Performing Arts - Music | June 2 | 7:30 p.m. | Hearst Greek Theatre
Whats more heartbreaking than any single event in life is the realization that every human being is trapped in a quest for love, trying to navigate a maze of desire. Thats what this record is about. Nobody falls in love to fail.Ryan Adams
With decades of acclaimed work to his credit, and accolades ranging from one of the most elegant singer-songwriters of his generation (The New York Times) to one of the few truly great roots-rock troubadours left (Entertainment Weekly), PrisonerRyan Adams first album of all new original material since 2014s Ryan Adamsis primed to add new superlatives to the C.V. of Jacksonville, NCs most celebrated multiple-Grammy-nominee-and-zero-winner. Set for release February 17, 2017 via the partnership between his own PAX-AM label and Blue Note Records, Prisoner is somehow one of the most personal yet universal works of Ryans mercurial catalogue.
Regardless of how history may come to see it, one fact rings undeniable when it comes to Prisoner: It was the only record Ryan Adams could make at this point in his life. As Ryan recalls, the title track was the third song written in the period of Prisoners gestation, and the preternatural ease with which the lyrics and arrangement came to him was the point where the muse took hold. From that song on, Ryan was in the thrall of a record that was coming to life with him as a vessel. Some records are made by design, Ryan explains, You feel like a carpenter making a bookshelf, creating that because thats what you dobut then there are records that come to you, like a waking dream but youre lucid. Prisoner is one of those records. I know for a fact that something deeper was speaking to me and I was just there taking notes. I was so engrossed in my experiences as a human being that this is the only record I could write.
Prisoner is heralded by the sudden arrival of first single Do You Still Love Me?an opening salvo that sounds bruised, reflective, and like his hearts on fire (Vulture 5 Best New Songs of the Week) and was already killing it live on Ryans 2016 touring run through some of the biggest and most enthusiastically received performances of his storied careerincluding first ever headline stops at Red Rocks and the Greek in L.A.. From there, Prisoner takes a hard left into a compelling series of studies of beauty wrung from pain and introspection. From the title track that gave Ryan the thread to weave the entire album from scratch, through the signature bittersweet restraint of second single To Be Without You (recently named Song of the Week by USA Today) to the classic Adams combo of uplifting melodies dredging spiritual depths on the just-released Doomsday, Prisoner is a cathartic and compelling listenand one that goes by all too fast. The songs virtually unfold before the listener in real time from sketches in the back lounge of a tour bus or live room of Electric Lady or Ryans own PAX-AM studiosthen by the time the albums occasional glimmers of light coalesce into an outright shine with the closing notes of We Disappear, its time to dive back in again
Prisoners immediacy is a direct result of its creators all-consuming need to document the songs on the record as they came to him and took hold. Every rare and precious bit of downtime in the wake of 2014s Ryan Adams entering the U.S. chart at a career high #4a frantic two year stretch that not only saw Ryan tour the world and receive two more Grammy nominations (Best Rock Song for Gimme Something Good and Best Rock Album), but also witnessed the release of his Live at Carnegie Hall chronicling two sold out shows at its namesake, while his full album cover of Taylor Swifts 1989 became his fourth Top 10 albumwas spent in service to these songs, fulfilling an overriding urge to get everything outand to get it 100% right. I knew exactly the sound I needed for every note on this record and Im very proud of the results, Adams says. Literally weeks were spent getting the right sound for everythingall the way down to the right piece of metal or pipe to bang on.
Then theres the most obvious question of all regarding PrisonerA question that is, in fact, so obvious that were just going to skip straight to Ryans answer: People will ask if this record is about my personal life. The answer is yesbut the answer has always been yes. Ive always written from experience, as someone whos used poetic and artistic license. When has there ever been a time when I havent been doing that? Obviously, the record is about heartbreak, but its more than just that. These songs are about finding the true nature of desire and finding out how much more heartbreaking that is than any single event in someones life.
Prisoner was written, recorded and produced by Ryan Adams 2014-2016. While there were able assists from a supporting cast including hostage negotiator and righteous bro Don Was, drummer and best friend Johnny T. Yerington, stalwart bass player and engineer Charlie Stavish among others, everything on Prisoner was a direct transmission from Ryans psyche and soul. This includes the cover, painted by Ryan himself and providing a final coda that somehow completes the albums narrative: The original album cover was a painting of a womans face. When I went to look for it, it couldnt be found and eventually I accepted that it was lost. Instead I ended up using instead another painting from the same show that had hung in my living room unnoticed for five years. Ironically it was one of the last things to leave my old house, was almost thrown away. It has since been acquired by a private collector and has a safe and permanent home. Theres a parallel there Im sure, even if Im not quite sure what that is