It’s been more than two years since Ryan Adams’ life imploded after several women, including his ex-wife Mandy Moore and musician Phoebe Bridgers, came forward in Feb. 2019 to accuse the singer-songwriter of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct.
The fallout came swiftly after The New York Times published the allegations and they became part of a tidal wave of MeToo coverage—where previously silenced women and men were finally emboldened to hold untouchable Hollywood icons accountable for their bad behavior and sometimes criminal actions. For Adams, it meant a canceled tour, his manager publicly dumping him, and being dropped from his label Blue Note/Capitol Records, with his forthcoming albums shelved as well.
The 46-year-old has spent his forced isolation binging Bravo reality television, ordering copious amounts of Thai food, and plucking away at his guitar and writing somber lyrics, such as “I close my eyes and beg forgiveness before I sleep.”
But Adams has had enough of his exile, which prompted him to sit down with Los Angeles magazine for his first interview since the exposé dropped. It’s clear Adams desperately wants to be forgiven, anxiously so, but the word “sorry” doesn’t once come from his lips in the article, apart from lyrics in his unreleased music and mentions of his previous ill-received attempts to apologize.
Instead, Adams lamented his shattered career and how several of his closest friends essentially vaporized overnight, with those who remained fearing he wouldn’t make it. He came armed with rebuttals for claims Moore and Bridgers made against him, even calling on associates to speak favorably of him. Those associates asked to be kept anonymous, citing fear of potentially damaging their own careers for defending him. (His crisis publicist who recently quit also asked to remain anonymous.)
Adams claims he is seeking redemption now because he is on the brink of losing everything. The seven-time Grammy nominee said he is considering selling the publishing rights to his music to scrape together enough cash so he can continue living in his rented home and keep his Pax-Am studio space at Sunset Sound.
“I felt like they were asking me to die,” Adams tells Los Angeles’ Steve Appleford. “So, I’m losing my life's work, and my dream of who I am, my ability to provide for myself. And I now don’t have the emotional support to help fix this. The door has slammed and what am I going to do?”
It’s no secret that Adams is desperate for the music industry to welcome him back into the fold. Last July, he penned a groveling essay for The Daily Mail announcing that he sought out professional help in his journey to sobriety and declared he wouldn’t “bore anyone with stories of my demons or use them to excuse what I’ve done.”
Still, he skipped over addressing any of the specific allegations of wrongdoing and ended the mea culpa by describing how he had “written enough music to fill half a dozen albums” from the lessons he has claimed to have learned. “Those ones [are] an expression of my deepest remorse,” he wrote.
Recently, he took to Instagram to publicly beg record labels to give him “a second chance to make some music” and “maybe help other people believe you can get up out of the gutter and be something.”
“I know I’m damaged goods,” he wrote. “I’m 46 and scared I’m gonna be living in my sister’s basement. If you are a label and interested, please let me know. Sent with love and humility. I already got dropped by Capitol twice. Maybe someone still cares.”
Aware he can’t get back into society’s good graces without addressing the elephant in the room, Adams spent a good chunk of the Los Angeles profile combating the claims that Moore and Bridgers brought against him.
He admitted that he was mostly taken aback by Moore’s participation in the story, where she alleged that over the course of their nearly six-year marriage, Adams was psychologically and emotionally abusive and had stalled her music career. “I was like, what is the point of this now? Because this is going to hurt my family and it’s going to hurt our friends,” Adams said. “And we talked about this stuff years ago.”
Adams pushed back against the idea that he had hindered Moore’s music career, claiming he had tried to help her make connections with producers. But when Adams is asked directly if he had ever gotten in the way of Moore making music, his response is flighty.
“Absolutely not, because the only thing I know is the guitar is in the next room, and I can go pick that up any time I want and I can be free on that instrument and there are no wrong answers on it,” he said. “I don’t know how I would’ve prevented her from exploring that or pursuing it with someone else if I couldn’t offer it.”
Adams said he wrote Moore a letter in wake of the story, but she had no further comment when reached by Los Angeles.
When it came to Bridgers, who accused Adams of being emotionally abusive and obsessive during their brief romantic relationship when Adams was 40 and Bridgers was 20, Adams called on two female roadies to combat her recollections and to sing his praises.
Bridgers claimed that Adams would frequently want to know where she was, demand phone sex when she was in social situations, and would threaten to commit suicide if she didn’t reply to his messages fast enough. When she broke off their fling, Bridgers accused Adams of rescinding his touring offer and dragging his feet on releasing her music, all the while still trying to pursue her. Bridgers also described an instance in 2017 on the first night of touring when Adams allegedly greeted her nude when she was asked to bring something to his hotel room.
Adams skirted Bridgers’ allegations of emotional abuse and being obsessive in the LA mag interview, and said he had no memory of whether he had ever greeted her nude. One female roadie was also quick to cast doubt on Bridgers’ claim, saying Adams was self-conscious about his body and only used hotel rooms on tour to shower. The woman suggested that Adams’ Meniere’s disease—an inner ear disorder that can cause vertigo and hearing loss—could have played a role because “sometimes he gets completely whacked out.”
He also railed against the idea that he seeks out underage girls, stemming from the allegation that he sent a 16-year-old girl, identified as Ava, numerous sexually explicit texts, which prompted an FBI investigation. (The case was dropped in the fall of 2019, but only reported this January.)
While Adams doesn’t deny sending the messages, he claimed he didn’t know Ava was underage, although The New York Times report reviewed messages where Adams allegedly questioned and worried about her age.
Adams said he and his lawyer had been in contact with Ava, who provided the written statement that read in part: “I was not truthful about my age in my texts and communications with Ryan and I repeatedly told him I was 18. Contrary to the New York Times article, Ryan and I both freely participated equally in texts of a sexual nature with one another ... Ryan is a good human being, and my sole wish is that both of us have learned from this experience.”
But it’s hard to say exactly what Adams has learned, as he doesn’t get into specifics of what these past two years have taught him about his alleged controlling and emotionally abusive behavior. He hints that he’s saving these revelations for his music, with remorseful lyrics and song titles that question why he’s even doing all of this.
“I use what I’ve got and I work with it, and I try to make something beautiful out of it,” he said. “And then it changes me.”