Ryan Adams has unveiled his blistering new single ‘Do You Still Love Me’ and announced his upcoming 16th album ‘Prisoner’. NME spoke to Adams about how the album deals with his divorce, vulnerability, death, recovery and a sense of freedom.
‘Prisoner’ will be released on February 17 and is the follow-up to his 2015 cover album of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ and his acclaimed self-titled record from 2014. ‘Do You Still Love Me’ is the lead single from the album, and picks up the classic sound of his last record, but with a forward-facing desert rock sound and soulful sense of space – loaded with guitar mastery and arena-ready hooks.
“I don’t remember being aware of needing to hold back anything,” Adams told NME of his mindset during the writing of ‘Prisoner’. “I felt like I needed to tell a story – the story of how I felt or what was happening internally at least, in the truest way possible. It was in the most vulnerable way I could. Also, in a way that felt good to play music – I wanted to avoid feeling like playing guitar on a soapbox…like some fucking bullshit about life pains. I don’t want to be that person and that’s not the point of what I’m trying to do, I want to try and extract some truth from the narrow of whatever is around me.
“It didn’t hurt that I had a tonne of songs so felt pretty free.”
Speaking of his lyrical themes and inspirations behind ‘Prisoner’, Adams told NME about he felt no inhibitions in writing about his very public divorce from Mandy Moore.
“I think the theme of this record is that we’re all prisoners of some desires, in that the very things we love are the things that hold us hostage and keep us trapped,” he told NME. “Either we are the cage or we’re in the cage and it’s trying to figure out in every situation which of those things is real.
“For me, the big shadow illuminating things for fans will be that this record is directly related to my divorce…I think that’s what fans will read into it and to the things that happened and what was going on inside me. How I endured it and where I was in my emotions at that time – and they wouldn’t be wrong. I didn’t want to make a mistake and avoid it…I believe in art, and it sounds so stupid – but I think it’s more stupid to pretend that things aren’t happening to you and write some bland fucking useless bullshit. I don’t wanna be that. I don’t wanna write music for people on fucking boats y’know, that’s not who I am”
Adams continued: “So I chose to honestly say: I’m going through this. I chose to extract and evaluate and find out what part of this pain and seduction and mistrust are worthy of being extracted and then re-romanticize it in some way. Because ultimately, however bad a situation is for people, especially if it’s a condition of love or some internal dialogue, I think most people would agree that when you look back on it, those times are well remembered. I think in a lot of ways that’s what every John Hughes movie is about…its saying you know when you were in that situation and you were totally confused about life…wasn’t that awesome?”
Adams added: “Also, I think I would know if I was full of shit. All the changes that happened in my life in last couple of years have been drastic and dramatic. Ever since the last album when my friend died – and you know that guy grew up in the house next to where my grandmother was raised – I was playing a TV show that night, like I could not be there.
“The only thing I could do was to put a picture of him out, and it happened to be the same fucking day my divorce was announced, like it was unbelievable! There were so many sides to what was happening it was almost like an out of body experience. At that end of the day I’m lucky, because a guitar sounds fucking great when you plug it in you know? Put the capo on the third fret and…you know, it just feels good to have that kind of release.”
- Check back at NME.com for more from our interview with Ryan Adams
The full tracklist for ‘Prisoner’ is:
Do You Still Love Me?
Shiver And Shake
To Be Without You
Anything I Say To You Now