Phoebe Bridgers on Working With Ryan Adams (Who Compares Her to Bob Dylan)
For nearly a year, Ryan Adams has been releasing 7" after 7" in an ongoing series with his record label, Pax-Am. And instead of showing signs of slowing down, Adams and Pax-Am are actually expanding the series.
As soon as the needle dropped on "Killer," we couldn't take it off our turntable. Fortunately for us, Bridgers took some time to chat about working with Adams, what it felt like when he compared her to Bob Dylan and why vinyl is so important to her personally. Check out our exclusive conversation below:
How did you first get involved with Ryan to put out this 7”?
My boyfriend and Ryan were friends and he brought me by the studio and we recorded the next day.
It’s as simple as that?
Did you play for him when you first met him?
Yeah, yeah I did.
What was it like recording at Pax-Am?
It was interesting. He’s a pretty interesting guy. I did one take of every song and he was like, “Okay, that’s it. You’re not allowed to be a dick and choose what take you want. You have to choose these.” So, that was pretty interesting for me.
How did you feel about that?
It was definitely a different experience. I’m not sure I’d work like that again. But for these circumstances, it totally worked out. If I was with a band or something, it wouldn’t have worked out. But just me? It was awesome.
It was just you and a guitar?
Yeah, just me and a guitar and Ryan’s doctor who coincidentally plays pedal steel. [Laughs]
Do you get nervous when it’s just you and a guitar?
That’s definitely the way I’m the most used to playing. I had no worries in the studio, though I was a little nervous because I’m a big Ryan fan. This was the day after I met him, so that made me nervous. But I usually play with just me and a guitar.
“Killer,” the A-side to this 7”, is a gorgeous track. The lyrics really stood out to me: “Can the killer in me tame the fire in you,” that whole part of the song. What was the inspiration behind it?
It’s literally exactly what it seems like, except maybe not as dark. I think we all have a fascination with stuff that we’re not supposed to have a fascination with. When I was in high school, I kind of went down YouTube and Wikipedia lane and was reading up on all of these different serial killers.
Yeah, we all do that.
It really freaked out someone I was with. It really freaked him out. I was thinking about [Jeffrey] Dahmer, in particular, because he was really well-spoken. That kind of freaked me out. Everyone else was manic and crazy, but he was so well-spoken and smart. When you’re looking at him, you’re like, “What the f---?” He ate little children. Why am I forgetting that in the half second that I heard him talk? It’s crazy. I’m like, “Who in my life is like that?” It could be anybody, you know what I mean? That was the idea, it’s just f---ing terrifying. It’s crazy that it seemed like he could be a totally normal guy.
Was that a clear pick for you to lead the 7" with that track?
I think it definitely was for Ryan. I kind of just went along with what Ryan thought. I played him a bunch of songs and those are what he thought were the best. They happened to also be favorites of mine. It really worked out; I think if we disagreed we would have yelled at each other. But we didn’t! [Laughs] Yes, definitely, it was a clear pick for the group.
I love the entire 7”, but that track stands out.
Yeah, for sure.
Obviously with Ryan, he’s crazy about vinyl. For you personally, is that something that’s important to you?
Oh my god, yes. I have a huge record collection. The analog sound is real. I thought it was just a douchey hipster thing for most of my teen years, but when you really put a record on and it just flows -- and you don’t have to worry about putting it on shuffle and it’s the exact way the artist wanted you to hear it -- it is warm and it’s deep and it’s a work of art. You take it out of this huge packaging, it’s just awesome. Yes, I fully believe in vinyl over everything else. Also, this 7” was recorded to tape. All of the stuff Ryan records now is analog, so that’s now what I swear by. Since recording with Ryan, I don’t want to record digitally. At all.
What is that one record that you have in your collection that you could never part with?
Pretty much everything that I have by Elliott Smith. Either/Or is my favorite album. It’s like the line between his super-produced and his super-basement sounding recordings. It’s my favorite of all time, and it just lends itself so fully to being on vinyl. It’s a perfect record.
That’s a good pick.
That’s what’s on right now actually.
With the 7" out, what's next for you?
I’m doing a few shows around the U.S. this summer -- I just signed with High Road, which is Ryan’s touring company. It’s hilarious because I actually didn’t meet them through Ryan. But when I met him, we were like, “Oh s---!” I just started with them and they’ve been sending me on awesome stuff. I’m totally not used to making money playing, so it’s awesome that their job is to make sure I’m making some money off of everything that I do. And you know, I’m always writing. I’m definitely writing to do a full-length.
My last question, and it’s back to Ryan ... when you read some of the things that he writes online ...
Sometimes it's tough to tell when he's being sarcastic, and other times it's really, really easy.
Yeah, I can tell you this: I don’t work at a mortuary. [Laughs]
But, I don’t think he’s being sarcastic when he compares you to Bob Dylan.
Yeah, that's so cool. Ryan is like the biggest Bob Dylan fan, so that’s just so flattering. And he said it right away to my face after I played one song. That one song was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. He didn’t make eye contact with me all night and then I picked up the guitar for some reason and I was like, “What the f--- is he going to say?” He’s totally not the guy to just lie or say, “Oh, that was great!” He looked at me and said, “Come here tomorrow at this time.” It was awesome.
You can pick up Phoebe Bridgers' new Pax-Am 7", "Killer" b/w "Georgia" and "Steamroller," at Ryan Adams' online store. Stay up-to-date with everything happening in her world at her official Facebook page here.