Bryan Adams has had a 35-plus year music career, helping to make him one of the world’s most enduring and successful artists with worldwide sales of more than 65 million albums.
In 2014 and 2015, the singer celebrated the 30th anniversary of Reckless — which boasted hits like “Summer of 69,” “Heaven” and “Run to You” — with a special reissue of the album and tours of the U.K./Europe, Canada and U.S. He also released a covers album, Tracks of My Years, which included one original, “She Knows Me,” co-written with Jim Vallance, his longtime songwriting partner he first met in a Vancouver record store in the ’70s.
In the fall, between his touring, photography and philanthropy, Adams released Get Up — his first full album of originals since 2008’s 11. Written with Vallance and produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO, the album ranges from the rootsy, organic flavors of “You Belong To Me” and “Yesterday Was Just a Dream” to the grinding, effects-laden “Thunderbolt” and signature rock ‘n’ roll of “Go Down Rockin’.”
Adams also directed two Get Up videos, so far, “Brand New Day,” starring Helena Bonham Carter, and “You Belong To Me.” The photographer, who has shot everyone from Mick Jagger and Amy Winehouse to war veterans and The Queen of England, also shot the album art.
The 55-year-old rocker’s Get Up Tour started in Europe Jan. 24 and kicked off in the U.S. at New York’s Beacon Theatre on Feb. 11. Adams then heads to Australia in March. Billboard spoke with Adams about his album, his new tour and if there will ever be a documentary or book about his life.
Your manager Bruce [Allen] said he doesn’t hassle you to make a new record. He waits until the spirit moves you. What made now the right time for you?
Well, I’m always making songs, and what drives you isn’t the past; what drives you is the future and what you’re creating next. That’s how I think about it. I don’t think about what I’ve done; I think about what I’m about to do.
Is it simply because you’re so busy touring that you have to find time to write and get it together? It’s been almost eight years since your last full album of originals.
I always have to try and find time to write. I’ve been working on songs. I have songs on my Bare Bones record, I have songs on my Tracks of My Years record. I have songs on my Sydney Opera House record. I have lots of new songs coming out. This is the first sort of comprehensive [album].
Tell me about your relationship with songwriting partner Jim Vallance. Is it having a sounding board you enjoy?
Since the beginning of my career I’ve been working with Jim. We’re coming up on our 100th anniversary together. I enjoy the collaboration. I think something great happens when you work with somebody else.
Is there something you can pinpoint, like what he has or brings out of you that you need?
Only in the sense that it’s really good to have the opportunity to bounce ideas back and forth. It’s the old adage that the best idea wins, and that’s usually how songs are created. “I got this idea.” “Oh, I got this idea!” “Let’s piece it together.”
Does it take you as long to write a song like ‘Go Down Rockin’’ as it does “Yesterday Was Just a Dream?”
It’s the same principle. And yeah it starts out with a guitar riff, usually, and both of those songs started as titles. I had the titles for both those songs kicking around my head. ‘Go Down Rockin’” and “Yesterday Was Just A Dream” was just a nice idea.
You’re political, socially conscious and philanthropic, and well traveled. Why don’t those things end up in your songs? I wouldn’t be able to write “Go Down Rockin’” if I wasn’t all those things.
Interesting. And why is that?
That is the result of all those things.
What did you think Jeff Lynne could bring to the project before you started working with him?
Well, first of all, [I’m a] really big fan. And second of all, great respect musically and, again, it’s the collaborative thing where you get to take down and work out ideas with someone you really dig and who obviously digs you and gets the idea.
Were you sending complete demos? Was it done via the Internet?
Yeah. I was sending as complete a demo as I could work out. And then he would get my demo and keep what he wanted and replace what he needed to and send me back a track. And that’s how it happened. And over the course of 15 months, we cobbled together an album. But it wasn’t like we were discussing — we were just making songs.
So nothing came back where you were like, ‘Wow that’s so different! I really like that sound.”
So much came back like that! Even on “Thunderbolt,“ his contribution on the guitar is incredible. And I mean in every single song that I sent to him, he’d send something back and I’d go, “Wow, that’s so clever.” He was always doing that, and that’s what made it so great. If I sent him a track and I was to gauge it from 10 to 1, I’d say, ‘That’s about a 6,” and it would come back easily a 9 and sometimes a 10. He was able to make my demos into records.
In the ’90s you were one of the first Western acts to tour India, then in 2013 you and k.d. lang played the first concerts in Bhutan in South Asia. Is there anything you’re doing in the next year you haven’t done before?
I think we’re playing in Grenada in Spain. I don’t think we’ve played there before — that’s going to be a first. Last year we played Marbella in Spain. That was a first. Never played there before.
You did the artwork for the album and you’ve directed videos, and obviously you’re a photographer. Is directing a film something you’d like to do?
I like making my videos. I’ve never thought about taking it any further than that. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Do you document your adventures on the road?
We haven’t done a lot of that, no. Other than personal sort of stuff there’s no real effort to…I mean it’s so, in some cases, difficult to get touring, for people playing, and to have an extra entourage of people for filming would be expensive. But looking back there are certain shows I wish we had taped. The very first show we played in India, for example. I was talking to some friends yesterday about the experience of being there at that time. It wasn’t organized in the way that we do concerts in the west and the people who came to the show weren’t aware of how to be dressed for the show. There was no mobile phones and that sort of thing.
So there won’t be a Bryan Adams documentary chronicling your life from childhood until now?
Or a book?
No, no no.