Canadian singer and songwriter, Bryan Adams is an international sensation. His fan base spans continents and his songs are loved by listeners across generations. Currently on tour in India to promote his latest album Ultimate, the musician speaks to Bulbul Sharma about his songwriting skills, his previous visits to this country, and his little-known passion for photography.
Canadian singer and songwriter Bryan Adams is known the world over for the string of evergreen pop hits he delivered in the ’80s and ’90s—songs like “Summer of 69”, “Straight from the heart” and “Inside Out” among many others. From the humble beginnings of his musical career—which started with an eponymous album released in 1980—it did not take Adams much time to outshine his contemporaries. After his two blockbuster studio albums hit the shelves, Cuts Like A Knife (1983) and Reckless (1984), he was straightaway crowned the King of Pop.
Now in his late 50s, Adams continues to enjoy the status of an international pop icon. He has a huge fan following globally, and his simple yet catchy songs—about love, heartbreak and nostalgia—touch a chord with listeners across generations.
His 14th studio album, Ultimate, which was released last year in November, is at the centre of his ongoing world tour. Adams is performing several shows across India, too, as part of “The Ultimate Tour”. Days before his Indian leg of the tour is kicked off, Adams spoke to Guardian 20 about his past adventures in this country, and about his secret recipe for success.
Q. The Ultimate Tour is your fifth tour across India. How was your experience performing and travelling in this country during your previous four visits?
A. We have a great show in store, our best work. We spent months preparing this tour, it’s been a long way from our first tour of India where the light switches were large levers beside the stage. It’s always an adventure when I am here. On my first trip to India, there were no cars to collect us, so Keith my guitarist and I got in a taxi from the airport. The suspension was broken in the car so we leaned over the seat to watch where we were going. Along the way we had to stop because an elephant had gone to sleep in the middle of the road. That story would not happen anywhere else in the world, welcome to India. It’s always an adventure. This will be our fifth tour of India, I’m not sure many artistes have done that from the West.
Q. Since the start of your career you have produced several massive international hits. What is your secret behind this consistency?
A. I get asked this all the time, and I can only answer it by saying that I take care of myself. I’ve got a great team, and we try to have a laugh whenever we can.
Q. Love and romance are themes that recur in your songs. What is it about this particular genre of songwriting that appeals to you so much?
A. Aren’t most songs about love and romance? Even rap goes there, albeit more explicitly.
Q. What is your creative process like? How do you write songs?
A. Songs are elusive but good ones are even more elusive. I’m quite straightforward. Get the idea across in the first 30 seconds of a song—it’s always been my approach. The inspiration is the theme of getting out, or looking back on life, relationships, all of those themes seem to occur… And luckily those themes seem to be with me still. I don’t really have writer’s block. I keep jotting ideas down and then, when the time comes to make a song, I fish through them to see if anything lights a fire.
Q. You continue to be a global music icon. What do you think has helped you strike a chord with an international audience?
A. I still love what I do more than anything. I’m really grateful and privileged because I can still go out there and play and sing. And I can kind of feel like we are better than ever.
Q. How do you think you have evolved as a musician since your first album from 1980 to your latest one, Ultimate?
A. Well, I’ve learned that in order to continue to have a career, you have to tour. The challenges are how to develop it, so it’s always interesting for not only the audience, but for you as the artiste. The tour we are bringing to India took a couple of years of tuning and changing things.
Q. There have been many changes in the music industry over the last decade. Albums are streamed online and music apps dominate. Musicians, too, are more focused on releasing singles rather than finished albums. How have you adapted to these changes?
A. I’ve always made an album of music (10-12 songs) and released it. That still seems to be the way to some degree, but I can’t speak for everyone, because everyone is different.
Q. The culture of live concerts, globally, has come a long way. How significant are such shows for musicians trying to reach out to their audiences?
A. Live shows have always been important, even if it was an empty club with three people in it. You learn how to present yourself and your music.
Q. Any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
A. I have an album coming up in 2019.
Q. You are also a keen photographer. What drove you towards photography? Is there anything specific you want to communicate through your pictures?
A. There was never any conscious decision, it just happened. I’d kept a kind of diary of my work on tour and recording sessions, and from there, I started taking portraits of friends. I started to take photography seriously at the end of the ’90s but there was lots of messing around before that. In the late ’80s I bought a Rolleiflex camera which sort of changed everything about photos for me. However, even then it never really occurred to me that I could manage both things. I’ve worked it out now. I suppose working on my book, Wounded:The Legacy of War, was the most memorable. I photographed around 30 severely wounded veterans from the British Armed Forces that had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan for my book and exhibition at Somerset House, London. It was a humbling experience.
Q. Do you approach photography as a means of creative self-expression, just as music surely is for you?
A. It all about creating something from nothing, and hopefully at the end of the work, you are left with something beautiful. I like the idea of waking up every day and making something beautiful, whether it is music or photography. I like the idea of starting with nothing and at the end of the day having something really nice to look at. That’s all it comes down to.