On January 7th, Ryan Adams tweeted a picture of a recording studio with the caption, “Remember that year when I released 3 records. Let’s do it again.” The last time he released 3 albums was in 2005 with 29, Cold Roses, and Jacksonville City Nights. The day after this tweet, Capitol Records announced the title of the first upcoming album for 2019, Big Colors. It was not yet known that the album would not be reaching fans after all.
Adams dropped hints and teases all over his social media since the announcement. He posted that Benmont Tench, a founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Bob Mould, from Husker Du and Sugar, have played on the recordings of Big Colors, mixing genres and sounds as he’s always done. The second album, titled Wednesdays, would feature Jason Isbell and Emmylou Harris, perhaps focusing on his alt-country style of music. He also hinted that Bob Weir and the Wolf Bros may appear on the albums, as well as John Mayer and it was later revealed that Mayer played a solo on the single, “Fuck the Rain.” Adams also dropped clips of videos of new songs like “The Opposite of Love,” “Dreaming of You Backwards,” “Big Colors,” and “Showtime,” with an older aesthetic and soft, melancholic lyrics.
Following all of the marketing tactics of hyping up the ever-anticipated albums, allegations arose that Adams has sexually manipulated and harassed multiple women. The New York Times released the first article about it in which they covered the allegations from 7 women, including his ex-wife, and more than a dozen associates that described a “pattern of manipulative behavior in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex”. The FBI is currently investigating Adam’s correspondence with a fan that was underage at the time.
After the Times article was released, Adams tweeted, “I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes. To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologize deeply and unreservedly.”
As someone who has so deeply admired Adams’ work, like many others, my stomach dropped seeing this information. Benson Amps, Walrus Audio, and JHS Pedals have dropped their associations with him and his album Big Colors is no longer coming out as planned. His guitarist, Todd Wisenbaker, posted on Instagram about the situation, saying, “there were times when I chose to believe his insane version of the truth because it was easier than believing that anyone is capable of being this much of the monster.” Wisenbaker is standing in solidarity with the women saying, “the women who spoke out are brave beyond words. This is incredibly hard for me to do but Ryan please get help.”
If these all these allegations are true, how many of his fans will be able to listen to his music the way they once did? How many of us that have listened to his poetic, sympathetic language that comforted us when we needed it, will no longer feel that same comfort? His music may be seen in a whole new light after this. Is it right to separate the art from the artist? Or will that just normalize and perpetuate this culture that allows those in power to continue manipulating, possessing, and abusing others? Fans of Adams are left with these questions in place of the new music they were expecting.