Baltimore bred Adam Duritz has rocked the music world with the Counting Crows for over two decades. Over three years ago, the Counting Crows cut ties with Interscope Records, ending an eighteen year partnership. Now with an UK indie record label, Cooking Vinyl, the Crows decides to make their sixth album full of covers. Featuring fifteen songs that span six decades, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation) continues to show how this amazing band maintain staying power. I recently took part in a roundtable discussion with Mr. Duritz.
One hour into the roundtable discussion, I asked Mr. Duritz:
“Adam, you have been in the business for over two decades with the Counting Crows. What do you feel contributes to the band’s longevity?”
Here’s his response to my question:
ADAM DURITZ: I think it still feels very fresh to us. I think that getting that creative control right at the beginning and taking that attitude into everything we did made all the difference in the world, because it never became a repetition of something. It never felt like we were doing something for the hundredth time and, if it did, we just didn’t do it. Like, we made the records we wanted to make, exactly how we wanted to make them. I think they’re really different from each other and they always felt like we were never forcing ourselves to do anything we didn’t want to do. We just recorded, just followed our muse wherever it took us, wherever that was, and it seemed very different to me. It may seem the same to somebody else, but whatever it was, it still feels fresh to do it. And the same thing really applied to our live shows.
Someone asked me a question awhile ago about, like, playing “Mr. Jones,” which I actually love playing, and I can’t remember how it came up, because we didn’t play it in some show. Oh, I know what it was. Somebody was commenting on it and they were complaining about it on our Facebook page and they said that you should remember what got you here. But the thing is “Mr. Jones” didn’t get us here. “Mr. Jones” got us on the radio in 1993. “Around Here” here on Saturday Night Live got us from 215, wherever we were, to number two, because that was the song we played there on Letterman was “Around Here.” But neither of them is really the thing, because what really got us to where we wanted to go was playing shows of songs we wanted to play, so whatever that was. And that mostly has “Mr. Jones: in it a lot of times, because quite honestly, I love that song, and it has “Around Here” a lot of the time. But it doesn’t have either of them every night, because what we really do is we make our set with stuff after sound check or after dinner every night and I walk around to the guys or to the crew or opening bands and ask if there’s something somebody wants to play or wants to hear and I get a list and I don’t always follow it, but it gives me something to start with, and then me and Emmy put together a set list of songs that we want to play.
Because the thing I think is really important is that one thing you need to do stage every night is want to be there and you should play your a** off every night and you should put everything you can into it. And I doubt we’re perfect about that, but I think it helps a lot that we don’t plan set lists of songs we don’t want to play. So, if I’m tired of playing something, I’m not going to play it, because I think that’s going to make a bad show. It’s going to ruin three, four minutes of the show and it’s going to ruin everything around it, because it’s a bad experience when you don’t feel like expressing something and you go express it anyway, because then it just feels like this is a job and it’s supposed to be a job, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it poorly and I just think that regardless of what anyone may think, we’ve always played great live shows. I mean, we’ve done it because we wanted to play the songs we were playing. And the mistake would have been trying to satisfy everybody every night, because we have too many songs today anyway, and we would have gotten bored and the audience would have gotten bored, too, because if we’re not into it, it’s not going to be a good show.
I know, because I’ve seen bands play shows like that and they suck and we don’t and I think the reason is because what really got us here was making sure we were very committed to doing everything we were doing every night, on the records and in the shows, and to me, that’s about – the third to last show on this tour, I remember we were playing in Miami, like a few weeks ago, and I just in the middle of “Mr. Jones,” I realized I was drifting. I don’t know, because, I mean, I don’t think we played it every night, but we’d been playing it a lot right then because I really do like playing it. It’s a f***ing great song. But I was drifting and I realized, “You know what? This feels like work right now on this song. It just feels like a chore and I don’t want” – so I didn’t do it the next couple of nights and we played two of the best shows of our career in Atlanta and in Nashville and neither show contained “Mr. Jones,” but they were two of the best shows we’ve ever played. They were both two and a half plus hours long and we played our asses off. I think that’s what keeps us here 20 years later is that regardless of what everybody else may want to tell you here got you here, keeps you here, or what everybody wants, what I think they really want is for you to be good. And you owe them that, because they paid for their tickets. You don’t owe them songs, but you do owe them a quality performance and I think the best way to do that is to, like, make sure that you’re fully invested in everything you’re doing. And it’s art, so you can’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to be fully invested in somebody else’s suggestions, but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be invested in yours.
And I think we’ve stuck by that fairly religiously over the year and I think it’s really paid off for us, because I still like playing “Mr. Jones” as opposed to a lot of people I know who have that kind of song in their catalog who just don’t want to play. I mean, I don’t always want to play it and I don’t want somebody to tell me I have to play it necessarily, but I like playing it and you can tell by the set list on the last tour because it was on almost all of them. And as near as I can tell, that’s what’s kept us working for 20 years is that we still give a s***. We’re not bored up there and we’re not phoning it in. We’re really gone when we’re on stage and it’s a good thing. Nobody gets ripped off at one of our concerts.
We thank Mr Duritz for this in-depth interview. Be sure to check out the Counting Crows’ newest album, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), in stores and on iTunes
If you want to see the Counting Crows LIVE IN CONCERT, they will be performing as part of the The Outlaw Road Show Summer 2012 on Wednesday, June 20th at 7 pm at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap with Special Guests: Good Old War, Foreign Fields and Filligar. Tickets are $48 in-house, $30 lawn.
To purchase tickets, click here The Outlaw Road Show Summer 2012