Upon getting the definitive “No” from Ryan Adams Inc., I sighed heavily and got busy. Since I was working without input or approval from my subject, that meant I was writing the dreaded “unauthorized biography” — although I sure do hope that “Losering” is less tawdry than what that phrase typically implies. I certainly had no interest in going all Perez Hilton or Albert Goldman, digging through trash and focusing on the icky stuff. I’d like to think the book turned out fair and even-handed, the good as well as the bad. Whether or not it is, well, that’s not for me to say.
But here’s the thing about “authorized”: Even if Ryan had cooperated, he wasn’t going to get any sort of prior-approval veto power over the end result, or even to read it any sooner than the rest of the world. Which did not, however, solve my immediate problem of how to write the book.
Fortunately, there was a paper trail. I had a voluminous archive of vintage Whiskeytown material I’d kept over the years, notes and interview quotes and clippings going back 20-plus years. I also had some peculiar artifacts, like a feminine hygiene product (unused, thankfully) upon which Ryan’s old bandmate Phil Wandscher had written Dave — Whiskeytown ❤ you during an evening of heavy drinking circa 1996. I don’t know why he did that, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time; I have a dim memory of telling Whiskeytown’s members that their records gave me “that not-so-fresh feeling,” so maybe that was the inspiration. Neither do I know why I hung onto it, but I did. While that didn’t make it into the book, it was a fun little reminder of how non-serious and even goofy all this seemed back in the day.
One golden oldie that did make it into the book was a souvenir from one of my earliest interviews with Ryan, from 1995. As recounted in Chapter Five of “Losering,” he once showed up with a restaurant receipt he’d used as stationery for a statement-of-purpose manifesto, and I think it offers a priceless look inside his head. Here it is: