Counting Crows burst onto the music charts and into people’s CD players in 1993 with its debut album, August and Everything After. The band’s irresistible blend of alternative rock and soul-fueled lyrics helped define a generation and earn the band more than two decades of fans. Now in the midst of a fall tour, Counting Crows’ front man Adam Duritz took time out to talk with City Link about his band’s latest album, Twitter and what you might catch him doing when he’s chilling at home in New York City.
What can fans expect on this tour?
“We usually don’t make our set lists until that night. After sound check, I’ll text the opening bands and crew and ask if there’s anything anybody wants to play or hear. I’ve never wanted our songs to turn into an obligation. I want to play them because I really want to play them. I think that keeps the songs fresh. Our set lists change every night. We still play ‘Mr. Jones’ a lot. It always ends up being the fourth song in the set for some reason.”
What made you want to do covers on your current album Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Summer Vacation)?
“I was working on a play and it was hard for me to split my focus between songwriting for the play and the band. But I didn’t want to stop working with the band so the covers album was good for that. The covers album was always something we wanted to do. I really like the idea of interpreting other people’s music. As a musician, it’s a very satisfying thing to do and it’s a big part of musical tradition. We’re not just writers; we’re also musicians. It’s not all about my life every day. There’s something really nice about other people’s ways of looking at the world.”
How is this cover album different from other cover albums out there?
“This has got to be the most obscure covers album ever made—not intentionally. We were just looking for songs we really wanted to play that we could have interesting takes of our own on. There’s a good mix of old American music and new stuff. Some of the bands we chose to cover on this album came on tour with us in the past. We also chose two Tender Mercies songs, which is from a band some of our guys were in before they were in Counting Crows.”
I read you’re very into Twitter. What impact has Twitter had on your life?
"I met my last girlfriend on Twitter. It had a huge impact on my life at the time. It definitely colored what it was like breaking up too because you’re so used to reading someone’s thoughts every day. You can still do that, but it got painful. I also made a lot of friends because of Twitter, especially among musicians. You end up responding when someone writes something about you.”
What is your real Twitter account name?
“Twitter.com/countingcrows. There’s a guy called The Adam Duritz. He’s really funny. He’s a satirical character. He does make fun of me. Nobody loves being made fun of, but I can laugh at myself too. I met him a while ago. He’s a really nice guy. Twitter’s about comedy too so why shouldn’t I be the butt of it sometimes? I took over the Counting Crows Twitter in 2007 or 2008. There were only about 60 followers then.”
You were one of the first to start a blog. Technology-wise what are you into now?
“I always thought it was important. I remember when I moved to L.A. in ’95. While we were making Satellites, I realized AOL had a forum of music and an area with message boards for every band. It suddenly occurred to me ‘I could get on this and communicate with my fans.’ It took me a while to convince people it was actually me. It was great. This was pre-social media—no Facebook, Myspace or Twitter back then. But it was clear to me there was something very vital and you could communicate with your fans without a middleman.”
When you’re not on tour, what are you doing?
“I’ve been going to see a lot of plays since I’ve been home. It’s partially research and partially because I’ve just always loved theater. I’ve seen a ton of plays lately. I also like listening to music and watching movies.”
What’s the last great movie you saw?
“We saw Attack The Block a few nights ago. It’s a great film. Picture an alien invasion landing in the middle of the projects of south London. Instead of landing and fighting the world, the aliens are fighting a bunch of 15-year-old street kids. The kids have samurai swords, baseball bats and some firecrackers. It’s pretty good because the good guys in this movie aren’t all that good.”
Do you have plans to do more film work?
“I don’t know. It took me away from the band a lot. Freeloaders is going to come out in a few months and I’m very proud it. It’s a movie I produced with the guys in Broken Lizard. It’s really funny. In films I like doing silly comedy. I’m a huge movie buff but if I’m going to work on one, I just want to laugh. I think if I could choose anything to do right now, I really want to do more plays. My play is called Black Sun at the moment and it’s really cool to write music for other people. It’s been liberating to express a bunch of feelings without the plotline being the arc of my own life.”
What was your favorite fashion statement of the ‘90s?
“We all got back to wearing jeans, which was nice. I never really thought about it. White guys with dreadlocks. That’s the one that sort of stuck with me.”
How do you maintain your voice?
“I’ve had a lot of problems with my voice over the years because I sing really hard and it doesn’t recover really well. It’s gotten really beat up over the years of touring. I used to take steroids for it, which I try not to do now. Then I got an infection in my knee a few years ago because I jump around a lot on stage and tend to smash my knees open. They almost had to amputate the lower half of my leg. It was very serious. I’m kind of like a monk on the road now. Now a days I can’t go out and mess around in bars and stuff."
What are you most thankful for this year?
“I’ve still got my fans. I survived getting off a lot of meds, which was harrowing last year. It took a while to get off seven different medications. It was pretty brutal. It’s been hard to find the right medications and I probably shouldn’t be existing so unmedicated. It’s a little bit of a raw world. I spent a lot of years wrapped in a weird, creepy gauze. It’s pretty raw out here without anything. The band is still together, but I never assumed we’d be anything different. I always assumed we’d be together."
Counting Crows will perform with Tender Mercies and Mean Creek 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, 590 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. Tickets cost $45-85. Call 800-745-3000 or visit Ticketmaster.com.
Contact Joanie Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her tweets at Twitter.com/joaniecox.