"The Troubadour: Ryan Adams"
by David Piesner
Ryan Adams is having a rock star moment. He's backstage at the Tonight Show when Jay Leno busts into his dressing room. The freak-jawed host wants to call the singer-songwriter's mother to remind her to watch her son on that evening's show. Adams' face lights up: "My mom'll trip out."
Occurrences like these are becoming all too frequent in his charmed life. When his previous act, Whiskeytown (a band hailed as the alt-country Nirvana by the sort of people who say such things), dissolved two years ago, it left behind three albums heavy with love pangs and loss. But Adams didn't break stride-he released his solo debut, Hearbreaker, in 2000, then lightened the emotional load a little, diving head-first into influences like the Rolling Stones and Otis Redding for last year's Gold. The backward-looking, forward-thinking gem landed on just about every "Best of 2001" list and made the 27-year-old rural North Carolina native the rock world's "it" kid.
He moved to L.A. last year, began dating several serial rock groupie/alleged shoplifter Winona Ryder (they've since split) and now counts Elton John, Alanis Morissette and Mick Jagger among his friends and admirers. "There's mutual love going around all over the place," Adams contends. "It's a good time for rock'n'roll. It's not just alive, it's fuckin' healthy." And even if his fame should evaporate as quickly as he found it-not likely-Adams is prepared. "I just landed on this planet and it's fuckin weird," he laughs. "It's a totally different vibe from, 'Let's get in the van and try to make Oklahoma in eight hours'. But if it goes away, cool. 'Cause I know how to sling beers, I'm multi-talented."