The Ryan Adams Reckoning

I want to start this by saying: fuck you Ryan Adams. I believe every word of your victims and I imagine there may be many more out there. You have let down everyone who knows you and all your fans and you should be ashamed. Your attempt at an apology was complete bullshit too. Making amends cannot be done with a tweet.

I admit I haven’t suffered like the women who actually knew him but I am hurting today. I feel like a victim too and I know many other fans will be there with me. I am waking up to the fact I have been in a toxic relationship with this artist for nearly twenty years. But I’m done defending him, excusing him, overlooking his behaviour because the music matters to me. I’m done being in denial. I’m done.

If you have always hated Ryan Adams and this was no shock to you then I applaud you. But not all of us were that smart. Some of us were in love with the music so much that we didn’t see straight. We made excuses because he made us feel good. Maybe there’s another artist you feel this way about. Or if you’ve ever been in this kind of relationship then you will understand that even when someone hurts you or make mistakes you can overlook them, forgive them because what you get out of it matters more than anything else. The songs mattered more than anything else. The damn songs. They will never be the same again.

It’s not easy to cope with the truth, even if it has been under your nose the whole time. Everyone knew he was an asshole. Everyone. The list of awful, obnoxious incidents is a mile long. But us fans forgave him for his outbursts, his online rants, his ridiculous behaviour. Most geniuses are madmen! He was our genius madman! And he was an addict. It wasn’t his fault! His crazy behaviour somehow made the music more raw. He went to dark places and came back with songs for us. We weren’t the ones being hurt in the process so we didn’t stop to really listen. We saw glimpses of the worst but at the same time we chose not to care. I met him once and he was so kind to me. He couldn’t be a bad person! How naive and foolish.

I’m not going to give you a full rundown of the extent of my Ryan Adams fandom because it is too depressing for me to contemplate everything I have invested in him emotionally and financially right now. Thankfully for me our relationship has been slowly ebbing away over the last few years. I did not love his last two albums the same way as I did before. Maybe it was the way he acted during his divorce or maybe the dawning of the truth had begun. Then there was a song called ‘Chaos and Clothes’ by Jason Isbell which caused serious alarm bells in my head. The truth about Ryan was in that song and in Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers. But still I didn’t want to hear it.

At this point I also have to be honest and admit that I have known about the Phoebe Bridgers situation for a while. I believed her but I still didn’t quit him. I wasn’t ready. And I’m sorry about that. I truly am. I love her music. I hope she understands and can forgive me for being part of the whole fucking hero worshipping problem.

So yes, I did know some of the truth and I was to an extent waiting on this story, while at the same time hoping the day of reckoning would never arrive. But here it is. To read the accusations of emotional manipulation and disturbing behaviour towards someone underage was like a punch in the gut. One I had needed for a long time. And it hurts, sure but compared to what he’s done to these women what I am feeling is nothing. This was not some tabloid gossip either. This was the New York Times. No more hiding places are available.

The first two testimonies shocked me to my core and I broke down when reading Mandy Moore’s story. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to go on record with his unreasonable behaviour. I have loved her and respected her for a long time. I was surprised but happy when they got married and unsurprised when they ultimately divorced. Deep down I knew this guy was not someone you could ever trust or rely on. But I didn’t stop listening.

A few weeks ago I preordered the new album, which was to be one of three he planned to release in 2019. I paid £45. And I would have bought tour tickets if I hadn’t been going on holiday that week. I was angry about the VIP packages he was offering, which seemed like a rip off. Yesterday he then tweeted he was going to quit unless the shows sold out. He was threatening his own fans. I knew he had been involved in petulant spats before but this was a new low. But it wasn’t rock bottom. Not by a long way. The accusations printed later that day were multiple and devastating.

I know some people don’t care about what an artist does and can separate the art. I can separate the art but I won’t do it anymore. I won’t support abusers by listening to their music and pretending I don’t know the truth. Maybe some fans don’t even think being an emotional abuser is that much of a big deal but they are dead wrong. And to those who don’t believe the stories I say this: stop living in denial. Time’s up. We need to believe women. Let’s actually give a damn about morality and decency. It isn’t hard to be a good person or to support the art made by good people. It really isn’t hard. If we take a stand then maybe we can start to fix some of the damage caused and make people think twice about behaving this way in the future.

I’m grateful for the women who spoke up and gave me strength to realise the toxic grip this man has had on me too. Thank you and I’m so sorry.

10 thoughts on “The Ryan Adams Reckoning

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  1. I had first heard of Adams from his comments surrounding him “pretending” to play country music with Whiskeytown. I have never liked him since that day, so even though I lack a full comprehension of his discography, none of the news surprised me.

    Separating the art from the artist is a tricky concept, but it should never be a golden rule to follow. There’s instances like this where any line in the sand has long been crossed, but even on more personal levels, we’re all going to have different methods of doing this. You said you were able to do it with him when it came to his outbursts and such. I couldn’t. There might be another artist where we share the opposite perspectives. It’s all too relative of a concept to either disregard or follow as a set rule.

    In his case, considering he couldn’t even work up a decent apology on Twitter, I’d say he has no remorse for his actions. I know it’s tough on you coming to grips with certain things, but you also can’t blame yourself either. This is one of those situations where it still hurts no matter how unsurprising it all ultimately is. The best thing at this point as a fan is to just move on and not beat yourself up over what you could have done differently (again, only as a music fan). For those women, I hope they find peace and justice in the coming days, months, years … etc.

    Well-written post.

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    1. I think it definitely depends on how you feel about the music in terms of what degree you can separate the artist from the art. The composer Wagner was a damn Nazi but most people don’t care who love his music or opera/classical in general.

      And I love Ryan Adams music. I could care less what kind of human being he is. And I think is the same with any art you love be it music, sculpture, painting, etc. Do I condone that behavior? Of course not. Should he be punished for it? Definitely. Throw the book at him for all I care. I’ll still listen to his music. I’ll still watch movies with Kevin Spacey. I’ll still enjoy listening to Louis CK stand up.

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      1. There is no music that has meant more to me than Ryan’s. I am ready to put that aside because this cycle has to be broken somehow. We have to TRY to show them that how you behave matters. It has to matter.

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  2. I can appreciate your perspective, but his music has never been about him to me. I will continue to enjoy it for as long as I live, regardless of his personal behavior. I won’t support him by going to see him in concert, but the music will remain. I respect your stance, but can’t share it because, for me, the music stands separate from the man.

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  3. You’re right, I’ve invested a lot in Ryan’s music, travelled internationally to watch him play, spent £££ on his records, I really felt like I knew him (isn’t that weird? I’m an adult…) and I’ve spent a couple of days reading his trial by twitter and playing it all against my own experience of forgiving addicts and bullies…and then I followed a tweet link to your post…and you’re right…and the Jenny Lewis quote on your About page is perfect…nice writing too btw, regardless of the subject

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Yes that line from Jenny feels very fitting right now. And no it isn’t weird at all to think you knew him. I felt the total same. I guess we knew a version of him that didn’t really exist. Also I take your point on forgiveness. If he gets himself into a program and makes steps to make amends then maybe I can get there. But it will take time. And forgiving him does not have to mean we should listen to his music again. His victims are more deserving of our compassion in that respect.

      As for the twitter trial it can be heartbreaking as a fan to read all the ‘takes’ from people that have never listened to his music or been invested in him at all. They are using Ryan to fight a bigger argument which is important but as a fan I’m just looking at a pile of CDs and memorabilia all around my house and trying to confront that right now. It feels like a bitter divorce.

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  4. I could detail my fandom … Dublin, Leeds, Royal Albert Hall, the summer we moved to a ruined house and rebuilt it while living on toasties and the Gold cd…Cold Roses, Jacksonville and 29 soundtracking our life for a solid few years along with Van, Rufus, Janis and Antony…

    …but that would be a bit tragic…there are other priorities…have you heard Camp Cope? Cash Savage and the Last Drinks?

    I’m really chuffed to have found your blog…

    Liked by 1 person

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