A few years ago, after multiple canceled tours and the breakup of his band the Cardinals, Ryan Adams sought a hypnotherapist for help with Ménière's disease, an inner ear disorder. "I said, 'I'm not playing music anymore and I'm scared to play live and I feel jaded. All I ever do is disappoint people and I leave the stage," he says, sitting in the lobby of New York's Bowery Hotel in a denim jacket, before describing the condition's effect: "All of a sudden you start seeing double and then my hand starts shaking, and then it's like you're in an elevator and the bottom just drops out and your bones feel 1,000 pounds."
The therapy, along with medical marijuana, helped Adams control these attacks, and after scrapping his second stripped-down LP with producer Glyn Johns, he relocated to his newly built L.A. studio, Pax-Am. "It's like the Millennium Falcon," says Adams, "so many possibilities." There, he joined bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and a drummer he found working in a music store to begin writing songs influenced by his teenage favorites the Smiths and the Velvet Underground. "I was like, "I'll go in with a couple bros at seven o'clock and just jam. We would, like, smoke a bowl and drink some tea – and the words came free-flowing out of me," he says. "It gives me chills just talking about it."
Adams sounds re-energized on the resulting record, a self-titled album full of swaggering, emotionally vulnerable rockers like "Trouble" and "Stay With Me," which both feature razor-sharp riffs and big hooks in the vein of Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes. On "Shadows," a ballad pondering a fading relationship, he howls, "How long do I have here with you?"
Now that the album is just about ready go – it will be released September 9th on the Pax-Am label – Adams is gearing up to take the songs on the road for his first tour with a live band since 2009. "I'm ready for the challenge. I just did that last [acoustic] tour, and I'm so proud of that – like, I am so proud. I was getting really tired and the more tired you get, the better the chances are that you're going to get screwed up. But, when I play music now, it's the safest place."