POSTED ON DECEMBER 5, 2012:
The Man Behind the Gloss
Acoustic tour, new book provide unique take on music great
For many people, Bryan Adams was a staple of '80s radio and MTV. He broke into the American pop charts in 1983 with the singles "Straight from the Heart," "Cuts Like a Knife," and "This Time" from his third album, Cuts Like a Knife. He then proceeded to dominate the airwaves from 1984-86 as his seminal album, Reckless, sat atop the charts and spawned a half dozen singles, including smash hits "Heaven" and "Summer of '69."
Adams hit another peak in 1991 with the release of Waking Up the Neighbors, which was produced by Mutt Lange and yielded not only his second #1 single with "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)," but a worldwide tour that lasted nearly two solid years. A greatest hits album, So Far So Good, followed in 1993 and for many U.S. fans, Adams faded from their consciousness.
Even though he wasn't dominating the airwaves in the US any longer, Adams remained busy, continuing to record and tour and pursuing another passion, photography, which he excelled at. His work in fashion photography has been featured in a number of magazines, including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, and Interview.
Although his passion for photography has been successful as well, Adams has never stopped pursuing music. In 2008, he put out his eleventh studio album (appropriately titled 11) via a distribution deal similar to the one that artists like Journey, Foreigner and The Eagles, releasing the album in Wal-Mart stores throughout the U.S. at a $10 price point, drawing some attention from fans new and old in the process.
Most recently, Adams released his latest album, Bare Bones, in November 2010. The album was taken from his "Bare Bones" acoustic tour, stripping down his hits and presenting them in their most basic form. Due to the positive response, he has continued to tour acoustically, finally arriving in Tulsa for a show at Brady Theater this coming Monday night, December 10.
In anticipation of the concert, I was able to catch up briefly with Adams via email to discuss the new album, current tour and his photography. Here's what he had to say:
Urban Tulsa Weekly (UTW): To some people, if they don't give Bare Bones a solid listen, it may seem like this album and tour is revisiting what you already did with MTV Unplugged and the subsequent CD release in '97. Upon listening more closely, however, I found the arrangements to be far more sparse and, rather appropriately, "bare bones" enough to shed a whole new light on many of the songs that were included. What was your original impetus to strip back these songs and present them in such a format? And how difficult or easy was it to create the newer, leaner arrangements, once you decided to go this route?
Bryan Adams (BA): It was all done as an experiment four years ago. I was looking for a way to play America that summer and do something unexpected. It worked. It worked so well, that we haven't stopped and last week I played the Royal Albert Hall with just a guitar and a piano. I call it the Bare Bones tour because it is exactly that, stripped down to the essentials of what the songs are and how they were written; on an acoustic guitar.
UTW: With a career that now spans over 30 years as a solo artist, you've got quite a deep catalog. While you've continued to record and release new material over the years, your tours still undoubtedly draw not only long-time fans who have followed the breadth of your career, but nostalgic fans that want to hear the older material. How do you address that issue to find a balance between playing newer and more classic material, when you know that many in the audience are waiting to hear the older songs. How much of a challenge does that create for you as an artist as you try to roll out new material, yet not overlook your past?
BA: I never overlook my past and I love the old songs as much as the new ones. Once I'm up there singing them the old ones feel new anyway because everyone sings them with me. However it's important to be objective on the new material and if the new songs suck live then it's no use pushing them.
UTW: Although almost everyone knows you as a performer and songwriter, many fans don't realize that you are also a professional (and award-winning) photographer. How did you initially get into photography?
BA: I started doing shots on tour and later on doing my own album covers ... it just seemed like the right thing to do. I found two printers in London who helped me immensely starting out, seeing their prints of my negatives made me believe you could actually polish a turd. Because up until that time, I had no idea what went into printing photos and how much it could change things. I never studied photography; I just picked it up as I went along.
UTW: Also, I know that a good portion of your work has been in fashion photography -- how did you get involved in the fashion industry, specifically, or was it more of a natural and symbiotic relationship between rock and fashion that drew you in?
BA: It's one of the more interesting places for photography full stop; so much talent is drawn there. I also love art photographers like Ryan McGinley or nature photographers like Paul Nicklen. There is much to be inspired by.
UTW: Along those same lines, I know that your first book of photography is forthcoming. Any information or insight you'd like to share with us in advance of its release? What will the focus be?
BA: Sure -- it's called Exposed and it's a retrospective of my past ten years of portraiture. It came out this November, published by Steidl.
UTW: Finally, I know that there was talk earlier in the year of you beginning work on a new album, yet the Bare Bones tour continues to get extended and roll along. What is the status of a forthcoming new album?
BA: I've recorded a squillion songs with Bob Rock and David Foster. I have no idea what the outcome will be yet, but it sure was fun to do.
So there you have it: a brief update on what's really been going on with Bryan Adams in the past few years and proof that he hasn't disappeared since he became a fixture on radio playlists from 1983-93. He's still out there are rocking away -- and finding great success with his photography as well.
If you're ready to revisit all your favorite Bryan Adams hits, you won't want to miss his as he brings the Bare Bones tour to Brady Theater -- 105 W. Brady St. -- on Monday night, Dec. 10 and strips back songs from every stage of his career to an acoustic format. In addition, Adams will be making an appearance at the Philbrook Museum of Art in the Patti Johnson Hall, beginning at 3pm on that same afternoon, as part of a book signing for Exposed. Between the two, it's a great opportunity to get reacquainted with Adams and not only his old hits, but his latest successes as well.
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