25 Years and Still Counting Crows: Interview with Adam Duritz

There’s a number of advantages to having a 25-year career in music. For starters, it’s a solid indicator of stable employment. It’s also damn good way to turn a summer road trip with your buddies into a cross country tour. For several years running, Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows has parlayed his summers into something approximating work. “It’s great to get paid for your road trips,” he says. “I’ve been on the same road trip for 25 years now. As a musician, that’s always extremely doubtful, so whenever you can have it, that’s a big positive.”

Granted, Duritz has a “friend pool” that is significantly deeper and more interesting than most. Last year, he spent the summer on a shared bill with Matchbox 20. This summer, he couldn’t be happier to hit the road with a newly reunited Live. The tour stops in Jacksonville August 4th at Daily’s Place.

“I’m really happy for them [Live] to hear that. It’s hard to keep bands together, but it sucks when they fall apart. I always feel bad for my friends, because I know how hard it is to keep your band together. Sometimes it’s just not possible to do, but I’m always glad when they get back together. You spend so much of your life in these situations, it’s shame to shatter. We all used to be drinking buddies years ago in LA when we all lived in Hollywood. We’ve done two or three tours together.”

The 25 Years and Counting Tour is a celebration of life, music and friendship shared between two bands who’ve shared as much history as they’ve made among the top selling bands of the early 90s. Duritz and Live’s Ed Kowalczyk were among the most recognizable voices of the era. Counting Crows sold over 20 million albums following the release of their multiplatinum breakout album August and Everything After. Live released two number one albums Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi that yielded such hits as ‘Lightning Crashes,’ ‘I Alone’ and ‘Turn My Head.’ In 2009, the band continued with a different vocalist after Kowalczyk left. He rejoined Live in 2016.

25 Years and Counting, Counting Crows with LIVE

Duritz says his unflinching determination helped keep the Counting Crows from leaving the nest throughout the years. He went into the band knowing it wouldn’t be easy but certainly worthwhile to do whatever needed to be done to stay intact.

“I was always like pretty clear with me and myself how important the band was to me. You can find reasons to fight about things. There’s so many different aspects of this life, and you can find a reason to complain about any aspect you want. You could do the math about why you should get more money, why you should have a better bus or a better hotel room or a better seat on the plane, more respect here or there. When you’re involved in an artistic endeavor it’s hard enough to have conversations, because everything is so important to everyone,” he says.

“But when you have 6 or 7 different guys, and you’re all trying to contribute, and you’re all squeezed into a space together for this many years, it’s easy to find reasons to feel unappreciated. But I think I also figured out early on that there was pretty much nothing more important to me than this band and for anything else, I might want, I want to be in the band more than that. Once you get your head around that, all those other things don’t seem that important. I doubt I’m the only one in the band that has that mindset, and it’s gotten us through a lot. We always thought long term about how it’s going to work than what do I want right now.”

The fact that the members of Counting Crows were all seasoned musicians when the band formed also helped to satisfy the wanderlust that often entices young artists to follow in pursuit. Each had paid their dues in the clubs for over a decade and were eager to plant some roots and establish themselves as a unit without the need or desire to seek satisfaction outside of that identity.

“None of us were kids when we started. We had a pretty good grip on what life was like without the band, and it wasn’t as good,” says Duritz. “I never had the slightest desire to do [solo stuff]. There were times when I didn’t feel like doing this. I worked on a play for a while. I like writing for the theatre I realized but never solo. That just doesn’t interest me. I like the interplay of being in a band. I like the collaboration. I like how hard it is to do things with all these people, and how much you get out of it if you really do it right. Being solo, I just don’t care.”

Duritz cares deeply about his band and the bands that have helped to shape how he writes, how he listens, and how he perceives the world and the music in it. It’s a subject that he can talk about for hours, and when he discovered a verbal sparring partner in music journalist James Campion, that’s just what they did. The pair recently launched the podcast Underwater Sunshine where they riff on themes related to film, music and writing. Some episodes are less-structured, natural stream-of-consciousness conversations between two friends who don’t happen to mind eavesdropping.

“James had interviewed me several times over the years. One time he mentioned ‘I have so much material I never get to use in these articles. We should do a book’. A couple years ago thinking what he said, I called him up and said ‘hey, let’s try that book thing’,” says Duritz.

Campion spent a few days interviewing Duritz at his Outlaw Road Show music festival. Later, the two met every week over a year, just talking for hours at a stretch. Duritz eventually came to a similar conclusion that too much of their musings wouldn’t make the final edit and suggested a podcast to better encapsulate their conversations.

“We were so into what we were talking about that we would have these long conversations, and I thought people would love that,” remembers Duritz. “It took us a while to get our stride with the podcast. They were kind of terrible at first, and I wouldn’t release any of them for a while. Then we started getting to them to feel good. We have a nice balance between the ones where we just sit and talk about anything, and the ones where we’ve got a theme and we legitimately do research.”

Underwater Sunshine featured a four-week series on punk music that Duritz prepped for weeks ahead of time, amassing “pages and pages of notes about people and bands and all sorts of stuff.” Another three-part series covered background vocalists and famous musicians that have guested on other artists’ records. By comparison, the episode entitled “Avengerella” was an off-the-cuff conversation about films that happened because Duritz had just seen the Avengers movie and almost became the first episode to not include any music. “I had been listening to Ella Fitzgerald, so we played some Ella at the end,” he laughs. “I just couldn’t stop talking about the movie.”

Duritz gets excited when he discovers a new artist, and Underwater Sunshine is the perfect platform to capture new audiences. Since the Outlaw Road Show came to an end, Duritz founded a new festival to give young bands a platform. “When they found out what I named the podcast, my partners came to me and said we want to call it the Underwater Sunshine Festival. I said sure, let’s do it,” he says. “I do a lot of research, and I know a lot of indie bands I want to give a shot. I go to YouTube to listen to one band, and there’s another one on the side. I’ve found crazy stuff when I’m looking for something else.”

Whether enthralled, enamored or indifferent, Duritz is never at a loss for words on any given topic. But music is by far his favorite subject in all its forms. When asked if he considers himself a “professional appreciator” like the DJ and record store owner Rob Gordon in the film High Fidelity, he agrees to a less formal descriptor. “We just use the word ‘geek’ but yeah,” he says. “When we were growing up, David Immergluck, our guitar player, was that guy working in a record store. I used to go hang out in the store with him. He got fired finally because there were too many kids gathered at his feet as he sat on the counter and dispensed wisdom on music. At one point, his boss who was a little fed up with him anyways that day, when someone brought something up to the register he said ‘oh, you don’t want this one. It’s terrible, there’s no reason to get this’ and his boss was like ‘that’s it. You’re fired. Get out’.

Doors open at 6pm for the August 4th show at Daily’s Place with special guest Live.  Tickets range from $29.50-$125. Get them at www.dailysplace.com.

About Liza Mitchell

october, 2021