NEW YORK -- Grammy-winning musician Ryan Adams' self-titled record is up for Best Rock Album of 2014, and his single "Gimme Something Good" is up for Best Rock Song. Anthony Mason sat down with the singer to discuss his career and the inspiration for his new album.
" I just needed to express myself so badly that I got the guitar and I just right away started making music," Ryan Adams said.
Adams hasn't stopped writing songs since he traded a skateboard for a guitar when he was 15 years old in North Carolina. Was he always this intense about music?
"Yeah, right away. Right away," he said. "First, it was poetry and Reader's Digest and, like, old television, but then music definitely, yeah."
Adams is also self-taught.
"Yeah, absolutely. When the guys in my band who are-- they're beyond, you know, musicologists and musicians, and they understand all the terminology and all that stuff," he said. "I don't understand any of it, so when I listen to them talk, I feel like I'm like the guy in the room that doesn't know French. And they're having a deep conversation. Like, it's pretty interesting. But if they start playin', and I can maybe find my way in there."
Most musicians can't keep up with Adams, who's released an unrivaled 17 albums in the last 19 years. His catalog includes the band Whiskeytown, his work with the Cardinals and a solo career.
The musician has had some very prolific periods, and he says he's in the midst of one now.
"Yeah, I'm in another one. It's pretty cool," Adams said. "I had forgotten what they're like, because when it's quiet, it's--it's interesting. There'll be a year or two now and again where it's pretty peaceful. And there's-- there's songs, but they're just, they wash up on shore and you pull 'em in and you clean 'em off. But then sometimes it's like thunder-storming on the sea, and they're everywhere, and that's like how it is now. It's cool. It feels like my soul is full and it's overflowing and I'm taking just dictation from what I-- what I can get from it."
In one of his relatively quiet periods, however, Adams developed a hearing problem.
"Oh, I still do, yeah," he said. "I have Meniere's disease. Which is an interesting thing to have and be me. It's unbelievable."
The disease affects the inner ear, causing vertigo-type symptoms. The episodes nearly destroyed Adams' career.
"On stage, for many years for me, it was a battleground of fear," he said. "And it would turn out that it was simply because I was being lit from the front, and after a while those lights-- especially if they flashed or moved. And I didn't know that it was anything other than, 'I'm just now feeling weird.' And what's weird is I was doing that in front of thousands of people. And I was really losing my mind."
Adams fixed the lights, adjusted his lifestyle, and is back to his old ways.
"It's just cool," he said. "I just am riding this wave of feeling inspired. And there's not a better place to be. It's just one of those times where I could walk down the street and I can hear two seconds of a conversation and-- between two strangers, and even just the act of me listening to it makes me wanna get the pen out and the pocket notebook and go to work. You know, that's my sweet spot."