“Artists shouldn’t be fooled by the Internet...concentrate on the songs more than social media”
Canadian polymath and rock legend Bryan Adams talks about the pitfalls of social media, the genius of A R Rahman, his love for India, and also reveals that his coming-of-age rock classic Summer of ‘69 had nothing to do with the summer of 1969Updated: Oct 06, 2018 23:42 IST
Bryan Adams is coming to India and we can’t keep calm! This is his fifth trip to this country and his 19th concert tour for, Ultimate his 21-track compilation album that came out last November. We spoke to the rock royalty. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
You were one of the very first International musicians to have toured India. What do you remember from that ’95 concert?
I’m always reminded about our first concert tour and the show at the cricket stadium in the early 90s. For some reason someone decided to divide the field in half and make one half for the people, which included the grandstand, and the other half for the cricket club. It was absurd!
We were the first Western band to do such a big tour of India, and I think people remember us for it. We opened a lot of doors for Western bands to play there. Mick Jagger called me before the Rolling Stones played in India, he wanted to know what it was like. I told him it was one of my most exciting tours ever!
What is it about India that makes you come back?
This will be our fifth tour of India, I’m not sure many artists have done that from the West. We first started playing in India in the early 90s. It’s always an adventure when I’ve been here. India never fails to impress me. I’m always humbled by the reaction we get. Indians make for loyal fans. No matter where I play in the world, even in Canada and the USA, I always see sections of Indian people
- In 1978, Adams signed to A&M records for one dollar. He was just 18 then
- Among the new lot of musicians his favourites are Chris Martin, Drake, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Taylor Swift
- The music album for the first single of Get Up, You Belong to Me, was shot and directed by Adams using his signature black-and-white style
- He is a published photographer and the co-founder of Zoo magazine
- One of his photos of Queen Elizabeth was used for a Canadian stamp in 2003. And 6 years later he himself became a Canadian stamp!
- His next photography book is called Homeless, based on people living on the street in London
What do you like about Indian music? At any point in time have you got inspired by Indian music?
I love it! It is hard to not be inspired by Indian music. However, it’s quite difficult to sing like Indian singers. Perhaps it’s something you are born into, or maybe trained to do, but the melodies are very different to Western music. AR Rahman is doing amazing work, he’s kind of a genius. As far as singers go, I have to admit one of my favourite singers ever was in fact of Indian heritage, Freddie Mercury of Queen. I’ve also admired the great Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka, who is also an excellent sitar player.
You are turning 59 this November. How do you now see your summer of 69?
I have an album coming up in 2019.
There is a generation of us for whom Summer of 69 is still an anthem. Do you ever feel bored of playing the coming-of-age rock classic?
Never. I’ve just accepted my madness and I keep going. The song has its appeal because of the fact that everyone looks back on a particular summer in their lives with fondness. They can remember their first kiss and that’s what the song is all about, making love in the summer and the nostalgia that goes along with it.
Do you remember the first time you performed the song?
I’m not sure when the first time was that we played it, but it was a tricky song to record. I had done three different demo versions and recorded it twice. I drove my team mad with the requests to do it again and again, but I knew what I wanted and where exactly I wanted to go with this song.
I have always wondered why you chose to call the song ‘Summer of 69’ …you were probably a nine-year-old on the summer of ’69. Is it even about a calendar year?
69 is a metaphor for a song rich in regret and the feelings of losing innocence. At some point we all have to deal with the broken promise of youth and what that means, 69 addresses those feelings. Originally it was going to be called “the best days of my life” but the alliteration and double entendre of the words ‘summer of 69’ seemed to sum up the song better.
What according to you is the charm of Bryan Adams classics that still get you houseful concerts?
As long as people are interested in the music, I’ll continue to create and perform. Live shows have always been important and I love to play live, even if it is an empty stadium. I’m really thankful and privileged I can still go out there and perform and sing, and I can kind of feel like we are better than ever. I’m in this for the same reasons today as the day I started. I love songs and I love singing.
Tell us about Ultimate album. How difficult was it to pick the songs?
As a songwriter and musician, you’re always creating. Even though I’ve released an ultimate collection, I’m always thinking about the future. The album features all the songs you know and love and you’ve heard a million times and then a few other things thrown in for good measure! There are two new songs included, both scripted last year with the message that we are all looking for something and that love still counts, even in uncertain times.
Do you think the days of studio albums are gone? What is your take on releasing music online?
For sure the companies that control music are doing fine, I’m pretty sure the artists and songwriters aren’t getting the best deals. This is predominately because songwriters and artists don’t get together to try and change things, and most of them have given their control to other people. Artists shouldn’t be fooled by the Internet — concentrate on the songs more than social media. No matter what, you have to realise your worth. Your music is a valuable thing, and once you give it away, it’s very hard to get it back.
Has the idea of making a movie or a musical of sorts ever crossed your mind given the fact that you are an established photographer and you also shoot most of your own music videos?
I’ve just finished writing the Broadway musical Pretty Woman and the cast album for that has just come out! As far as film is concerned, I’ve been asked a few times. Ridley Scott once asked me if I was interested in making a film, I told him I was, but that I couldn’t act. It was a nice dinner nonetheless. I’ve shot almost all my album covers since the 90s.
What is that one advice you would want to give to new songwriters and musicians trying to break into the business?
Get into music because you love music, not to become famous. If your dream is fame, you have set yourself up to be disappointed. You have to continue to be inspired as a musician, and that doesn’t happen from standing still. You have to keep moving and continue to create. I think most artists tend to take control of themselves at some point. But, I think, at some point, you also have to let go. I enjoy collaborating with other artists because there’s a certain sense of breaking out of your own mould a bit, if you work with other people. And, there’s also the thing of the unknown. You don’t know what is going happen. And, I do like putting myself in positions where I have to push myself. If you don’t do that, you will never grow. I don’t think about what I’ve done; I think about what I’m about to do.
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From HT Brunch, October 7, 2018
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