Ten Minutes With Bryan Adams
The Canadian rock star discusses his Bare Bones tour, working with Herb Ritts, and how a drunken fan nearly ruined his new record.
Bryan Adams performs acoustic versions of his biggest hits this coming Monday at Strathmore. Photograph courtesy of Marlene Palmer.
In the first of two concerts by musically diverse stars with rhyming names, Bryan Adams comes to Strathmore on Monday with his Bare Bones tour: an acoustic presentation of some of his greatest hits, such as “Summer of ’69,” “Heaven,” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.” In his 30-plus years as a performer, Adams has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards, and a staggering 56 Juno Awards in his native Canada, in addition to twice winning the Ivor Novello Award for songwriting. Adams, who became a father for the first time last year, called us from his home in London to discuss his two tours, his side career as a photographer, and how he feels about possibly being confused with Ryan Adams (who plays Strathmore on Tuesday).
What was the inspiration behind the Bare Bones album?
Well, the idea was for it to be a CD to have at the shows, because people were asking after the shows where they could get the acoustic version they just heard. We put the CD together really only for that reason. And then the record company I’m signed to, Polydor, said, “Oh, we’d like this, as well. Let’s put it out.” Had I known that was going to happen, I think I would have made a slightly different record, but you know… .
Different in what ways?
I perhaps would have thought to put a song on there that would have potentially crossed over into the world of radio.
Where was the album recorded?
Mostly in America, but some of it in Oslo. Originally it was going to be recorded in Oslo and we got it all set up and got out there, and throughout the night there was some drunk guy out there who kept going, “I love you man! I really love you!” And he did it at the most inopportune moments—he wouldn’t do it between songs, he’d wait till a really quiet moment. So I walked offstage thinking, “I guess we’ll have to go back and do it another night.”
Are the acoustic shows fun to do?
I sort of have two tours running concurrently. I have my band tour, which I do some weeks, and then I do the acoustic tour some weeks. The acoustic tour is primarily in America. They get my humor better there. It’s easier than doing it in, say, Germany.
What are the different touring experiences like?
[The acoustic tour is] a different approach—it’s got a much more intimate feel to it than the band. The band’s just kind of full on.
How long is the North American segment of the tour?
It never ends. It’s the tour that never ends.
You’re based in London now. How long have you lived there?
Twenty-two years. My parents are from here.
How did you end up over there?
I was working here. I started working with a British producer, and I had an English girlfriend, and it ended up being that I was here a lot. I bought an apartment to have as a bolthole, and ended up just loving it and never wanted to leave.
Have you spent much time in DC?
Some, but not enough to really say I know it. I like all the museums there.
Tell me about your photography.
I always had a little bit of interest in it, but never really considered taking it seriously because I was too obsessed with my music. Eventually what happened was I ended up taking photographs of friends and they really liked them, and other friends asked me to take pictures of them. One thing led to the next, and the next thing I knew my pictures were getting published, and now I’m busy with that and my two other tours, as well.
So you have fingers in many pies.
Yeah. Very dirty fingers.
Did you have any formal photography training?
I didn’t. But over the years I had some friends that were very helpful to me. One of them was Herb Ritts, who used to let me use his studio and his assistants back in the day. He was very helpful just because I ended up working with people and assistants who were so helpful and talented. I went from having just my camera and a light meter to having three assistants. It was pretty impressive.
Did he give you any advice?
No, just encouragement. Keep going.
How did you find your own style?
I don’t know that I really have, to be fair. I think it’s an ever-changing thing. In the same way that music is kind of doing something for nothing, so is photography.
How would you compare the two?
They’re really seriously intertwined. They always have been.
After this tour, do you have any future projects lined up?
I’m putting together a book of photos for next year. I’ll be touring next year a lot, and whether I put out any new songs remains to be seen, but I’m open to it.
You probably know this, but Ryan Adams is playing the night after you at Strathmore.
Have the two of you ever been confused in the past?
I’ve never been confused for him, but I’ve heard stories that he has.
Tell me about the Bryan Adams Foundation.
Like many of my other colleagues in the music world, it’s just my way of giving back. I don’t think I’m anything more special than anyone else; I do what I do, and they do what they do.
When did you start it?
In 2006. It was just a way of focusing the energies I have in that direction, and it’s also funded by my photography. It’s just one of my fingers in the pies.
Do you have one cause that speaks to you?
It’s mostly kids, and taking care of kids. If you can give somebody a chance, that’s the main thing, ultimately.
Has fatherhood changed the way you see kids in the world?
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s great. It’s inexplicable. Have you got kids?
Then just wait. You’ll ask yourself that question one day. It’s just a big, beautiful light.
I read on your Wikipedia page that you were once a backup singer for Motley Crüe. Is that right?
Was that as rock and roll as it sounds?
Definitely. I’m one of the best backup singers you ever heard.
Cause I’m a good backup singer.
What makes a good backup singer?
I’m good at it.
Was it fun?
Yeah. Super fun. On a session one day there was Steve Tyler, me, the singer from Motley Crüe. It was a giggle.
Bryan Adams plays Strathmore on Monday, January 23. Tickets ($45 to $55) are available through Strathmore’s website.