On turning 30, Ryan Adams and mellowing out

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Some fourteen years ago or so I remember perusing the Montréal Gazette’s brief album reviews and stumbling upon a critique of one of Ryan Adams’ first solo albums. I didn’t even bother reading it; all I could do was scoff at how any self-respecting musician could allow themselves to sing under a name so similar to Canada’s own musical wonderbread that is Brian Adams.

Pimply, self-righteous and self-indulged, I vowed to NEVER LISTEN TO A RYAN ADAMS ALBUM EVER. Because, come on, seriously.

Fast forward a few years and Ryan Adams’ cover of Wonderwall (which Noel Gallagher famously stated is better than their original) finds its way into my ears and I relentlessly scour the pre-YouTube internet to find out who it belonged to. When I eventually realised it was his, I conceded that I may have written him off too hastily and proceeded to buy all his albums.

Those early albums nursed me through my first heartbreak, growing pains and they continue to bring me a little serenity through my daily bouts of nihilism.

It wasn’t only his lyrical genius that called to me, but also his general rambunctious, self-destructive eff-it-all demeanour. It wasn’t long before I heard that Ryan had stopped a performance to beat up a heckler that had suggested he should sing Brian’s classic Summer of ’69.

Though I’m as pacifist as they get, I loved that story (even though it ended up to be slightly exaggerated). I loved that Ryan understood that his work was at an infinitely higher plain than Brian’s and that he wouldn’t take crap from anybody who mocked the unfortunate resemblance. I loved that he fit himself ever so perfectly in his own Ryan Adams’ box.

As some of you know, I’ve had a rough few years that recently culminated with an extended break from my writing, photography and social media presence. Through this break, I’ve harboured sadness, anger and frustration over the situation I find myself in and have failed to see any path out of.

I’m generally feeling better, but my joy hit its stride a few months ago when news broke that Ryan went ahead and finally covered Summer of ’69. Not gonna lie, I kinda cried a little when I listened to it.

I felt silly crying over a cover of a song I genuinely dislike, but still the tears they flowed.

In it, I heard a (relatively troubled) musician I deeply admire finding a little peace, mellowing out and accepting that some things just won’t change, so why hold a grudge? Sometimes, you just have to shake it off and ride the wave as far as it’ll take you. Sometimes, you breathe a little better when you’re less boxed in. We don’t have to be inflexible caricatures of our projected selves, and if we are, at least find ways to laugh about it.

So here I am, aiming to mellow out a bit as I enter my thirties. Focus on self-love, accepting comfort, and feeling no shame over loving Taylor Swift’s music or never having missed an episode of Survivor. Making the time to build a balanced, healthy, happy life while recognising and fighting the fact that many are systemically denied that privilege.

I’m a sap, so I’ll leave at this: I love you all. Thank you for your kindness, creativity, and compassion. Here’s to growing up ever so slowly, ever so kindly.