does, nor any other artist that has so many memories that I associate with his songs.

Years later I would stand in a record store in the Manchester, England, where I was buying another copy of Gold, along with a copy of Heartbreaker, and discussing with the girl behind the counter Ryan’s music, and which album we’d choose as our favorite. Later that night I’d stand in a pub with coins in my hand, feeding a jukebox, setting it up to play La Cienega Just Smiled. I was far from La Cienega, I was far from home, but Ryan was playing and it made the world seem to shrink suddenly, and intersect, connecting with me in a way that only music ever can. I remember the song saying all the things I just couldn’t that night.

The second song I chose was Touch, Feel and Lose, and the lyrics stung more than the second shot of whiskey I downed. The facts were plain as day, as they say, even in that rainy city so far from my home, that I would never be her. I could bend in half, scream his name, give in to each and every whispered whim, but I could never be her. I never wanted to be her, either, no, I just wanted him to love me, as me. As the song wound down I asked for one more shot, closing my eyes tightly as I tossed it back, telling myself “now is not the time to feel anything, now is not the time to cry.”

Another memory is of a very early morning. I was heading out to the car of a best friend who was picking me up for work. She rolled down the passenger side window, and turned up the car stereo. Come Pick Me Up was playing and we both started singing-a-long. Me standing in the street, and she behind the wheel, belting out how we wished “someone” would steal all our records and fuck us up. Maybe it was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but it is one of those moments that define us, the kind of reckless abandon that connection that is rare and real; the stuff of best friendships.

There are so many more, enough to fill pages and pages, and many more posts, but I think for now I leave it at those snapshots of my life and Ryan’s music within it. Because honestly, I am not sure I could ever fully explain what his music means, and has meant, to me. I think it’s better to just flip the photo books of random memories that reflect some of what impact his music has had on me.


David Ryan Adams is an American singer-songwriter, musician and producer. He is best known for his prolific solo career, and as a former member of alternative country band Whiskeytown, with whom he recorded three studio albums.

In 2000, Adams left Whiskeytown and released his first solo album, Heartbreaker, to critical acclaim. The album was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize. In 2001, Adams released the UK certified-gold Gold, which included the hit single, New York, New York.

He released five albums with the rock band The Cardinals. Adams left The Cardinals and announced that he was taking a break from music. He resumed performing in October 2010 and released his thirteenth studio album, Ashes & Fire, on October 11, 2011. The album peaked at # 7 on the Billboard 200. In September 2014, Adams released his fourteenth album Ryan Adams on his PAX AM label.

Adams has also produced albums for Willie Nelson, Jesse Malin, Jenny Lewis, Butch Walker and Fall Out Boy, and he has collaborated with Counting Crows, Weezer, Norah Jones, America, Minnie Driver, Cowboy Junkies, Leona Naess, Toots and the Maytals, Beth Orton and Krista Polvere. He has written Infinity Blues, a book of poems, and Hello Sunshine, a collection of poems and short stories.


Ryan Adams was born on November 5, 1974, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He is the middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. His father left his family when he was five and he was raised mainly by his grandparents.

When he was eight, Adams began writing short stories and limericks on his grandmother’s typewriter. He is quoted as saying, “I started writing short stories when I was really into Edgar Allan Poe. Then later, when I was a teenager, I got really hard into cult fiction: Hubert Selby, Jr., Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac.”

At the age of 14 Adams began learning to play the electric guitar that his mother and stepfather had bought him, and shortly afterward joined a local band named Blank Label. Although Blank Label did not stay together long, a three-track 7″ record exists, dated 1991 and lasting less than seven minutes in total.

Adams attended Jacksonville High School but dropped out in his first week of tenth grade, moving to live with bandmate Jere McIlwean at his rental house just outside Jacksonville. Around this time he performed briefly with two local bands, Ass and The Lazy Stars. Following this, Adams joined The Patty Duke Syndrome and once played in a bar in Jacksonville. After obtaining his GED, Adams left Jacksonville for Raleigh, shortly followed by McIlwean. The Patty Duke Syndrome split in 1994 after releasing a 7″ single containing two songs (The Patty Duke Syndrome was on one side, while the other side was a band called GlamourPuss).


