September 22, 2012

Bryan Adams: ‘Sometimes songs write themselves’

After more than two decades of circling the globe with his concerts, Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams considers himself a “world citizen for sure.”

“If I start to think about all the places we played, it’s unreal,” said Adams, known for rock standards like “Summer of ’69” and “18 Til I Die,” as well as movie soundtrack favorites like “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

“Sometime after ‘Waking Up the Neighbours’ came out in the 1990s, I just toured the world — and I mean literally everywhere we could get a stage. It was a four-year tour, and we were the first western act in many countries like Turkey, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia and so on,” said Adams, who is from British Columbia but grew up in Portugal, Austria and the Middle East, where his Canadian diplomat father was posted. The result, he said, is that it shaped his view of humanity and our shared planet.

“It would be interesting to see how different things would be if the leaders of the free world were required to live in a few foreign countries before they were allowed to take office,” Adams said while preparing for his upcoming Wichita gig.

“There is so much going on out there. And, contrary to what we might think in North America, not everyone wants to be just like us.”

Adams’ Bare Bones Tour will be at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday. He will perform solo on acoustic guitar and harmonica, occasionally joined by pianist Gary Breit, to celebrate “Bare Bones,” his album recorded during various concerts in 2010. The show is what he calls a “storyteller’s” format in which he talks about the history of each song.

Adams said he’s learned that music is a universal language despite cultural differences.

“Good songs should translate into all languages. But I’ve had one or two that defied language and cultural barriers. I hope they were inspirational — or, at least, perspirational,” he quipped.

As a young teen, Adams worked as a dishwasher to save money for what he calls a “proper guitar.” At 15, he quit school to go on the road as a singer with groups like Sweeney Todd. At 18, Adams met songwriter Jim Vallance and began a partnership that continues. He recorded his first self-titled album in 1980.

During the 1980s, Adams wrote songs for other musicians, like “War Machine” for KISS and “No Way to Treat a Lady” for Bonnie Raitt. In the 1990s and 2000s, he discovered he had a knack for writing songs for movie soundtracks (“All for Love” from “The Three Musketeers,” for example) and began collecting a string of nominations for Best Song from a Motion Picture.

He ventured onto the Olympics world stage to compose (with Vallance) and perform “Bang the Drum” for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“Sometimes songs write themselves,” Adams said. “They just drop out when you start playing an instrument. You can wait for the well to fill up and for the song to happen in your head, or you can work at it all the time. I do both. But the best results are when I put the time in. That’s the best advice I could give to a young songwriter: Put in the time.”

Adams took an interest in photography two decades ago by experimenting with self-portraits for his album covers, then branched out to evocative portraits of fellow musicians and celebrity friends like Amy Winehouse and Sir Ben Kingsley — not to mention a rarefied five-minute shoot with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Growing critical attention resulted in the publication just this month of his first collection of those portraits under the title “Exposed.”

“I’ve always felt one had to earn someone’s confidence, and only time together can achieve that. There is always a moment in a photo session when you get your shot. And that moment usually happens when you and your subject connect.”

Adams also is known for his disaster relief, charity work and for supporting education and early childhood development through his Bryan Adams Foundation.

“For me, the idea of putting something towards helping kids get a start is a big thing. I believe we all need a little help to get along,” said Adams, who is father to 16-month-old Mirabella Bunny, with the co-founder of his foundation, Alicia Grimaldi. “It’s impossible to change the world, but it is possible to change a few things around you — or, at least, try.”

How does he want to be remembered: musician, photographer, world citizen, philanthropist? What does he want on his gravestone?

With a touch of mischief, he invokes: “18 Til I Die.”

Courtesy photo/ Singer-songwriter Bryan Adams brings his Bare Bones Tour to the Orpheum on Friday.

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by Nicole Horesch