“Keep Writing Songs And Everything Else Will Follow” Bryan Adams Interviewed

“I love making up songs, it’s just the best thing when you get it right!”

Human connection, spontaneity and freedom are the overarching themes featured in the new album ‘So Happy It Hurts’ from Bryan Adams, which was released last week.

The Canadian rocker spoke to Clash about making the album, his forthcoming tour, collaborating with John Cleese, the gig that made him cry, and why he is ‘doing a Taylor Swift’.

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Clash: Congratulations on your new album ‘So Happy It Hurts’ – it’s a peach of an album! Immediately I gravitated to the name, it’s unabashedly upbeat and it’s the epitome of a ball of sunshine filled with classic feel-good rock songs guaranteed to raise spirits. How did this record come about? And what inspired you to make it?

Bryan Adams: Every couple of years I have enough material sitting around to make a record, it’s just written one song at a time (I’m already working on album 17!) The upbeat nature of the album might be because I was rocking the drums for the first time, and my mantra was ‘would Bonham do that?” That’s what got me through.

Clash: Bonham was incredible! You played every instrument on the album owing to the lockdown restrictions and this as you mentioned included playing drums for the first time. That’s pretty phenomenal! How did you find that experience and how easy was it learning drums for the first time?

Bryan Adams: I could play drums a little bit, but I had never really worked on it properly. After this session, I have a whole new respect for drummers, man, it’s hard work! Same for organ and piano, some of it took me ages, but it was fun to try. Whenever it was beyond me, I’d bring in Pat Steward, he plays on two tracks on the album.

Clash: You collaborated with the comedy genius that is John Cleese on ‘Kick Ass’ which combined with that riff is so exhilarating and motivating. How did this collaboration come about and did you envisage John working his magic for the spoken part section from the off?

Bryan Adams: I’d worked with John before for Red Nose Day in London, and this time we’d met again at a lunch. While listening to him talk, it made me think he was the right voice, and I leaned over to him and asked if he’d be interested, to which he replied ‘of course!’. We had a laugh doing it, I wish I’d filmed it!

Clash: I bet! The title track is my new favourite driving song. I love the video for it and you can genuinely feel how happy and positive you are. It evokes feelings of being free and spontaneous which is something we have all been desperately needing. Was this a release/reaction to attaining a sense of normality after the pandemic?

Bryan Adams: For sure, and it’s a great driving song. I’d been wanting one for the record and was so happy to have got it because good uptempo rockers are the hardest to write. And yes it does evoke a sense of freedom and the open road, something we need more of now.

Clash: We really do. Please can you tell me more about your approach to songwriting. Does the music come first or the lyrics?

Bryan Adams: Usually it’s lyrics, or shall I say a lyric. Or a song title, and then I start the long road of making it into a tune. It’s interesting to do, and even more so when you get it right.

Clash: Do you have a favourite track from the album? If so, what is it and why is it your favourite?

Bryan Adams: I recorded 30 songs for the album and narrowed it down to 12. Those ones are my favourites.

Clash: That’s pretty impressive! An overarching feeling from this album is that you couldn’t wait to get back on the road and perform to your fans again. What did you miss most about playing live and how excited are you to be touring again?

Bryan Adams: I actually thought touring might be done forever, some said it would take five years to come back. I just couldn't imagine how we were all going to get out of the mess. Thank goodness it seems to be dissipating, what a dreadful time. The worst was watching the regulations change so much over the days and months, not to mention the loss of life around the world; brutal.

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Clash: I am so happy that live music is back. You are playing several dates in the UK this year including three nights at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall. What can we expect from the show?

Bryan Adams: We need to get rehearsing for those shows, but they are essentially a different album played each night, followed by a load of songs you know and love.

Clash: It sounds very exciting! You have recalled that you bought your first guitar- ‘an imitation Strat in Reading, England’. That’s where I am from originally so this is pretty cool! How many guitars do you have and do you have a favourite?

Bryan Adams: I have quite a few guitars which is handy at the studio, as they all bring something different to the table. Yes, I bought my first electric guitar in Reading at a music shop. My uncle took me there. I still remember the incredible excitement of it and the wonderment I had. My favourite these days is my 1953 Gibson ES295.

Clash: Your longevity in the music industry is exceptional. You have had such an impressive back catalogue – 100 million albums sold worldwide! What keeps you wanting to make music and what or who are you listening to right now?

Bryan Adams: Thanks, I’m not listening to much at the moment, I don’t seem to have time except in the car travelling between promo events for the new album. I love making up songs, it’s just the best thing when you get it right. And that’s not easy by the way! Luckily I co-write all of my material, and by this, I mean bouncing ideas off my team. Everyone needs a good team or a band.

Clash: What’s been your favourite ever gig that you played and what’s been the best ever gig that you have seen?

Bryan Adams: My fave gig was probably recently in Milano, for some reason unbeknownst to me, we suddenly can fill arenas in Italy, and just before the pandemic we had played there and it was tremendously exciting. As a fan, I have to say going back to my youth and seeing David Bowie, T Rex, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple with Ritchie Blackmore, Elton John in 1973/74 and bands like that were all unreal. I saw the Everly Brothers when they played Hammersmith Odeon, and that made me cry. Lately, the best shows I’ve seen are The Weeknd and Drake.

Clash: Some incredible acts there – especially Bowie, T.Rex and Zeppelin! When you're looking back at your career so far, do you have standout moments that you love?

Bryan Adams: I can’t remember great swathes of time for some reason, perhaps because the gigs and tours have been so extensive. For example, we worked so hard in the 90’s, sometimes we did over 200 shows a year, if it wasn’t for photos, I probably wouldn’t remember any of it.

Clash: You've been nominated and won a plethora of awards including a Grammy and an American Music Award. How important are awards to you or is it just all about the music?

Bryan Adams: I don’t put a great deal of thought into them or getting them, but when they happen, I’m always grateful.

Clash: Growing up you were listening to the likes of the Beatles and the Stones. If you could give your younger self who is just starting out in the business some advice based on what you know now, what would it be?

Bryan Adams: Don’t fucking sign it! That and just keep writing songs, make a cool album, do some gigs, and everything else will follow.

Clash: Great advice! Let’s talk about your photography! You are equally renowned for your incredible photos. Have you always been interested in photography and who has been your favourite person to shoot?

Bryan Adams: Yes, I have always been interested in it, and now more than ever. I recently worked with Rammstein for their new album ‘Zeit’, which was a fantastic project.

Clash: Is there anyone on your photography bucket list that you want to take a photo of?

Bryan Adams: Yes, I’ve always wanted to work with Sylvester Stalllone, he’s just getting better by the year.

Clash: So, we have the tour coming up which is very exciting. What else is in the mix next for Bryan Adams?

Bryan Adams: I’ve done a Taylor Swift and re-recorded some of my old masters. It's going to be called 'Classic' and Part 1 will be out in April.

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‘So Happy It Hurts’ by Bryan Adams is out now.

Words: Emma Harrison

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