Following the breakup of The Patty Duke Syndrome, Adams went on to found Whiskeytown with Caitlin Cary, Eric “Skillet” Gilmore, Steve Grothmann and Phil Wandscher. The founding of Whiskeytown saw Adams move to alt-country, describing punk rock as “too hard to sing” in the title track of Whiskeytown’s debut album Faithless Street. Whiskeytown was heavily influenced by the country-rock pioneers, most notably Gram Parsons.

Whiskeytown quickly gained critical acclaim with the release of their second full-length album, Strangers Almanac, their first major label release. A third album, Pneumonia, was completed in 1999, but record label problems delayed its release. It was eventually released by Lost Highway in 2001, by which time the band was effectively done.


Adams made his solo debut in 2000, with Heartbreaker, produced by Ethan Johns. Emmylou Harris sang backup on the track Oh My Sweet Carolina. Other backing vocals and instruments were provided by Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Pat Sansone, and Kim Richey as Adams embraced a style more reminiscent of folk music. It was met with considerable critical success, but sales were slow.

Adams released Gold, the follow-up to Heartbreaker, in 2001. It was well received; however, Adams initially refused to promote the record through radio station meet-and-greet and other music industry conventions, instead opting for more recording and some live gigs to promote the music. A video was eventually made for the album’s first single, New York, New York. The music video featured Adams performing in front of the city’s skyline four days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The video was played often on MTV and VH1 after the attacks and became Adams’s breakthrough to mainstream music consumers.


Following the success of Gold, in 2002 Adams was blocked by his label from releasing his choice for a follow-up. This would be the second time this happened, the first being with Gold; Adams had recorded The Suicide Handbook which was rejected on the grounds that it was “too sad“. The label opted this time around to cherry pick from the four recorded albums already dismissed as releasable full albums (48 Hours, The Suicide Handbook, The Pinkhearts and The Swedish Sessions) for a mix tape type record assembled without his involvement. Demolition, a compilation of tracks from these recording sessions, was released in 2002. Although the album garnered more critical attention, it failed to sell as well as Gold.

That same year, Adams produced Jesse Malin’s first album, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, and later worked with Malin to form the punk-rock group The Finger (under the pseudonyms, Warren Peace and Irving Plaza respectively), who released two E.P.s which were collected together to form We Are Fuck You, released on One Little Indian Records in 2003. He also starred in a Gap advertisement with Willie Nelson, performing a cover of Hank Williams’s Move It on Over.

In May 2002, Adams joined Elton John on CMT Crossroads, which brings together country artists with musicians from other genres. During the show, John referred to Adams as “fabulous one” and spoke of how Heartbreaker inspired him to record Songs from the West Coast, which at the time was his most successful album in several years. Also in 2002, Adams reportedly recorded a cover of The Strokes’ debut album Is This It, though it has never been publicly released.

cxr_ryanadams_eltonjohn_024-x365In 2002 and 2003, Adams worked on recording Love Is Hell, intending to release it in 2003. Lost Highway Records deemed that it was not commercially viable and was reluctant to release it, leading Adams to go back to the studio. Two weeks later he returned to Lost Highway with Rock n Roll, which featured guest musicians including Melissa Auf der Maur, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, and Adams’s girlfriend at the time, Parker Posey. Adams’ songwriting received additional exposure when Joan Baez included his song In My Time of Need, from his debut release, on her 2003 album Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

Adams and Lost Highway Records eventually agreed that the label would release Rock N Roll as well as Love Is Hell, on the condition that Love Is Hell be split into two EP installments. Rock N Roll and Love Is Hell, Pt. 1 were released in November 2003, followed by Love Is Hell, Pt. 2 in December. Both albums were well received by critics, and in May 2004 Love Is Hell was re-released as a full-length album.

Love Is Hell included a cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall, which Adams had previously performed live, and about which Noel Gallagher once said, “I never got my head round this song until I went to [see] Ryan Adams play and he did an amazing cover of it.” The song earned Adams a Grammy nomination for “Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance“.


