Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ryan Adams — who has worked with major artists such as Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, and John Mayer — has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct and emotional abuse after he promised to help them launch their own careers in the music industry. The accusations came to light in a lengthy New York Times exposé published on the newspaper’s website on Wednesday, February 13.
Some of the women who talked to the Times had similar stories, alleging that the 44-year-old would entice them by agreeing to work on new music with them, and then would propose sexual situations. However, if his advances were turned down, he would allegedly become manipulative, rescinding his offers to collaborate, and, in some cases, “turn domineering and vengeful… subjecting women to emotional and verbal abuse, and harassment in texts and on social media.”
A 20-year-old bass player, Ava, detailed her relationship with Adams, which started in 2013 when she was just 14-years-old. She said that they started chatting online about music, but their discussions soon became sexual in nature. He repeatedly asked about her age, and sometimes she would lie, telling him that she was older than she really was. Regardless, he continued speaking sexually to her, and even seemed to know it was not appropriate, asking her to keep their conversations a secret.
“I would get in trouble if someone knew we talked like this,” he reportedly wrote to Ava in November of 2014.
In another message, Adams said “if people knew” what they were discussing, “they would say I was like R. Kelley.” He threw an “lol” at the end of that note.
She also said that when they agreed to a video call on Skype, he was already naked. “It was just sexual power,” she said.
Musician Phoebe Bridgers said she was 20-years-old when she first connected with Adams, who was reportedly blown away after hearing one of her songs. He gifted her a vintage guitar and told her that he wanted to get her music down on tape. Flirty texts from him followed, and she said that the two soon began a relationship. In less than a week’s time, Bridgers said Adams began talking about marriage and he also requested that she open up for him on a European tour.
However, she claimed that he became obsessive and emotionally abusive over the next few weeks. He allegedly asked her to prove her whereabouts, insisted she leave social situations to engage in phone sex with him, and threatened suicide if she didn’t get back to his messages right away. She eventually broke off the relationship, but said that he continued to pursue her.
After some time, Adams did release three of the songs that he had recorded with her. Despite being hesitant, she then accepted an invitation to open a few dates of his tour because it was going to be a huge opportunity for her. “The first day, he asked me to bring him something in his hotel room. I came upstairs and he was completely nude,” she recalled.
Another artist, Courtney Jaye, referred to him as “Hurricane Ryan” after she said that he offered to produce her album and then found herself in bed with him, although she said that they didn’t have sex. On the phone the next night, she told him that she felt like he took advantage of her. They continued talking a bit longer, but never recorded anything together. “Something changed in me that year. It made me just not want to make music,” Jaye said.
Two other singer-songwriters, who did not want to be identified in the Times piece, also described their interactions with Adams as following the same pattern in which he would give them glowing reviews about their work and then aggressively pursue sexual relations, which would be “followed by harassing messages and threats of professional retaliation when the relationships did not progress as he wanted.”
Two women who reported that Adams was emotionally abusive and controlling, but did not accuse him of sexual misconduct, were an ex-fiancée, Megan Butterworth, and his ex-wife, Mandy Moore.
Butterworth said that he isolated her socially and professionally, and even though he never hit her, said that he would physically intimidate her and would smash things. After she left him in 2018, he allegedly harassed her with hundreds of texts, emails, and phone calls in which he would sometimes be emotional and other times be cruel. He also threatened suicide and lawsuits.
Meanwhile, This Is Us and pop music star Mandy Moore was married to the 10-years-older Adams for seven years, from 2009 to 2016. She said that “music was a point of control for him,” and that when he agreed to produce her seventh album, he persuaded her to not work with anyone else, giving him full control over her music career. However, he used the time that she was supposed to spend in the recording studio to work with other female artists, and the album that they had worked on never came out.
Some of the women that appeared in the article just recently realized that their experiences with Adams overlapped and have reached out to one another for support. They have chosen to speak publicly to protect others and move forward with their own lives.
“What you experience with him — the treatment, the destructive, manic sort of back and forth behavior — feels so exclusive. You feel like there’s no way other people have been treated like this,” said Moore.
Through his lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, Adams told the New York Times that the women in this piece were “disgruntled individuals” and called their accusations “outlandish.” Regarding his ex-wife, Moore, Adams said that what she said is “completely inconsistent with his view of the relationship” and he wishes her “professional success.”
Additionally, Adams, who has had substance abuse and mental health issues in the past, posted a series of messages on Twitter following the release of the New York Times story.
“I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes,” Adams wrote.
“To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologize 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… 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.”