Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 64
Tues. March 13, 2012

I Taught Myself How to Grow Old
Ryan Adams

“♫ and nobody’s there to listen, anyway/ I know I’m probably better off this way
I just listen to the voices on the TV ’til I’m tired/ My eyes grow heavy and I fade away
[…] ♫”

I am really feeling I Taught Myself How to Grow today. Like Dylan, there’s always a Ryan Adams for every mood. And I Taught Myself is no different. I’ve been thinking about my family and I—and the long distance relationship we have. I feel like my father and my brothers and I are making strides with our weekly phone calls. We may finally be getting closer, slowly but baby steps are good thing.

What more can I say about Ryan Adams? Ben Harper actually, said it best: “I could go on about Ryan Adams because he’s what modern music — popular music —needs to sound like.”

It’s true. But wait, Harper also shared more of his thoughts on I Taught Myself How to Grow Old when he told the New York Times in 2007:
The lyrical prowess with the sense of melody, the depth of honesty with levity, the soulfulness with hauntedness — it’s all the stuff I want to listen to. “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old” is possibly the most honest song I’ve ever heard. The production is a symphony with harmonica and this haunted vocal and this beautifully finger-picked guitar. You hear it and you say: “That’s the core. People aren’t supposed to be that honest.”

When I hear— “♫ I taught myself how to grow/ ‘Til I was crooked on the outside, inside’s broke/ I taught myself how to grow old ♫ […]” I think of this quote by Ryan Adams:
“[Ethan Johns] taught me the art of distracting yourself by staying in the moment. So very true emotional stuff would come out.” This is what Adams captured, a snapshot moment of introspective genius that is I Taught Myself How to Grow Old. It’s definitely one of his most personal and poignant songs, Adams has ever written.

Ryan talked about the recording of I Taught Myself How to Grow Old when he said: “I remember that song hit me very hard as a last song. I didn’t know how intense it was until I had to sing the thing. I could barely get the fucking words out of my mouth the first time I had to sing it with the band.”

Adams delved deeper into the personal nature of the I Taught Myself How to Grow Old when he told Exclaim— “That’s the song I was waiting for, and I think I wrote it in about five minutes,” he said. “I believe that artists shouldn’t be afraid to do what others might perceive as missteps.” Those always seem to precede an epiphany, and that song was an epiphany for me.”

Today, the original was an epiphany for me too— Ryan. Thank you for this—one of most moving moments from Easy Tiger. But have you heard the 2008 live version with The Cardinals live from The Ambassador in Dublin? Those Cardinals slide guitar solos are so divine! Long live I Taught Myself How to Grow Old!

But wait…there’s one more. Here’s a lovely acoustic version of I Taught Myself How to Grow Old from the 2007 Studio X sessions in Chicago.