While on tour to support Love Is Hell in January 2004, Adams broke his left wrist during a performance at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool. Adams fell off the end of the stage into the lowered orchestra pit six feet below, while performing The Shadowlands. Dates from Adams’s European and American tours had to be canceled as a result of his injury.

2005 saw Adams join with backing band The Cardinals to produce two albums, Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. Cold Roses, a double album, included backing vocals from Rachael Yamagata on three songs; Let It Ride, Cold Roses and Friends. His second album of the year, Jacksonville City Nights, featured a duet with Norah Jones on Dear John. As well as releasing two albums with The Cardinals, Adams released the solo album 29 late in the year.

Adams toured the United States with The Cardinals, including a performance at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Adams and The Cardinals then returned to the UK in the summer to begin a tour of Europe.


Adams produced Willie Nelson’s album Songbird, while he and The Cardinals performed as Nelson’s backing band. The album was released in October 2006.

Late in 2006, Adams experimented with hip hop music, adding to his web site 18 albums worth of new recordings under various pseudonyms, featuring humorous and nonsensical lyrics, as well as covers of two Bob Dylan songs (Isis and You’re a Big Girl Now).

Adams released his ninth album on June 26, 2007, titled Easy Tiger. The album includes many tracks which were debuted during 2006’s tours, as well as other older tracks which were previously unreleased. Later that year, Adams revealed that he had endured “an extended period of substance abuse” that ended in 2006. Adams indicated that he routinely snorted heroin mixed with cocaine, and abused alcohol and pills.


On October 23, 2007, Adams released Follow the Lights, an EP featuring three new songs: Follow the Lights, Blue Hotel and My Love for You Is Real, along with live studio versions of other previously released songs and a cover of Alice in Chains’ Down In A Hole. Adams also appeared as a guest musician on Cowboy Junkies’ 2007 album and DVD Trinity Revisited, a 20th-anniversary re-recording of their classic album The Trinity Session. In 2007 Adams co-wrote a song with Australian singer/songwriter Krista Polvere for her debut record Here Be Dragons; he also played guitar and piano on the album, which was recorded in New York.

A new album with The Cardinals, Cardinology was released on October 28, 2008. Adams has also announced plans to release a book, entitled Infinity Blues.

On January 14, 2009, Ryan Adams announced that he was quitting the Cardinals after their final show on March 20, 2009 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Adams cited hearing loss due to Ménière’s disease as well as disillusionment with the music industry, the media and audience behavior as reasons for his decision. He also stated that he has been working on two new books, in addition to Infinity Blues. The second book, released in the fall of 2009, was entitled Hello Sunshine.

In April 2009, Adams uploaded three new tracks under his black metal moniker Werewolph, and five hard rock tracks under the name Sleazy Handshake.

The Cardinals, without Adams, have recorded together alongside Gin Wigmore for her debut album. Adams dismissed any possibility of a reunion at that time, saying it wouldn’t be right after the death of Cardinals bassist Chris ‘Spacewolf’ Feinstein.

In August 2009, Adams began posting on the fan-site, Ryan Adams Archive, discussing the possibility of a Whiskeytown reunion, new songs and releasing his many ‘unreleased’ albums. In August, Adams also began blogging for The Awl. In September 2009, Adams debuted a new song online, entitled Happy Birthday, and began releasing singles, featuring previously unreleased material, from his new record label, PAX AM.


In March 2010, Adams announced a new metal influenced album, entitled Orion, to be released on his PAX AM label. Orion was released on vinyl only on May 18, 2010 and was sold through the PAX AM online store.

On October 29, 2010, Adams played his first live show since stepping down from the Cardinals in March 2009, at a benefit hosted by Judd Apatow. He was backed by Marshall Vore, Sebastian Steinberg and former Cardinal Jamie Candiloro, who were billed as “The Ryan Adams Band“. They debuted three new songs and were joined onstage by Mandy Moore for Oh My Sweet Carolina.

In November 2010, Adams announced the release of Cardinals III/IV, his twelfth studio album, which was recorded in 2006. This album is his fifth with The Cardinals and was released on December 14, 2010 through PAX AM.

