By James Wood
Get Up!—Bryan Adams' new album—finds the Canadian rocker reuniting with his longtime songwriting partner, Jim Vallance.
This is the same pair that composed many of the guitar-driven songs that became the soundtrack for the Eighties: “Cuts Like a Knife,” “This Time,” “Run to You,” “It’s Only Love” and “Summer of ‘69” to name but a few.
Although it’s his first album of new material in nearly seven years, Adams’ new Jeff Lynne-produced studio release feels more like a successor to his early catalog. From the late-Fifties-style rockabilly innocence of “You Belong with Me” and the Beatles-flavored “Don’t Even Try” to the upbeat groove of “Brand New Day,” Get Up! is a reminder of what made Adams one of the best-selling artists of our time.
I recently spoke with Adams about Get Up!, guitars and working with Lynne.
GUITAR WORLD: You’ve said Get Up! is an album you wish you had made 25 years ago. Why do you feel that way?
I look at You Want It You Got It, Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless as sort of a trilogy, and this record seems like it would have easily slotted in as the logical successor to Reckless. Only because it’s Jim [Vallance] and I really on top of our game again. There’s something between us that’s completely unique. Of course, working with Jeff Lynne has really brought a nice plot to the record as well.
What inspires you when you write?
Every song is different. For Jim and me, it’s about finding your way down a path you’ve never been down before. Musically, it’s about working out the most interesting way to make the song go forward. With all of the songs there’s definitely a guitar that’s in there somewhere pushing it forward.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Get Up! What can you tell me about “Brand New Day”?
That was the last song written for the record, and it’s about getting motivated, about getting up and do something with yourself. But it’s also about the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it?
"Go Down Rockin’."
I wrote that song after I found out that my record company wanted me to make a covers album [2014’s “Tracks of My Years”]. For as much as I squirmed to get out of it I ended up doing it anyway and that song was a knee jerk reaction to my manager saying, “You’ve got to do this record. It’s important.” That’s when I said, “Well, if I’m gonna go down, I’m gonna go down rockin’!”
“Do What Ya Gotta Do” has a real Jeff Lynne vibe to it. Was that by design?
One hundred percent. When Jeff and I were hanging out together, he was working on the film American Hustle. I said, “Oh, I’ve got an idea for that…. 'Do What Ya Gotta Do'." Jeff said, “Hmmm, let me think about that.” Then the next day he told me to come up and he played me this musical track he had written. I just remember saying, “Holy shit! I know what to do with this!” I sat down and wrote the lyrics.
Was music something always aspired to do?
It was. Originally, I wanted to be a drummer and even asked my parents for a drum kit, but they wound up getting me a flamenco Spanish guitar instead. You really couldn’t have given me something more opposite, but I’m grateful to them because I started figuring out how to play it and ended up becoming a guitar player.
Who were some of your early influences?
I loved the Beatles and was also into a lot Seventies hard rock, guys like Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Mick Ronson. If your hair was long and your guitar was loud, I was there.
Keith Scott has been playing guitar with you in your band since the very beginning. How did you guys meet?
Keith’s like a brother to me. He and I were in rival bands back in the Seventies. He was a rock god back then because everyone knew if you had Keith in your band then you were going to have the best-looking girls at your gigs [laughs]. I remember I first bumped into him on the street in Toronto one day. Rival bands don’t usually talk to each other, but we struck up a conversation and went and got coffee. Then a few years later, I called him up and told him I had an album coming out and was going on tour and asked him to join my band. He’s been with me ever since.
Is it true that “Run to You” was originally intended for Blue Öyster Cult, but they turned it down?
I don’t know if they turned it down or if they had ever even heard it. I remember I had written the song with Jim and we had given it to our good friend, Bruce Fairbairn, who was producing their album at the time. We never heard back, so we wound up having one more song for our next album [laughs].
What can you tell me about your gear?
My favorite guitar is my ES-295, which I play in the video for “You Belong to Me." I’ve been playing it live a lot over the last 10 years, and it’s the sweetest-sounding thing you’ve ever heard. I’m also using my Martins as well as my 1960 Strat and Les Paul. That’s my arsenal of guitars.
Of all the highlights of your career, are there any that stand out as most memorable?
There are so many that I wouldn’t even really know where to start. Just last year I played an unbelievable gig in Quebec City, Quebec, for 200,000 people. I still even remember the first gig I did in the U.S., which was opening for the Kinks. Back then we would sometimes do as many as three gigs a day. We would do a noon-hour show at the radio station; support a band at 7:30 and then going out to play a club at 9. Then it was on to the next town. That’s how it was in the beginning. We were doing as many gigs as possible and opening any door that we could.
For more about Adams, visit bryanadams.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.