Frontman Adam Duritz talks two decades of Counting Crows
Two decades ago, Counting Crows and its dreadlocked frontman-songwriter Adam Duritz blasted onto the scene with the hit debut "August and Everything After," with its catchy singles "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here." The band went on to sell more the 20 million albums while also experiencing the backlash that inevitably comes with success, particularly when a songwriter is crafting morose, moody songs about former girlfriends and very sad things. Through all the highs -- Duritz was nominated for an Oscar in 2004 for "Accidentally in Love" from "Shrek 2" -- and lows -- Duritz was diagnosed with a form of dissociative disorder; he wrote about his recovery for Men's Health in 2008 -- the Crows kept doing their thing, unlike some of the bands from that era (Hootie and the Blowfish? Hello?). Last year, the band released its sixth studio album, "Underwater Sunshine," featuring cover versions of songs from Bob Dylan to Madonna. Duritz, 48, also has been working on a project called the Outlaw Roadshow, a showcase for up-and-coming indie bands. Now the Crows are on the road with fellow '90s denizens The Wallflowers, with a summer tour that kicks off June 14 at the Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville. Duritz spoke to Newsday from his home in Greenwich Village about the vagaries of fame and everything after.
It's been 20 years since the band's debut. Did you imagine back then that you'd still be around?
Yeah, but not in a realistic fashion. Nobody ever says, "I want to be a rock star for three weeks." You always think it's what you're going to do with your life, or at least you hope it is. We certainly did everything with [longevity] in mind. We tried to make all our decisions with the long term in mind instead of the short term, which may have short- circuited some things for us occasionally.
If you could go back to 20 years ago, what advice would you give your younger self, knowing what you know now?
I probably would've ignored it. I don't know what the butterfly effect on that would be. I think we're a great band, but I know a lot of great bands. I know a lot great bands that nobody listens to and I don't know why.
You can't plan for the zeitgeist of the world to come together for you like that, there's no way to know what does that. You just try to make good music all the time. But I don't know what I would tell myself to do differently, because I'm sure I made lots of mistakes, but I don't know which ones were the mistakes, really.
Plus the problems I had in my life had more to do with me than with anybody else. I had mental illness to deal with. That wasn't easy. If I had one thing to tell myself when I was younger, I would tell myself to work harder to get a handle on that earlier because it has been really hard and it took really longer than I wanted to and it scuttled a lot of my life.
Do you think that if you'd come out sooner with that, things would have been different?
I spoke publicly about that when I felt like I had a little better handle on it myself, and I could live with where I was. We were also making a record that was so brutally honest about that. "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" was a very brutal record about a time in my life where I thought I was at the end. I was losing my mind. And then I kind of didn't, and I kind of got some of my ---- together. It was very much an album about what I was going through, and I felt capable of living my life in the public eye with people knowing that at that point. Before that, when I was more of a mess, I don't think I would of wanted anyone to know because it becomes part of the circus.
It certainly wasn't as easy for people to write a lot of that snotty ---- once I was public about what was going on, I will say that. But I didn't really want to use that as a way of getting better reviews. It was way too serious for that.
So how are you now? Are you at peace with everything or are you still looking to prove something?
The truth is, you just want to make good records and keep playing. I love the record we made last year. I really love "Underwater Sunshine." It might be the most enjoyable of our records. I could make albums of other peoples' songs for the rest of my career and be perfectly happy because it was so rewarding.
It's very satisfying to have sort of figured out who you are in life, in one sense, and then to make something out of that. We will have left some pretty cool stuff behind when it's all done, which I don't think has to be anytime soon. I mean, we're playing the best shows of our careers right now.