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Bryan Adams – Tracing the Tracks of His Years

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Bryan Adams live at the Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA Oct 23, 2014.  Photos copyright 2014 Deborah Wagner.

Bryan Adams live at the Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA Oct 23, 2014. Photos copyright 2014 Deborah Wagner.

Bryan Adams

Tracing the Tracks of His Years

by Deborah Wagner

As someone who loves many different genres of music, old and new, I still get a thrill out of covering some of my favorite 80’s acts that can clearly still rock.

Sometimes though, you’ll be digging your favorite old songs and well, let’s face it, they just can’t hit those notes like they used to. I can think of dozens of veteran bands I’ve seen in the last decade that fall short in vocals now, but only a handful of performers that still kill it each and every time. Bryan Adams remains on the top of that spot on list, followed closely by classic rockers like Heart, Cyndi Lauper and Elton John.

In 1983 Adams blew up the charts with his breakthrough third album, Cuts Like A Knife. More than three decades later, Adams continues to be active in the music industry. He is still making his mark, releasing new music and celebrating old by continuing to tour for fans worldwide in his intimate, one (and sometimes two) man Bare Bones Tour.

Additionally he has some tour dates for his 30th Anniversary Reckless Tour (celebrating his even bigger fourth album) in his home country of Canada.

In his latest record Tracks of My Years, Adams celebrates classic tunes he grew up with, including “Never My Love,” “Lay Lady Lay” and “Sunny.” Meticulously selected songs from his lifetime take on a fresh new sound by meshing with the Adams signature style and sound.

Even in 2015, his voice remains unmistakably Bryan Adams. It’s been almost ten years since we last spoke with Adams, so recently we checked back in with him to update on his music career, the excitement surrounding his expanding photography career, his life as a new father and so much more.

We really enjoyed the new CD Tracks of My Years. How did you select the songs you wanted to cover?

I would make a list and try things every time we sat in the studio.

Which was your favorite song on Tracks of My Years?

Either “Kiss And Say Goodbye” [originally by 70s soul band The Manhattans] or “Lay Lady Lay” [by Bob Dylan].

I know you said in concert that you weren’t looking forward to covering “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys until you heard the new arrangement, which in my opinion perfectly suited your voice. How involved were you in changing up the songs on the CD to give them a new sound?

Totally involved. When I mentioned the idea to [producer David] Foster, he loved it and it was done about an hour later.

I love “Any Time At All,” but it is not the most obvious choice for a Beatles cover. With such a huge body of great songs, was it hard to decide which Beatles song to record? Why did that one stick out for you?

My song writing partner Jim Vallance recommended it. I wanted to do a Beatles song, but they are so popular it’s impossible to do them. They never sound as good as the originals unless you’re Joe Cocker. [ed. note: This interview happened days before Cocker died. Adams spoke more about his great respect for the singer here:]

Do you find it easier or harder to record another songwriter’s work?

[I was] constantly daunted by the original recordings. The test was, if it sounded like me and not the original, then it would make it. Sometimes for example, if you try and do a Dylan song, you end up sounding like him. It wasn’t easy.

You did include one of your own songs (two on the extended version). Why was it important for you to get your own songwriting voice in there, too?

It was suggested by the record company, as cover songs don’t usually get played on the radio.

Was it difficult to decide which songs would be bonus tracks? I love “Many Rivers to Cross” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

If I’d had my way, there wouldn’t have been a smaller package. I wanted them all to come out on one record. The regular record doesn’t give the full picture.

What are some songs you didn’t do that you’d like to try down the line?

The list is long, but if I did it again, I’d do something completely different.

After years of recording for major labels, your last couple of albums have been on your own label (through Verve). How is working more independently different and better?

Actually I’m signed on a licensing deal to Polydor/Universal in the UK, so it’s not completely independent.

You’re also celebrating the 30th anniversary of Reckless with the release of a special anniversary edition and Canadian tour, I believe. Will you be bringing that anniversary tour into the US?

I’d love to!

For the last several years, you’ve been doing the Bare Bones tours with just you, your guitar and Gary on piano. Do you prefer the smaller, more intimate, acoustic shows or do you miss having your whole band back you up in concert?

That’s just me wanting to play all the time. I love singing and I go kind of nuts if I don’t do it.  So we do ten shows a month on tour.

What do you think of the current state of the music business? The label system you came up in is obviously broken, with all the piracy, low streaming rates, etc. But young acts do have many more outlets to get things out there.  

What a question. Everyone knows it’s a disaster, and it’s particularly a disaster for the young acts and young songwriters. Imagine you’re a songwriter and you only get one hit in your life. With the old broken system you could have perhaps lived off that for a few years, maybe even put a down payment on a house. Today you can completely forget it. Spotify are supposed to be saving the day, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Do you think that an artist like you could have gotten an audience in this atmosphere?

I made two albums before I had a hit with my third album. Nowadays I’m not sure you’d get the chance.

Your name has now become as synonymous with portrait photography as it is with rock and roll and ballads. When did you first realize your passion for photography?

Really? Well I started working on photos ages ago. [I] was always interested in it, but was so concentrated on my music in the beginning I only used it to document my work and do pictures for friends. Later on I started doing my own album covers. Then Marie Claire magazine in the UK hired me for an editorial, and I’ve not looked back.

Your most recent photographic release Wounded: The Legacy of War is both haunting and moving and gives a whole new face to war. How did your decision come about to photograph these brave British soldiers?    

I was approached by a journalist in the UK who knew a lot of these guys.  People were coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan seriously wounded. I wondered what we could do. I was already disgusted that we had gone to war in the Middle East and wanted to do something, this seemed like the right project.

Is it always portraits that inspire you, or do you sometimes photograph other things like landscapes, etc…

I’m a portrait photographer and I work in fashion too.

You are getting an impressive CV of exhibitions including Somerset House in London which will have a showing of your Wounded: The Legacy of War starting this month. How is it different to receive such accolades for your photography as for your music?

At the end of the day, all you have is the work you have done, so make sure it’s the best you can do.

I know you’ve never been one to talk about your private life, but I’d be remiss to not touch quickly on one thing. Has becoming a dad to two beautiful little girls changed where you get some of your inspiration as an artist from?

It’s a wonderful inspiration and very funny as well.

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: February 9, 2015.

Photos ©2014 Deborah Wagner.  All rights reserved.

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