Since his debut studio release Heartbreaker in 2000, Ryan Adams has released over 15 studio albums, published two collections of short stories and poetry and produced music for the likes of Willie Nelson and Fall Out Boy.

Alongside an extensive tour schedule, including a sold out show at the Royal Albert Hall, the prolific singer/songwriter continues to write every day.

Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise

As part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Education and Outreach programme, we invited 30 budding songwriters aged 16 to 24, to the Elgar Room for an inspiring workshop with Ryan Adams.

Here are ten things that we learnt:

1. Always carry a notepad and pen so you can write down overheard conversations, colours and things you see. ANY situation can be inspiring.

2. Choose what you want a song to do, before you write it.

Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise
Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise

3. Look at the subject from different points of view and several points in time. Time isn’t linear – you could maybe start at the end and work backwards.

4. The longer you sit around playing, the better the chances are that you find something that works.

5. A thesaurus should always be key to a songwriter’s process. Turn to any page and find a word that resonates or inspires you.

Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise
Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise

6. It’s crucial to disconnect and reconnect to help awaken something deeper inside when writing.

7. If stuck, turn yourself into the character you’re writing about to alleviate your frustrations. You might even end up somewhere totally unexpected.

8. Riff optimism: don’t entertain fear or doubt. When you are writing, nobody is listening or judging you.

Young songwriters (c) Andy Paradise
Ryan Adams (c) Andy Paradise

9. Take existing songs that challenge you and reconstruct them as yours. Finding your own path through emulation will help you learn from the greats by doing things on your terms.

10. Go where your heart wants to go. Whether you’re working on a political or a spiritual battle cry, songwriting is always a personal journey.

Photos © Andy Paradise