INTERVIEW WITH ADAM DURITZ OF COUNTING CROWS
Event: The Counting Crows with Matchbox 20
Venue: Daily’s Place
Date/Time: August 19 6:45pm
In the post-grunge 90’s, Adam Duritz and Rob Thomas fronted two of the decade’s biggest pop bands. The Counting Crows and Matchbox 20 were young and hungry with breakthrough albums and a destiny to fulfill. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now over two decades since the release of the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After in 1993 and Matchbox 20’s Yourself or Someone Like You in 1996, Duritz and Thomas will co-headline A Brief History of Everything Tour that encapsulates the best of both bands. The tour stops in Jacksonville August 19th at Daily’s Place (www.dailysplace.com).
“It’s just a chance to spend another summer hanging out with Rob, honestly,” says Duritz. “We had so much fun last year. I’ve known him since before his first record. We bring bands out that we like every summer and kind of make new friends, but it was really nice to be out with an old friend. It was especially nice to just pick up where we left off.”
The pair had a brief run in 2016 and realized that there was still some history left to write. When it came time to plan a summer tour, Duritz and Thomas tried to configure a run that would include both bands. They batted around ideas but couldn’t make it work. The Counting Crows was just days away from signing on to another tour, but the universe has a funny way of stepping in right when you need it the most.
“We were sitting there plotting, ‘Do we make a festival?’ We couldn’t figure out how to do it, so I really thought we weren’t touring together,” says Duritz. “When we got a phone call that Matchbox 20 wanted to go out on the road and they wanted to do it together, I just said yes. This is what we wanted to do all along, and it just kind of fell out of the sky. Here we were actually making an effort to make this work and it just dropped on our heads anyway.”
Duritz encourages fans to come out early to support openers Rivers and Rust, the side project featuring MB20’s Kyle Cook. “We usually bring an indie band from the Outlaw Road Show that my friend Ryan Spalding and I do every summer. But this year, Kyle, who is the guitar player for Matchbox 20, has his own band that he’s been playing with the last few years while they were on hiatus,” he says. “I haven’t seen them yet, but tell all the Matchbox fans definitely come out early because you’ll want to see Kyle’s band.”
Fans will be treated to the hits like ‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Rain King’, and ‘Push’. There will be new spins on old favorites with Duritz and Thomas joining each other on stage for a few surprise duets. Duritz won’t say which ones, but they have a history of playing certain songs together over the years. “I don’t like to plan that stuff out. Someone will say, ‘Hey, come up and play on this,’ and it tends to just happen. It would probably be smarter to rehearse ahead of time, but I’ve always just liked to let things happen naturally. It takes the magic out of it for me because you’re kind of forcing it,” says Duritz.
“We did about four or five songs together last year. Rob has played on ‘Omaha’ and ‘Rain King’. I’ve done ‘3 A.M.’ before, although the version I’m used to is completely different from the one they’ll be playing. Rob does [3 A.M.] as a slowed down, acoustic version that is so beautiful. I had completely forgotten that ‘3 A.M.’ was an up-tempo song. I heard it on the radio the other day, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I totally forgot that’s what it sounded like.’”
If Duritz has mastered one thing during this 20-plus years with the Counting Crows, it’s the art of crafting an honest, authentic song, threading pieces of his life through the lyrics. As an artist, he revisits these sacred spaces, turning them inside out and upside down to change the perspective. He strips them down to the bare bones, changing a key or slowing the tempo to unveil a new life within the framework of an existing song.
“I love rearranging songs. It still exists within the framework of the music, but it almost becomes a different piece of music. Songs have many different sides to them and sometimes the music shows more of one side. When you recast it a different way, it shows a new side,” he says. “There’s that country, acoustic version of ‘Rain King’ that we do that shows a whole other side to that song that’s kind of breathtaking. It’s moving in a whole different way because it has that other side, not because it works on its own. It’s what they do together that makes it so moving.”
Since the first album, Duritz has always included the lyrics as a new outlet for fans to create their own interpretation of a song. He counts his volume of Bob Dylan lyrics as an example of words opening a window to different imagery that may exist outside the structure of an existing song. “I think it’s really good to have lyrics to read along with when you’re listening to a record. It completely changed the way I heard Dylan. I think it’s really cool and opens up a song in ways that just listening to it doesn’t,” says Duritz.
“The music is so important, and the lyrics are very much a product of the music, so much so that I don’t think I have ever written a song lyrics-first. They’ve either come at the same time as the music or after the music. But they are always very, very tied to the music; the rhythms of it, the tempo, the twang of it very much affects the way I write. As much as they are born from my mind and my experiences, they are very much born out of the specific song they are a part of in a big way. I feel like that’s a very important part of it. I think of songs as a very special art form in that it involves these two different things at once.”
Duritz has always known what kind of artist he wants to be and how he wants to present his music to the world. Since the release of the Counting Crows’ breakthrough album, the band has maintained complete creative control. It’s been that way from the beginning and looking back, he’s able to view the whole of his body of work with zero artistic regrets. “I love every record. I love the way they change, the way they are different than the one before it. I love how they express different things emotionally. I love how I learned different ways to write those things. For me, they are all a progression. There was lot of pressure from the record company to change things and to make it the way they think it will sell. A lot of bands give in to that. It’s hard not to at times, and I think that’s why a lot of bands have regrets about their records because they didn’t do it the way they wanted. But we’ve had full creative control since before the first record so we’ve kind of been operating as an independent band from day one,” he says.
“I think it shocked them when there’s millions of dollars on the table and we only took home $3,000 each. We gave up a lot, but we got creative control and a higher royalty rate which has paid off a million times over. But we didn’t know that at the time. The funny thing is we were asking for complete creative control at a time when we didn’t have any fucking idea what we were doing. We’d never made a record before but I was just sure I wanted to do it our way and not their way.”