It has been a long-standing theory here at Saving Country Music that when country music became hyper commercialized in the 90’s with artists like Garth Brooks and the rest of the “Class of ’89,” it was young punk rockers that picked up the authentic spirit of country music and kept it alive. Whether it was the gang of artists that revitalized Lower Broadway in Nashville like BR549, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and Joe Buck, or the Bloodshot Records gang with The Old 97’s, Neko Case, and Whiskeytown with front man Ryan Adams, this was where it felt like the soul of country music resided when it was abandoned by Music Row.
Ryan Adams was one of the unquestionable leaders of this punk-infused country music “insurgent country” conquest, and that is why it was so disconcerting to read recently that apparently he not only does not like country music, but he apparently never has, never really cared about it even when he was playing it, and certainly doesn’t want anything to do with it now. And no, this is not some indictment of what mainstream country music has become and wanting to distance from it. This is a straight up, unequivocal repudiation of any association with what country music is or has ever been.
The quotes come from a lengthy feature on Buzzfeed that was published in early September ahead of the release of Ryan Adams’ self-titled 14th studio release, but was brought to the attention of Saving Country Music by Country California in their weekly quotation roundup.
Here’s the Ryan Adams quote:
There’s this wrong idea about me being identified with things that are Southern or country. I do not fucking like country music and I don’t own any of it. I watched ‘Hee-Haw’ as a kid with my grandmother, I only like country music as an irony. I liked it when I would get drunk … I suppose playing country music felt like learning how to build a beautiful bookshelf or something. There was a certain amount of honesty that had to be there and it had to hurt. I loved the discipline of that. It reminded me of the challenge of playing punk rock. But me playing country music ”¦ it was a false face. It was style appropriation.
Granted, Ryan Adams made an entire career of being a petulant, drug-infused, self-destructive wing nut, making purposefully-stupid career moves, and mouthing off to crowds and firing band members in an attempt to grow his legacy by leaving a wake of destruction. But most, if not all of that appears to be behind him now, and we have no other recourse than to believe this is the sober-eyed truth of Ryan’s sentiments towards country music.
So the next question is, what is a country music fan, or a Ryan Adams fan that likes country music, including the country music he once made, supposed to feel about this new insight? I would tend to agree that later in his career, including with his latest album, that people have attempted to equate Ryan’s music with country, or at least alt-country, when there’s really no solid sonic basis for it. But his quotes offer up such revisionist history that I can’t help but think I will never be able to enjoy those Whiskeytown releases and his early solo stuff with the same zeal now that he’s let it be known that it was all done as “irony,” and that apparently when it comes to country music he doesn’t own “any of it.”
What about those landmark Ryan Adams collaborations with Willie Nelson? Ryan produced and performed on Willie’s 2006 album Songbird. How about the Lost Highwaymen performance? Was that all for irony? Don’t you think that when you produce a Willie Nelson album and play country and alt-country for a dozen years it is a little unfair to get angry at people if they associate you with it? To say you like country music only as an “irony” alludes that you believe that it’s not only not right for you, but that it is an inferior art form.
And it’s not just the country music fan inside of people that is disappointed by these revelations. How are we supposed to take any of Ryan Adams’ music seriously? Certainly there can be some irony in music without it completely losing its authenticity, especially in country music. But these Ryan Adams quotes, these are fighting words. This isn’t just clicking delete on the Ryan Adams block in iTunes, these are quotes that merit serious consideration of crossing swords with this dude as a country music fan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as an inflammatory indictment of country coming from a former proprietor of it, ever. There are rappers out there that have more respect for country music than what Ryan Adams evidences in these quotes.
And apparently this isn’t the first time Ryan Adams has articulated his hatred for country music. “I hate country music, always have,” Ryan said on his blog in April of 2008. “…I cannot stand country music one bit.”
Read More: Ryan Adams Slams Country Music Mecca | https://theboot.com/ryan-adams-slams-country-music-mecca/?trackback=tsmclip
I understand if Ryan Adams wants to disassociate himself with country music or wants to clarify that his music shouldn’t be considered it. But don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Ryan’s close approximations of country music is what put him on the map, and it seems like he should have a little more respect for the music that made him, and the fans that enjoy it.
I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back.