Shooting Ryan Adams

Guitarist and photographer Neal Casal played in Adams’ band The Cardinals for four years, documenting their work. VIEW OUR GALLERY of Casal’s favorite shots from his new book.

I played guitar with Ryan Adams and The Cardinals from 2005 to 2009. Ryan formed the band in New York in 2004 and they made two records, Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights, prior to my joining. I played, sang, and contributed photographs to the band’s last three records, Easy Tiger, Follow the Lights, and Cardinology. We also made a record with Willie Nelson, called Songbird.

Ryan first came to public attention with his late '90s band, Whiskeytown, which made three records and toured extensively. The band broke up in 1999 and Ryan went on to make several successful solo records, earning a loyal worldwide fanbase. The original version of The Cardinals underwent a few changes before I joined in September 2005. Chris Feinstein came on board in 2006, solidifying the final lineup.

Click on the Image to See 10 of Neal Casal’s Favorite Photographs

We were a two-guitar rock band with a pedal steel player, and presented an extremely diverse mix of influences. We could sound like a cross between Sonic Youth, The Grateful Dead, The Replacements, George Jones, The Rolling Stones, and Slayer, all in the same night—sometimes within the same song. We played so many different kinds of music, but always with an identity that was our own.

I photographed my life with the band from our first rehearsal in New York through our last show in Atlanta on March 20, 2009, and the result is Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows. I didn’t begin this project with aspirations of making a book, but because I love documenting my life through photography, and The Cardinals were such endlessly fascinating subjects for me. Photography is a means to making life on the road and in the studio more interesting, and a way of telling stories that no one would know otherwise. The camera is the instrument I pick up when a room is too quiet for music. A perfect way to continue singing the song after a show has ended.

Between Ryan’s timeless songwriting, and the band’s peerless musicianship, The Cardinals were quite a powerful force there for a few years. In 2009, Ryan decided to take a hiatus from touring and The Cardinals disbanded. Our dear friend and bandmate Chris Feinstein passed away in December 2009, making this book a tribute to his spirit as much as anything else. These photos were taken in the places where you’ll find a working musician: Recording studios, dressing rooms, tour buses, radio stations, and concert stages around the world. All photos were taken on the fly, nothing arranged, and only with available light. I usually worked with a guitar in one hand, and a camera in the other. We toured and recorded constantly, and these photos offer a brief glimpse into what was our rich, exciting world.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows By Neal Casal 160 pages, Abrams, $24.95

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Neal Casal is the lead guitarist for Ryan Adams and The Cardinals as well as a singer/songwriter who has released nine solo albums. This is the first book of his photography.