In 2011, Adams announced a European tour, and noted that he was working on a new studio album with producer Glyn Johns.

On April 21, 2011, Adams was the surprise opener for an Emmylou Harris show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. He performed several new songs, as well as Oh My Sweet Carolina with Harris, a track they recorded for 2000’s Heartbreaker.

In the September 2011 issue of Q Magazine, Ryan revealed details of his first solo release since leaving The Cardinals, entitled Ashes & Fire. He also discussed the possibility of releasing a third book, Phoenix, which he says concerns “a loveable rat.”

In early 2012, Ryan was nominated for a Brit Award for Best International Male. On June 18, 2012, Adams released a live box set chronicling his return to live performances, entitled Live After Deaf. His album Ashes & Fire was nominated for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

On April 21, 2013, Adams released an EP, 7 Minutes in Heaven, with his newly formed punk rock band Pornography, featuring Make Out vocalist Leah Hennessey and frequent collaborator Johnny T. Yerington.

In July 2013, Adams collaborated as a producer with rock band Fall Out Boy at his PAX AM Studio, which resulted in Fall Out Boy’s PAX AM Days EP.


On July 1, 2014, stories emerged that a self-titled album, Ryan Adams, would be released on September 9, 2014. Since that announcement, Adams released a 7″ vinyl EP, entitled 1984 and released tour dates through mid October 2014. He debuted several new songs from the self-titled album in a series of festival concerts in late July 2014. On September 9, 2014, the self-titled album Ryan Adams was released on PAX-AM records.

In addition to the self-titled album, Adams announced a project he calls the “PAX AM Single Series“, with a new seven-inch release each month. Adams stated, “I’m going to release a single every month until I can’t do it any more.”

within minutes of being released through PAX AM’s website, the singles remain available for digital download.

On December 5, 2014, Gimme Something Good was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.


My Top 10 Favorite Ryan Adams Songs:

1. La Cienega Just Smiled
from the album, Gold

“And I hold you close in the back of my mind,
feels so good but damn it makes me hurt,
and I’m too scared to know to how I feel about you now,
La Cienega just smiles…”see ya around”“

2. Starlite Diner
from the album, 29

“Is it possible to love someone too much?
You bet.”

3. Oh My Sweet Carolina
from the album, Heartbreaker

“Up here in the city feels like things are closing in,
the sunsets just my light bulb burning out.”

4. Touch, Fool and Lose
from the album, Gold

“I thought maybe I could be some kind of shelter,
but oh, your storm how it raged.
You know your kisses they like lightnin’ and thunder,
and your smile is sweet and come down like rain.”

5. Come Pick Me Up
from the album, Heartbreaker

“Come pick me up,
take me out,
fuck me up,
steal my records.”

6. I See Monsters
from the album, Love is Hell

I know you cannot hear me now,
’cause you’re fast asleep,
but I love you now.
Colors inside your head go spinning around,
like a ferris wheel,
exploding and falling to the ground.”

7. Two 
from the album, Easy Tiger

“I got a really good heart,
I just can’t catch a break,
if I could I’d treat you like you wanted me to,
I promise.”

8. Magick
from the album, Cardinology

“Zombies running all around,
eventually we hit the mall,
knock it down at nightfall,
So turn the radio on.”

9. Chin Up, Cheer Up
from the album, Demolition

“I took a walk with you,
and I busted up my shoe,
in an old yellow canoe,
out in Hollywood.”

10. Dear Chicago
from the album, Demolition

“She picked me up on Friday,
asked me if she reminded me of you?
I just laughed and lit a cigarette,
said that’s impossible to do.”

I could list at least 30 more favorites…easily…


2 thoughts on “Ryan Adams :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

  1. SUCH A GREAT SONG to have as your introduction!!! Love that song! I seriously could put together such a HUGE list of favorite DRA songs!

    I will write something about my trip to England sometime. It was wonderful and bittersweet, and I want to go back so badly. I visited and stayed in Manchester for about a week, and spent a day in Liverpool.

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