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10 Singer-Songwriters To Pay Attention To Who Also Aren't Ryan Adams

I will preface this post with the following:

I grew up as a huge Ryan Adams fan. I was instantly hooked after 2001 and VH1 playing "New York New York" nonstop. To me, he was everything rock was supposed to be - but I hadn't quite found yet. When I began high school, I bought "Heartbreaker" and vividly remember my first listen in my Mom's SUV in the parking lot of our local grocery store. Snow was falling down and it was dark outside, and his music seemed so perfect for that moment. 

I was able to keep up with his career until college. He kept putting out music and I just didn't have the space in my brain to keep pace with each album, especially since I found a few to be rather lackluster. Plus, I was being introduced to other musicians and bands, and was really not as interested in Ryan as I had been.

It wasn't until the past few years I began appreciating him again. When he covered Taylor Swift's "1989," I found it to be a genius move. I appreciate the original because it's one of the THE best pop albums in the past decade, if not several decades, but Ryan's version seemed to amp up the loss and disenchantment palpable in Swift's words and music. I didn't realize at the time it was somewhat of a dick move - covering her album in full (which was rightfully ridiculed by sometimes-douchebag Father John Misty) was a way to shut her out, in a sense. Nothing illustrates this better than Pitchfork (gag gag gag I know) reviewing HIS rendition but not actually Taylor's. 

So, this aside, I've been paying attention to Ryan again - albeit from a distance. It occurred to me within the past year I've never seen him live, making him one of the few favorites I have I've never seen in concert. I decided I'd remedy that next time he came to Phoenix. Ho boy. Not now, though. There was a reason I was always too lazy to get a ticket to see him live. 

In case you missed it, the New York Times published a piece of Ryan Adams and his past of abuses. I won't go into them; we know that they aren't unusual for the entertainment world. When I first told a friend of mine about this, she replied with something about "Men being scum." Certainly, not all men fall into that category, but the dangerous few who do do worlds of damage for the rest. 

There's the whole art versus the artist argument. Is it worth throwing out his catalog of good music based on the fact he ... is a jackass? (And apparently, has been known to be something of an enfant terrible for years). Not even a jackass, though. That's too weak a word. One of his victims was an underaged girl. That carries with it far, far more sinister implications.

We know Ryan has carried with him a lot of weight since he erupted in the mainstream music scene with his former band Whiskeytown. But, this being said as a former fan, there are other musicians we can pay more attention to. Here are some of my favorite singer-songwriters who are deserving of your time.


Josh Ritter has enjoyed a career nearly as long as Ryan's, but somehow he seems to receive less buzz. He has stayed strong as a singer-songwriter, a wunderkind who tours regularly and really has a prolific output. 



Aimee Mann is pretty much a legend. Her catalog of work is relatively huge, but I would recommend starting with her work in the late '90s. (She also made a memorable cameo on "Portlandia" as a maid.) 


Gillian Welch has enjoyed a close professional relationship with Ryan Adams in the past, but never mind that. This Radiohead cover slays. 


First Aid Kit are a precious folk gem from Sweden. They've been around for approximately a decade, but it's okay if you haven't heard them yet. You can always catch up!


I admittedly haven't listened to a *ton* of Moses Sumney, but he's one of those artists who is rapidly on the rise - and with very good reason. 


Laura Marling is a wispy folk star from England. "I Was An Eagle" remains my favorite by her - absolute tour de force. 



Old '97s emerged from around the same time Ryan did. But they've remained one powerful band (okay, so I should have made the title of this post more inclusive) and this duet with Brandi Carlile is one of the best things I've heard the past several years. 


Sofia Talvik is a folksy Swedish singer-songwriter who is one of the most hardworking musicians I've ever had the pleasure to meet. 


Phoebe Bridgers was one of the women featured in the NYT piece - but damn if she isn't an amazing talent who you and I need to listen to more often.



Blake Mills is excellent! I'm not super familiar with his canon, but this duet with Fiona Apple is heartwrenching. 

And there you have it. There are more singer-songwriters you can add to your collection (Kacey Musgraves, MOTHERFUCKING MITSKI) but this is a good list to start. Feel free to comment with your favorites - or any newer bands you feel like deserve a good old-fashioned signal boost.

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