Q&A: Counting Crows' Adam Duritz: "It's Probably Time to Get a Life Now"


Counting Crows plays with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana at 7 p.m. July 16 at Marymoor Park.
Adam Duritz has trouble sleeping. The Counting


Q&A: Counting Crows' Adam Duritz: "It's Probably Time to Get a Life Now"

  • Q&A: Counting Crows' Adam Duritz: "It's Probably Time to Get a Life Now"

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    Counting Crows plays with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana at 7 p.m. July 16 at Marymoor Park.
    Adam Duritz has trouble sleeping. The Counting Crows frontman is already an insomniac, but these days, he has plenty to think about, and it's been keeping him up at night. In the past two years, Duritz's personal and professional lives have departed sharply from the trajectory of his 20-year musical career. In 2008, Counting Crows released Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, the band's first new album in six years. At the same time, Duritz started speaking more candidly about dissociative disorder, the mental illness that has colored his lyrics and personal choices. Just six months ago, Counting Crows quit Geffen Records, the band's label since the release of 1993's August and Everything After. Right now, the band is playing The Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus & Medicine Show, an experimental tour where three bands are collaborating live, playing each other's sets on stage, together, as one big musical circus.

    If you ask Duritz about these changes, he'll tell you Counting Crows has always been this kind of band. "We went on our tours--we made our records ourselves. No one [at Geffen] ever had one iota of say in how a song should be or music should be," he said. "No one ever told us what to do from day one." But he does admit the band now has complete creative control and freedom over any musical choices­--and Duritz plans to take advantage of it. In the words of a Counting Crows' song, maybe Duritz really does have a reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.

    After the jump, read the full Q&A with Duritz, where he talks about the new tour, why no label turns down a Counting Crows record, and going public with his mental illness.

    You Twittered that you had a hard time sleeping last night. Any particular reason why?

    We're doing all this rehearsing, getting ready for these shows, and there's just so much to think about. It's not easy to put three bands together. It's incredible, but there's a lot that goes into it musically. The night before, I spent all this time thinking about what to work on--we have so many things we're trying to do with all the different bands together, it's hard to know what to even work on. It's really a hell of an undertaking. This show we're trying to do, it's creating a whole show from scratch.

    Do you think could you have done this kind of tour if you were still on Geffen?

    It's always been our own thing, the way we've done it; the only thing the label has done is marketing, at times. We could have always done this kind of tour, it just didn't really occur to me until last summer. A couple of our guys--their wives had babies and they had to leave early this summer, so we were missing a couple of band members. We had a friend come out from home and replace Charlie [Gillingham] and play keyboards. And then the guys from Augustana filled in everything else. Rather than having it be a show about missing two guys and having guys replace them, we made it a show about having guys come on stage and play with us.

    Have there been any unanticipated changes you've experienced since leaving a major label?

    There's been nothing [different], period.

    It's exactly the same?

    If anything, we've just been reigned in by being on a label. As in, you can't give songs away for free. We delayed the last record, we pulled it, because we wanted to give out free songs from each side of the record, and they wouldn't let us do it. There were all these rumors about how our label didn't think the record was good enough. No label turns down a Counting Crows record. Especially nowadays, when they don't have any money -- it's instant billing. But finally they relented. We had a good relationship with our label, but what we really ran into is, there are things that they're not allowed to do, that we wanted to do.

    Do you think record industry is a broken model?

    I think it was broken 80 years ago. It was always built to rob the artists. They took 90 percent of the money--80 percent if you had a great deal--to do nothing. They had two ways of selling records: they bribe radio stations and they bribe record stores to put you up front. It only worked for the labels because there was so much money to be made selling music, that the few that worked--the Counting Crows or Nirvanas that popped up out of nowhere--made them a lot of money. Now there are so many ways to do it, and [record labels] just don't understand what the Internet is. They just see it as a cash register, and someone's got their hands in the till. The truth is, [the Internet] is really the world's largest free billboard. Forget radio stations, paying them to play a song three or four times a day. You can just give it to people, and they can put it in their pocket, and they can play it 50 times a day if they want to. And if they don't want to hear it, they can turn it off and listen to something else.

    Going out on your own, breaking free from a label might work for Counting Crows, because you're already successful and have a fan base. What about all the smaller bands--and this is definitely true in Seattle--that feel they need the backing of major to get started?

    Well, I'm gonna try and do something about that this year. I'm working with some friends, and we're putting together an indie company, [to] find a way to sell all these indie bands' records. And give them 60, 70, 80 percent of the royalty--whatever the most we can give them and still afford it is. I want to do something about this, but really, it's because I have an idea--and I don't want to fully get into it right now--about cross promoting and bringing all these things from different areas that normally wouldn't promote each other... It's not really being a record company, but it's like being a clearinghouse for the bands and a way to promote them. That's just what I'm doing, but that's just an example. It's just about having a good idea. Look at the guys from OK Go. They just made a fucking funny video, and it got on YouTube, and it blew up. Radiohead, granted, had an established fan base, but they expanded it by giving away that record [In Rainbows].

    So, to switch gears here--you've talked openly about having a mental illness. When you look back on songs you wrote 18 years ago, particularly the emotional ones, do you think, "That was the illness talking?"

    I am a guy with a mental illness. That's my life. I don't know how else to put it. I've had to cope with that. It hasn't been the most enjoyable part of it... The only reason I came out with my mental illness is because I was annoyed, I was tired of people saying--well, first of all, they made up a fictional love life for me which never existed with people I never met... Instead of saying, "I like the song," or, "I don't like the song," they're saying, "Why should I listen to this song, because this guy dated so-and-so?" The truth of the matter is, I didn't want to talk about a mental illness during that period, when it was getting worse and worse. And my life was going to become a horrific public spectacle. It wasn't until I was getting better, somewhat, that I felt like--the truth was, I was writing another record very much about it, but this one was much closer to the bone... I just wanted to clear it up, and say, "I don't care who I dated; let's say I dated all those people you're talking about. I have a mental illness, and I am writing honest songs about it. So shut the fuck up. They're just honest songs about my life. What am I supposed to do, make it up?" But [the mental illness] is the reason for all the songs. And all the difficulties. A dissociative disorder makes it impossible to attach to the world and relate to people.

    It's interesting that dissociative disorder makes it hard for you to relate to people, because your music is all about experiences. People listen to your songs and think, "Hey, I'm okay, because this guy went through the same thing."

    But only there. Because I'm talking to myself, alone in a room, when I write that song. I mean, I play it for you, but I play it with my brothers, my bandmates, on a stage...But the people who relate, I don't know them. I've also had an incredibly rare life. Don't think I don't recognize that. But the rarity of it--the almost gem-like rarity of the life we've been lucky enough to lead--it's kind of magnificent to me, the chances we've had... To begin with getting signed, to have a record actually come out, to have a hit single, to have a record that's a hit, to have a second record even, to be here in 2009 when our first record came out in 1993--we formed the band in 1989, it's been 20 years and we're here... But I think it's probably time to get a life now. It's probably time to grow up and make other priorities. But I think up to this point I've done what I was to supposed to do.

    Counting Crows plays with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana at 7 p.m. July 16 at Marymoor Park.

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