Ryan Adams has been in a very open mood lately. Just a week after he finally talked about his infamous “Summer of ’69” heckler incident, Adams dropped by Marc Maron’s WTF podcast to give a chronology of his career and nerd out about The Grateful Dead. In between stints discussing his early band Whiskeytown and the effect 9/11 had on him, Adams gave some serious insight into the headspace he was in when he wrote Heartbreaker, the 2000 album that still stands as his strongest work.
Adams said that the album came to him after he was forced to move back home to Jacksonville, NC from New York City and the feeling that he had failed at being a musician.
“I remember looking and seeing the city getting smaller and smaller out of the back window,” he said. “It was so brutal. I thought ‘That’s it. That was my time as a musician.'”
Of course, Adams wasn’t done. He did his best to keep a low profile in his hometown because he didn’t want to acknowledge he had moved back home.
“That was a really long, sad, weird time,” he said. “People were happy to see me but I felt like I had failed.”
However, he moved into a home that was directly behind the home of his grandparents and found that he wasn’t done writing, eventually penning the songs that would eventually become Heartbreaker.
Maron eventually turned him toward a more recent album — his song-for-song cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. When the host asked Adams why he felt the need to cover Swift’s music, Adams initially answered that he didn’t know before revealing that he did it for the same reason that people climb Everest.
“Have you ever done something creative that you finished just because you started it?” he said. “I did it because I knew it would be hard.”
Adams left no doubt that he was a genuine fan of the album, but said that he mostly viewed the covers as an exercise to be worked through, a fun musical challenge for a bored musician.
“She has this full vocal range that I don’t have. It’s way out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I just had a great time being a musician and thinking about these tunes in a new way.”
Check out the whole interview over at Maron’s website.