Q&A with Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams self-portrait
Bryan Adams is on the short list of the most successful and popular of rock singers to emerge in the '80s. The Canadian-born Adams has had a string of hits in the last three decades, while 1983's Cuts Like a Knife and 1994's Reckless are albums that became part of the musical lexicon of anyone who grew up during that decade. In 1991, Adams won a Grammy for the then ubiquitous "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," from the soundtrack to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Throughout his career, Adams has been a visible and wide-ranging activist for social issues including human rights, poverty and the peace process in various parts of the world. He has also become a well known and sought out photographer whose work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar. In 2008, Adams released his latest studio album, 11 and received lukewarm reception from critics, despite being well received by fans. We had a chance to speak with Adams in London as he prepared for his first acoustic tour. Read the full interview after the jump.
Westword (Tom Murphy): What was it like working on a record with Jim Vallance again and how did that come about?
Bryan Adams: Jim and I took a fresh look at things. It's amazing when you have a chemistry working with someone from years ago; everything's still there. If we put more time into it, we'd create more but we live in different places in the world now so it's different. In the beginning, we basically spent 24-7 working on music.
WW: You're also a well-known photographer. When did you start taking pictures in a serious way, and what would you say is key in taking a great picture?
BA: It's like music - it's about getting lucky, really. There are some parallels between photography and music, and what's interesting about it to me is creating something from nothing. You get a complete blank page and then the next thing you know, you've got a song. That's how it works. I don't know if there's a definite way of making it better, you just go about it the best way you know how. I started about ten years ago with both digital and film. I miss my old camera - I used to have a Rolleiflex.
WW: Is "Summer of '69" in any way autobiographical or is it more mythical?
BA: The song is not about 1969. It's about the summer of love. Sixty-nine is a metaphor for sex. There are parts of the song that are nostalgic and looking back on old times. "Jimmy quit" and "Jody got married" - those lyrics are about real people. Jody [Perpick] still works for me.
WW: You've worked with some major talents during the course of your career. Is there anyone you'd still like to work with and why?
BA: I'm having the greatest time working with the people that I know. I'd love to work with Tina [Turner] again, she's amazing.
WW: What influenced your decision to become a vegan, especially at a time when it was much more difficult to become one than it is now?
BA: It seemed like the right thing to do at the right time. I think it was a bad steak and I thought, "I'm never eating meat again!" And I never did. I sort of saw it coming for a while.
WW: Some critics have been rather unkind to your latest album, but to me, you sound as great as ever. How do you deal with unflattering press, and has that changed over the years?
BA: I don't really pay attention. If I was to worry about it, man, I tell ya... If I could line up all the press I've had over the years -- don't forget I've been doing this for thirty years now -- you can't please everyone is all I can tell you.
WW: It seems as though your social activism has been an important part of who you are. What first inspired that in you and what have you been most focused on these days in that regard?
BA: I've been most focused on my own foundation, that I started a few years ago. You can see it online, The Bryan Adams Foundation. I've always been socially conscious.
WW: You've written music for movies, so I was curious if you were consulted before inclusion of "One Night Love Affair" in the movie Real Genius, and how you go about writing a song for a movie?
BA: During the '90s, I had a strong collaboration with Michael Kamen. And him and "Mutt" Lange and I wrote a few songs together that were number one. We had three number ones, and we were nominated twice for Oscars. It was directly his involvement in the film world that got me in there. I've dabbled in it since then, like doing The Spirit soundtrack for Dreamworks and The Guardian for Disney. I've got another thing for Disney coming up in November, a John Travolta film. I've always loved doing it.
I didn't do it in the '80s because I was more focused on writing albums and thought I should keep to my own records. In the '90s, I did everything. I never even knew "One Night Love Affair" was in Real Genius. I guess they didn't even consult me on that. It was probably an A&M Records soundtrack because the other artists on the soundtrack are on A&M.
WW: Do you get to see the movies before you write the song or are you given some kind of direction as to the type of song you write?
BA: Sometimes you get to see a movie before you write a song but more often than not, you just get to see the scripts.
WW: Did your moving about to different countries as a child have any influence on the music you would go on to write?
BA: It made me realize that there was a lot more to things than pop music. Living in Portugal or the Middle East, you end up seeing different things that culturally influence you.
WW: What inspires you on a regular basis to keep doing music?
BA: There's lots of music out there that's interesting. There's more music now than there ever has been. What makes me go and what makes me tick is that it comes out of me and I can't really help it. Occasionally you get a good one; that's how it works. I caught myself singing something the other day while I was doing something else, and I realized it was a melody, and I wrote it down. To be quite honest, for me to write songs, I actually have to go and lock myself away, close the door, unplug the telephone and work at it, because as much as I think it's natural, I really have to work at it.
Bryan Adams performs at the Paramount Theatre this Saturday, September 26. Tickets are on sale now through Ticket Horse and available for $40-$85, plus applicable service fees.
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