Ryan Adams has just released his ninth studio album, Easy Tiger. It includes the singles “Halloweenhead” and “Two,” a duet with Sheryl Crow. But the best songs happen to be the classically tortured singer-songwriter’s most personal.

Q: On “These Girls,” you sing, “These girls are better off in my head.” Have you had it with real relationships?
A: Some of the ideas for these songs had been around forever. Those words were from another song and those words were there to remember the melody line. I call them place keepers, which seems weird, but it works. That’s one of the ones. To me it felt very passive-aggressive and that's not what I was portraying.

Q: Compared to the three albums you fired off in 2005—29, Jacksonville Nights, and Cold Roses – this album seems so much more focused.
A: I asked the label to dream up any kind of album they would want coming out of me and they really wanted a solo record, almost all the way stripped back. They really wanted to do it to see what I would do in that situation. In my mind, I really work for them. I write too much stuff and I know very little about what means what.

Q: Do you ever think twice about putting the intimate details of your life out there?
A: It's always important to document that stuff. That's life at its most extreme. It's when you know yourself best—in the hour when things are falling apart. Those are the moments I can feel every molecule of my body in that second. I don't even know we would be doing this interview if I filled up eight albums about my experience eating Raisin Bran.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: A late sleeper. Afraid of confrontation. Shy totally sometimes. There are times I don’t even go out of the house. Shy. Agoraphobic. I get the impression that most people think I’m provocative to the point of being controversial about it and maybe like a little cocky. Believe it or not, I spend most of my creative life being very unsure but very dedicated to making lots of music because I love that part of it.

Q: Do you have a lot of phobias?
A: Most people are phobic in some way or another. Artists make themselves the most phobic.

Q: Are famous people different than the rest of us?
A: Well, I think all people are endlessly fascinating. I’m such a people watcher and like such a consumer, watching people, what they’re like. When we go out to some place we don't know about, or just go out after rehearsal or whenever, it’s totally to see the most extreme fascinating people.

Q: Where is the oddest place you’ve ever written a song?
A: Oddest place I’ve ever written a song? Shit. There’s probably very many. Pretty much any place you can think of but I would say like more than not—this is gonna sound strange but sometimes whenever I’ve been jamming and trying to come up with ideas, and I would say like “Gimme a second,” and having drinks, and I’ll go to the can? It always seems like when I’m coming back, that’s enough to go "I got an idea."