The Rhythm of Ryan Adams

Written by Erica Boynton

2014 was a busy year for singer/songwriter Ryan Adams.

With the release of his fourteenth studio album (lauded by many as some of his most mature and complex work yet), three Grammy nominations and a tour with indie sweetheart, Jenny Lewis, it was one of his most ambitious periods in an already formidable career lasting more than fourteen years. And while his accomplishments are nothing to shake a drumstick at, Adams took on an even greater challenge in developing the score for DANNY COLLINS.


Adams joins forces with veteran composer Theodore Shapiro, with whom he previously co-wrote an original song for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Drenched in vintage organ lines and playful percussive rhythms, the score feels both fresh and familiar and weaves seamlessly with the soundtrack of John Lennon songs that add emotional context to Danny’s story.

However, the real standout in Adams’ skillful score is the second original song developed for the film, ‘Don’t Look Down.’

Says director Dan Fogelman, “'Ryan Adams, who for my money, is the best and coolest songwriter out there, wrote Al’s original song that he goes back to in a stripped down version over the course of the film. To me it's part Bob Dylan, part Tom Waits; haunting and very simple. It’s the kind of song Dylan or Johnny Cash would do. So you feel it’s really Al and you don’t feel like we have to fake a voice. It’s really Al. It’s this guy really trying to recapture something. And it’s beautiful.”

It acts as a stark contrast to upbeat hit ’Hey Baby Doll,’ a jangly ear-worm reminiscent of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline,’ and underscores Danny’s bittersweet journey. Making the most of leading actor Al Pacino’s trademark rasp, ‘Don’t Look Down’ is as pensive, tender and unexpected as the story of the film itself. Here, the happy ending isn’t a return to glory; it’s a return to family.

Ryan Adams has been able to walk the fine line of creating emotionally resonant work that pleases fans and critics alike, but his sensitivity to Danny’s fall from grace perhaps reflects his own struggles. The result is understated but skillful, helping further establish Adams’ strength both on the airwaves and on film scores alike.

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