Interview: Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams is the all-time best-selling male Canadian artist, having co-written and performed some of the best known songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, including rockers like “Cuts Like a Knife”, “Run to You”, “Summer of 69”, and “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”, plus the ballads “Straight from the Heart”, and “Heaven”. He has also brought us mega-hit songs from movies, most notably the theme song “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” from the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which spent a record sixteen straight weeks as the No. 1 song in the United Kingdom. He has also hit No. 1 with “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” from Don Juan DeMarco, and “All For Love”, performed with Rod Stewart and Sting from The Three Musketeers. He even did the soundtrack for the 2002 DreamWorks animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

This interview was conducted by email, and formed the basis of a preview article for Adams’ 9/26/10 show at the Granada.

Adams’ response was received on 9/18/10.

Jeff Moehlis: Many of your best-known songs were co-written with Jim Vallance. What did each of you bring to the songwriting partnership?

Bryan Adams: I used to bring the tea, Jim made the sandwiches. When we started writing in 1978 I was so broke I had to borrow bus fare to get to his place. The cool thing was that slowly but surely we saw results from the songs we were writing. It was really exciting. Jim is the far better musician, and thankfully he didn’t want to be a singer, otherwise i’d still be packing boxes somewhere in Canada.

JM: In researching for this interview, I learned that, early on, you and Jim co-wrote a couple of songs for Kiss. How did that come about?

BA: we wrote songs for anyone that would give us the time of day, and why not? Like most musicians we were ambitious and naive. All we wanted was to pay the rent, eat at the local curry house, and not have to do a day job.

JM: Can you describe what it was like to duet with Tina Turner on “It’s Only Love”?

BA: Singing with Tina could have been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done on stage. I worked hard on getting the song to her, and luckily one of my colleagues was producing her album Private Dancer. That connection helped, but I wouldn’t have met him, had I not written songs for a smaller project. So you see one thing always leads to the other.

JM: Could you reflect on the effect and influence of MTV on your music and career?

BA: They were a great channel in the beginning and really supportive of new music, they played the living hell out of “Cuts Like A Knife”. I still get guys coming up to me asking who the girl in the video was. Her name was Rachel by the way, and no I never dated her, but probably should have.

JM: In 1985 you were part of Live Aid. What are your memories of this event?

BA: I can barely remember what I did yesterday never-mind what I did when i was 25. I do remember wandering around, and bumping into my friend Bob Clearmountain who was there mixing the live sound for TV. He told me the lawyers had just walked into the truck and demanded that all recording of the event be stopped. So the DVD that exists of the show is Bob’s live mix, and it’s incredible. The producers of the show stuck me on as the first artist to go live to the world and I remember mumbling something dumb in the microphone like “Hello world” or something to that effect… Once we’d finished our set, we flew to another state to do another show. I never saw the end of the broadcast and I’ve never watched my performance.

JM: What was it like working with producer Mutt Lange, starting with the album Waking Up The Neighbors?

BA: It was a really fun record to make, he’s the best. Mutt made me sing better than anyone has ever made me sing and helped me write some of my biggest songs. He was never beaten over putting in the hours to get things right. I used to leave the studio hanging in rags from working all day, and I’d go back the next morning and Mutt would still be there smiling. He would have worked all night just to get something going. I truly met my match, because I can remember in the early days falling asleep in the studio and not bothering to go home on some sessions, but I’d never met anyone else that had done that.

JM: How many takes did he have you do for “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”?

BA: We recorded that song in two different keys. originally we recorded the song but it was too slow. So we sped up the track and recorded the piano and vocal again. I’m not sure how many takes, not many. I remember pretending to dance to the song in the control room and saying we need to go a bit faster, and so we kept the basic track of drums and guitars and built the rest up. If you try and figure out what key the song is in, and then wonder why its in an odd key, you have the answer.

JM: Was it a thrill to contribute music to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver?

BA: That was really fun. Jim Vallance and I had written a song called “Bang The Drum” which we gave to them, and the best bit for me was the Olympics using the themes from that song for the Canadian athletes to march out on. Not only that, it was also used as the theme for the largest gathering of young First Nations people ever. Unreal.

JM: How do you think that being from Canada has affected your music?

BA: Its hard not to want to write about mounted police, lumberjacks, moose, beavers etc, but somehow I get around it.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

BA: Well, as long as you are OK with the fact that you’ll probably never get paid for your work, thanks to internet and free downloading, then at least don’t sign your songs away. Hang on to everything you can.

JM: What are your plans – musical or otherwise – for the near future?

BA: I’m touring all the time, I go out for a week or so every month, and I’m releasing an album of acoustic live tracks called “Bare Bones – Live” in November. This is mostly due to people wanting to hear the versions of the songs they just heard from the acoustic show.

JM: For the preview article, where are you responding from?

BA: I’m in Paris writing.


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