Ryan Adams on covering Taylor Swift's '1989': 'It was an unpretentious thing to do'


Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams (Courtesy of the artist)
Interview: Ryan Adams
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Following the release of his 1989 cover album, Ryan Adams sat down for a chat with host Jade.

On how he introduced the idea of covering 1989 to his bandmates Charlie Stavish and Todd Wisenbaker: "One night of jamming went down of us playing Smiths-sounding stuff and then the next day I had remembered that I had sort of fantasized of covering 1989 front to back just because I wanted to really know about the songs. I wanted to know about the structure. I wanted to know what it felt like to sing them. And I knew it would be fun for all of us to do. I mentioned it at lunch that day and everyone said, 'Absolutely.' They were all down. We went into the studio and we said, 'Okay let's just do it like we're in Lord of the Rings and we're starting at the Shire and we end up at Mordor. Let's do song one, song two, song three, song four and not learn anything else, let's just do them in order, figure them out, how they work, cut them and get to the end so we can make decisions along the way. It was just musicians being musicians in the studio kind of thing. There wasn't really much to it. But shortly after we started, we knew this was really something. This is really gonna take us someplace."

On how he stumbled upon 1989: "I've been listening to her music consistently and following her career since Fearless. I've been deeply interested in her songs as I think a lot of people have been, not just Taylor as a pop culture figure but those songs are beautiful. Any songwriter who can sit down and listen to a song like 'White Horse' and not be able to relate or be mystified by how perfectly constructed that song is or just how wonderful the recording is, the instrumentation and how clean the lines are – there's no getting around that. By the time that I heard 1989 and she was really ascending to this higher place and making bigger waves and using brighter colors, it was kind of mystifying because at the same time I could still hear that same voice and that same writer."

On the reactions following his 1989 release: "There was so much good will in the beginning with people following along to the updates from my studio on my Instagram or Twitter, that was really cool. Taylor was really excited the whole time, and that was cool. So by the time all that was done, I just sent her a link. I said, 'Look, when this is done I'm just going to send you a link to it and that's it, I don't know anything after that.' And I sent it to her and she really liked it. We talked about it and then the guys that made it, we all gave it a few days and then listened and we all really liked it. And then my friends liked it. It was clear that it had a good energy around it and it didn't feel forced or weird. So I knew, I was like, 'This is great. This is good for music. This is definitely a good thing to share.' It was an unpretentious thing to do. I wanted to learn these songs and see what I could do with them and see what they could tell me. So by sharing them in that way, it felt right."

On his forthcoming album: "The new record sounds like the sonic landscape of 1989, and that's because it's me and Charlie [Stavish] that made it. It definitely sounds like what'd you expect after my self-titled record. Elementally since I did it, all of electric guitars and stuff I did myself, there's a feeling of the album Love Is Hell. When I say Love Is Hell I mean there's that '80s and '90s alternative sound but also it's reductionism so there are some songs that are just me and an acoustic guitar and totally laid bare. It's my most power-pop record ever. By power-pop I mean Big Star and the Replacements." ... "It's sad as hell. If my other stuff was sad, this new record is just miserable."

Ryan Adams has been slated as the first musical guest on The Daily Show's reboot with host Trevor Noah on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Listen to Ryan Adams' 1989 in its entirety.

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