Shortly after Ryan Adams wrapped up the tour for his 2011 album "Ashes & Fire," he returned to Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles with producer Glyn Johns. The two collaborated on "Ashes" and by his account, their new sessions yielded a "very good" album.
But the new songs just didn't match Mr. Adams' mood. He shelved them and moved on. "I needed to write more, I needed to explore," he says.
Part of that feeling, Mr. Adams says, stemmed from the studio—a space where the likes of Prince and Brian Wilson had recorded. Right next door, Mr. Adams had been building his own studio. It finally was ready but he hadn't yet used it. The new place "just called for me," he says. "It called for me my whole life." On Tuesday, he will release his first full-length album from the studio, titled "Ryan Adams."
The 39-year-old musician's romantic sensibilities, which include gut-punching poetics and a self-described "acid tongue," extend to how albums should be recorded, experienced and celebrated. "It's not a commodity," Mr. Adams says. "You don't buy a record like it's an energy drink and you put it on once and go 'Nope! Don't have energy!' "
More than a decade in the music business has brought its share of highs and lows. After critical success in the late '90s with alt-country band Whiskeytown, Mr. Adams went out on his own in 2000 with "Heartbreaker." The debut album was heralded for its confessional storytelling, a hallmark of his best work. But critics faulted him for releasing too many albums—a dozen between 2000 and 2010, including three in 2005 alone.
Many of his shows were captivating, whether playing solo or channeling '60s psychedelia with a band he called the Cardinals. But he also got into spats with audience members who heckled him. While Mr. Adams was considered an alt-country artist, his music ranges across styles, with nods to metal, '80s alternative rock and '70s power pop.
He had problems with his former label, the now-defunct Universal Music subsidiary Lost Highway, which released work by Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams. Lost Highway executives once asked Mr. Adams to record an album with a more commercial slant than "Love Is Hell," the collection he originally submitted. That rock album, 2003's "Rock n Roll" wasn't greeted as warmly as the sparse, haunting "Love Is Hell," which ended up coming out six months later.
Such speed bumps seem to be a thing of the past. Mr. Adams now runs his own label, which, like his Los Angeles studio, is called Pax Am. He describes the studio with excitement: "[It's] like a huge cassette four-track in somebody's living room. No one's on the clock. The cool thing is, people just like to stop by my studio. They just stop by to jam."
Recent sessions include a nine-hour marathon in which former Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould and Johnny Depp and others cranked out tunes in the vein of '80s punk band Die Kreuzen. During the impromptu session, Mr. Adams says, "We laid down like eight songs or something."
Mr. Adams also has taken on some production gigs. He produced an EP with pop-punk band Fall Out Boy. For indie-pop singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis, he produced "The Voyager," an album that came out in July.
He still has a soft spot for his early songs but says he may not have had a firm grasp on what some of them say.
"There's a certain aspect of songwriting when you're a young man where it's required of you to be full of s— a little bit," he says. "There's an inclination for a young person to tackle older themes. I remember listening to [Tom Waits] and wanting to identify with that in such a deep way. Wanting to feel all those deep feelings. I probably wasn't qualified to—but I made it a point to try."