Thousands of texts, Skype chats, and calls with an underage girl who says he frequently pushed their conversation to sexually explicit places; professional interest in a young, female musician that speedily soured into something “obsessive and emotionally abusive” that included demanding she perform phone sex when he wanted it or he would commit suicide; psychological abuse of his now-ex-wife who says he effectively derailed her once-thriving music career.
It’s been less than 48 hours since the New York Times published its investigation into Ryan Adams, an extremely successful singer-songwriter with 16 albums to his name and, just as critically, a well-connected industry gatekeeper whose label, Pax-Am, is linked to Capitol Music Group. The women whose stories, vetted by the Times, make up the report — a now-20 year old woman who was identified by her middle name, Ava; musicians Phoebe Bridgers and Courtney Jaye; Mandy Moore, Adams’ ex-wife and current star on This Is Us; and Megan Butterworth, his ex-fiancée — all describe a man who used his considerable influence, power, and authority in an industry where connections are critical to forging a career to harass, violate, and abuse younger women aspiring to the levels of success he’d already achieved.
On Thursday, the F.B.I. began to open criminal investigation into Adams, who is 44 years old, based on the allegations from Ava, a bass guitarist whose career was already underway when she says Adams engaged in sexually explicit communication with her. She says their contact — all online and over the phone; they never met in person — began when she was 14 years old. (She says their contact stopped by the time she was 17.)
Through an attorney, Adams denied to the Times that he “ever engaged in inappropriate online sexual communications with someone he knew was underage.” The lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, said he had not yet been contacted by law enforcement.
An unidentified F.B.I. official told the Times that agents from the Crimes Against Children Squad “will seek to interview the woman, the official said, and try to obtain the text messages and any other evidence she may have in her possession. If they find her account credible, they will take other investigative steps, which could include subpoenaing both her cellphone records and those of Adams from their service providers.”
For their story, the Times reviewed an astonishing quantity of Adams and Ava’s communication: more than 3,000 text messages that cover a nine-month stretch of time when Ava was 15 and 16 years old, some of which included “explicit photographs” of her, direct messages on Twitter, and screenshots from Skype chats where Adams “exposed himself during phone sex.”
Retailers began reporting Thursday night that they’ve been notified the album has been yanked from the schedule by Universal Music Group. Adams has his own label, Pax-Am, which has a distribution deal with UMG’s Blue Note (whose president, Don Was, co-produced “Big Colors”). Representatives for those labels could not be reached for comment Thursday night. Adams’ Pax-Am label has deleted its own pages devoted to pre-orders for the CD and LP.
Three companies that manufacture gear for musicians “have publicly severed ties with Adams and announced that the products bearing his name will be taken off the market or out of development,” Variety reported. These include amplifier company, Benson, which was developing a “Ryan Adams signature model”; JHS Pedals, which had a “VCR Ryan Adams Signature Pedal” in the works; and Walrus audio, which sold an Adams-branded pedal.
Josh Scott, the president of JHS Pedals, told Variety that the remaining stock of Adams pedals would be “fully” rebranded and a portion of proceeds from the sale of that inventory will go “towards the fight against sexual abuse and misconduct.”