Origin: Raleigh, North Carolina
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David Ryan Adams (born November 5, 1974) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, producer, poet and painter. 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.
Mixing the heartfelt angst of a singer/songwriter with the cocky brashness of a garage rocker, Ryan Adams is at once one of the few artists to emerge from the alt-country scene to achieve mainstream commercial success and the one who most strongly refused to be defined by the genre, leaping from one spot to another stylistically while following his increasingly prolific muse. Adams was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and while country music was a major part of his family’s musical diet when he was young (he’s cited Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash as particular favorites), at age 16, he formed The Patty Duke Syndrome, a punk rock group, which lasted four years until he formed the alt-country band Whiskeytown in 1994.
Three critically acclaimed albums won reams of critical praise in the music press, and more than one writer suggested that Whiskeytown could do for the alt-country or No Depression scene what Nirvana had done for grunge. But Whiskeytown had a revolving-door lineup for nearly half of it’s six year run, with the band’s live shows become increasingly erratic, as solid performances were often followed by noisy, audience-baiting disasters. Consequently, as strong as the second album, Stranger’s Almanac (1997) was, Whiskeytown never fulfilled the commercial expectations created for them by others. In 1999, the band — which was down to Adams, violinist Caitlin Cary, and a handful of session musicians — recorded its third and final album, Pneumonia, but when Geffen was absorbed in a merger between PolyGram and Universal, the band’s boutique label Outpost was phased out, and the album was shelved.
Following Whiskeytown’s collapse in 2000, Adams wasted no time launching a career apart from the band, and after a few solo acoustic tours, Adams went into a Nashville studio with songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and cut his first album under his own name, Heartbreaker, which was released by pioneering “insurgent country” label Bloodshot Records. The album received critical raves, respectable sales, and a high-profile endorsement from Elton John, and Adams was signed by Universal’s new Americana imprint, Lost Highway Records. Lost Highway gave Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia a belated release in early 2001, and later that same year the label released his second solo set, Gold, which displayed less of a country influence in favor of classic pop and rock styles of the 1970s. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the album’s opening track, “New York, New York,” was embraced by radio as an anthem of resilience (though it actually concerned a busted romance), and Adams once again found himself touted as “the next big thing.”
He released five albums with the rock band The Cardinals (2004-2009) and in 2009 Adams married singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore. Adams then 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 No. 7 on the Billboard 200.
In September 2014, Adams released his fourteenth album Ryan Adams on his own PAX AM label. A live double album from Carnegie Hall (April 2015) was quickly eclipsed by his September 2015 release of 1989, a song for song cover of Taylor Swift’s 2014 album. Going from making his own music to making his version of “1989,” he said, was like “being in ‘Ghostbusters’ or something, and then all of a sudden I have to go do Shakespeare.”
Adams has also produced albums for Willie Nelson, Jesse Malin, Jenny Lewis, 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.
His new album, Prisoner, will be releasing Feb. 17, 2017. The single “Do You Still Love Me?” has just been released.