SUBJECT: Adams is a keen photographer himself.If Canadian singer songwriter Bryan Adams ever needs to be reminded of how far he has come in more than 30 years as a performer, he needs only to look at a framed cheque for one dollar that hangs on his wall.
A&M Records presented the cheque to an 18-year-old Bryan in 1978 as payment for signing him to the label.
TROUBADOUR: Bryan Adams loves to tour,
“They were stingy, obviously didn’t have any faith and in order to make a contract legal you had to have exchanged some money, so they had to – they had to – put a dollar on there,” the strangely familiar, raspy voice tells Weekender on the phone from Raleigh, North Carolinam where he was playing on tour.
“Everybody needs a break and so even though it wasn’t for anything in particular and there was no way I was going to pay my rent on this deal, it was a foot in the door and I was able to prove myself.
“Sometimes that’s all you need in life is someone to give you the chance, so even though they were stingy as hell in the beginning, they coughed up later, don’t worry.”
An astonishing 65 million record sales later, Adams has proven he was worth the gamble.
His career has been a lesson in endurance, earning him 20 Juno awards, two Ivor Novello awards for song composition, nominations for 15 Grammy awards that included winning the 1992 Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television category, five nominations for Golden Globe Awards, and three nominations for Academy Awards for his songwriting for films.
In 2009 his face was on an estimated 1.5 million stamps issued by Canada Post.
For his contributions to popular music and philanthropic work through The Bryan Adams Foundation – which helps to improve education for young people around the world – he has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and made a Member of the Order of British Columbia.
He supplements the foundation through his celebrated photographic work, which has appeared in British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Interview magazine and included an invitation in 2002 to photograph Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee.
On top of this Adams – often lauded the hardest working musician in the industry – still finds time to tour regularly and widely, often clocking up more than 120 shows a year.
He became the first ever international artist to perform in Nepal when he and his band played in Kathmandu in February 2011.
“I don’t know many other people who work as much as I do, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people,” he admits, having just completed his second concert in a week’s worth of acoustic shows.
Now 53, Adams has for the past few years been alternatively touring his intimate Bare Bones acoustic show – which came to Australia in 2011- with his full band arena concert, which he will bring down under in April.
“I know Dylan works a lot, I know Elton works a lot, I know Sting works a lot,” he says casually.
“Making music, I can’t think of a better job, I’d like you to tell me if there is one.
“So I’m pretty grateful and very thankful that I’ve been able to make a tour of shitty clubs into better ones [venues].”
While the world has watched his ascent to arenas and hungrily awaited his steady procession of modern-day classics, which have included Cuts Like A Knife, Summer of ’69, Kids Wanna Rock, Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started, (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, Heaven and Please Forgive Me, little is known about his personal life.
Rumoured to have been romantically linked with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Elle MacPherson, Adams is notoriously private.
He rarely grants interviews and prefers to keep his brief and often curt answers focused solely on his music.
“I’ve always been like that, it wasn’t even a conscious decision,” he says of his guarded nature.
“My manager always berates me for not doing more press and being more out there and his line to me is, ‘Adams, you’ll never know how big you could have been,’ ” he muses.
“You keep things private but it’s hard these days, the way everyone’s got a phone and it’s got a camera on it, it’s everywhere.
“When I go to gigs, you can see people reach for phones before they even say hello to you.”
Adams does, however, have a Twitter account (“I’m just trying to pick up where everyone else is, but it seems like everytime you turn around there’s another website you’ve got to belong to”) and used it to confirm in November 2012 his girlfriend and co-founder of his foundation Alicia Grimaldi was pregnant with their second child.
The pair had already surprised many fans when they confirmed they were a couple at the same time they made public their pregnancy with Mirabella Bunny Grimaldi-Adams, born April 2011.
“I spend lots of time with her,” he says of his 20-month-old daughter.
Adams himself had a globetrotting childhood, with his diplomat father Conrad taking his family on postings to England, Middle East, Portugal and Austria.
After his parents divorce, a young Bryan returned with his mother to Canada, where they settled in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1973.
A fan of “anything with a lot of guitar and long hair” including Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who and Alice Cooper, Adams learned guitar and started auditioning for bands, gaining greater success when he tried out for a singer rather than as a guitarist.
He soon left school to provide lead vocals and help co-write Sweeney Todd’s 1977 album If Wishes Were Horses.
At the age of 18 he met former Prism principal songwriter Jim Vallance in a music store.
The pair formed a songwriting partnership that has continued to this day, albeit with a long break between 1989 and 2003.
Adams soon released his self-titled debut album in 1980, followed by his second album You Want It You Got It in 1981.
But his first taste of international success came with his breakout third album, the 1983 release Cuts Like a Knife, which featured the lead single Straight From The Heart.
Adams is surprised when told January 18 this year marked 30 years since the record was released.
“I don’t even remember that, that seems like a different person,” he says, nevertheless defining it as a career turning point.
“There were a number of times when I felt that something was moving forward and when you’re young and impetuous and full of beans you just want to go – sometimes you miss the memory because you’re just onto the next thing.
“But there were times when suddenly we weren’t playing in these shitty clubs anymore, we went from being the support act to the headliner and you’re actually hearing your song on the radio.”
Adams’ 1984 Reckless would be his best-selling album to date, including the singles Run to You, Summer of ’69 and Heaven.
Adams admits he is a “big romantic” and has always drawn inspiration for his often lovelorn lyrics from his relationships, friends, film and literature.
“All of that and more, as a songwriter I’ve always had that work ethic of give me a project and a deadline and I’ll come up with something,” he says.
“So even if I wasn’t digging in and it wasn’t coming from a relationship I’ve ever had, who knew, it could have come from somewhere else, just making it up as you go.”
His sixth album, the 1991 release Waking Up the Neighbours, featured (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, which spent 16 consecutive weeks at number 1 on the UK singles chart and earned Adams a Grammy award.
His contract was sold in 1998 to Interscope Records and in 2008, he released his eleventh and latest studio album, aptly titled 11. It was his first album to debut at number one in Canada since 1991.
Adams has started on his twelfth album – “right now it sounds like crap but I’m hoping it will sound better soon”- but is unsure about how it will perform.
“People don’t really buy records anymore, they go to YouTube and listen to songs on YouTube,” he says.
“I don’t think people are even going to bother with subscription music anymore either, why pay for it?
“They don’t need it, you go to YouTube, listen to what you want to, on to the next thing.”
Aside from music, Adams’s photographic career has included shooting advertising campaigns for Guess Jeans, Converse, Montblanc and Escada; twice picking up Lead Awards in Germany for his fashion work; and establishing Berlin-based art fashion Zoo Magazine.
“I’ve always been really interested in photography, I was documenting my own work on tour and also I was interested in doing self portraits for albums covers, just to see if it was possible,” he says.
“It led from that to taking pictures with friends, that’s how it sort of kicked off.”
His book Exposed was published last year, filled with intimate photographs Adams had taken of celebrities over the past decade including Morrissey, Michael Jackson, Lana Del Ray, Mick Jagger and Judi Dench.
His portrait of Amy Winehouse was chosen as the cover art for her posthumous release Lioness: Hidden Treasures.
His next photography book will concentrate on wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bryan Adams plays the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on April 26.