Music

A Primer On The New York Times’ Explosive Report On Ryan Adams

The report alleges that Adams "dangled success" for romantic and sexual gain.

Ryan Adams

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Indie singer-songwriter Ryan Adams is at the centre of an investigative report by The New York Times published today, which paints him as a man who has repeatedly used his position of power to “dangle success” over female musicians and fans — one allegedly underaged — for sexual and romantic gain.

— Warning: this article discusses alleged child and sexual abuse. — 

Co-written by Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik, the report is based off interviews with seven women and more than a dozen associates who, in the report’s words, “described a pattern of manipulative behaviour in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex”.

The article — which Adams has called “upsettingly inaccurate” on Twitter — includes interviews with ex-wife Mandy Moore and recent ex-fiancée Megan Butterworth, as well as singer Phoebe Bridgers, who he briefly dated. He was 40; she was 20.

Adams runs record label PAX-AM, and throughout the article a trend emerges where Adams would allegedly promise a female artist some sort of career boost then withhold it, and seemingly pressure women into sexual or romantic relationships.

That boost could come in the form of a coveted support slot on his tours, the chance to write music with him, or to release music on PAX-AM. “Music was a point of control for him,” Moore said. In her interview, Moore paints their relationship as an imbalance of power. They met in 2007, when she was 23 and he was 33: two years later, they married.

In 2010, Moore was looking to rekindle her music career. Adams allegedly discouraged her from working with other producers, but would not follow through with recording their songs. He repeatedly gave away their scheduled recording time to other female singers. Nothing came of their writing, and Moore said Adams was disparaging and emotionally abusive, “always” telling her she wasn’t “a real musician”.

“His controlling behaviour essentially did block my ability to make new connections in the industry during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time — my entire mid-to-late 20s,” she says. Moore has not released music since 2009. They divorced in 2016.

In other cases, multiple women detailed how they were “completely turned off music” by their encounters with Adams. One of those is Courtney Jaye, an unsigned singer who says she got a contextless DM from Adams in 2013 inviting her to collaborate. She told the Times she felt ‘manipulated’ into bed with him when they met. After she expressed concern in later conversations to assert a boundary, nothing materialised of Adams’ continual promise of working together.

In addition, the article alleges that Adams sexually harassed a teenage fan referred to as Ava. According to the Times, the two began talking when she was 13 after Adams followed her back on Twitter. As a talented bass player, Ava was also told by Adams they’d work together on music, but over several years, the conversation often turned sexual.

In one log, he allegedly wrote “If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley lol”, then ten minutes later wrote he wanted her to ‘touch her nipple’. He also exposed himself to her without warning on Skype. Adams’ lawyer denies the conversation took place, and that “if, in fact, this woman was underage, Mr. Adams was unaware.”

In addition, Bridgers and Butterworth describe their relationship with Adams as emotionally manipulative. Bridgers says that after their break-up, Adams continues to make advances while also offering touring opportunities. She alleges that when she took him up on the offer after much deliberation, on the first day of the tour, she arrived into his hotel room to find him “completely nude”.

Adams denies this — and the report’s assertions. After the story picked up attention earlier today, he turned to Twitter to make a statement.

“I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes,” he says. “To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologise deeply and unreservedly. But the picture that this article paints is upsettingly inaccurate. Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false. I would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage. Period.”

“As someone who has always tried to spread joy through my music and my life, hearing that some people believe I caused them pain saddens me greatly. I am resolved to work to be the best man I can be. And I wish everyone compassion, understanding and healing.”

A screenshot of another Tweet, allegedly from Adams but subsequently deleted, is less diplomatic. In it, he appears to say he’ll “fucking taking [the NYT] down”.

You can read the full The New York Times report here. It arrives a week after The Hollywood Reporter’s detailed report on director Bryan Singer’s alleged child abuse, and a month after the documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired.


If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.