On Friday, Ryan Adams will release his 16th studio album, Prisoner. In interviews promoting the LP, Adams has described Prisoner as a record “directly related to my divorce” from Mandy Moore. “I think that’s what fans will read into it and to the things that happened and what was going on inside me,” Adams said of Prisoner in an interview with NME. “How I endured it and where I was in my emotions at that time — and they wouldn’t be wrong.”
In the context of Ryan Adams’ recent career, this is a fairly stunning admission. Dating back to 2011’s Ashes & Fire, a handsome collection of candlelit love songs that Adams put out not long after he married Moore, Adams has been fiercely protective of his love life, and typically elusive and even combative whenever Moore was brought up as his muse.
“I think that’s very bizarre,” Adams retorted in 2011 when an L.A. Weekly reporter tried to obliquely broach the topic of his marriage. “These are albums. If somebody asked me straight out ‘are you in a good headspace,’ I’d say yes. I wasn’t living in a basement surrounded by cockroaches, fucking drinking Robitussen, ever, when I made records.” Later in 2014, when Adams was promoting his well-regarded self-titled album, he hung up on another interviewer for daring to bring up Mandy Moore.
“The deal is this: I’m a private person and I’ll be a gentleman and say I’m not talking about my marriage ever,” Adams told Buzzfeed. “I’ll never talk about it. Ever.”
However, now that Moore is his ex-wife, perhaps Adams is more amenable to his recent work being viewed through the prism of his seven-year marriage. As a long-time Ryan Adams-ologist, I’d argue that Prisoner is hardly Adams’ first “divorce” record. In fact, I think it’s part of a divorce trilogy that also includes 2014’s Ryan Adams and 2015’s 1989, his seemingly inconsequential (but in fact deeply personal) tribute to Taylor Swift.