With more than 11 million albums sold in the 22 years since their landmark debut record August and Everything After, Counting Crows vocalist Adam Duritz doesn’t often stop to take stock of all he and his folk-pop band have accomplished.
He thinks it is maybe for the best.
“It’s weird,” Duritz tells The MusicNerd Chronicles. “As a kid, nobody dreams about wanting to play for the Yankees for just one season. You want to play ball for life, but things don’t always work out that way.
“It’s kind of the same thing for being in a rock and roll band; you don’t think about just doing one album and then moving onto other things. You want to make music for life. Before you know it, days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years, which have turned into decades. I don’t often sit down and think about what I’ve been doing these last 22 years because it has been my life. It’s only when I think about my career in context of where did everybody else go that wakes me up. We came up with a lot of bands that aren’t around anymore. It is only when I look at my life as a whole that it seems overwhelming because it’s a rarity for so many bands. It is nothing I have ever taken for granted.”
What is perhaps even more remarkable about Counting Crows phenomenal success is the fact they became popular at a time when the likes of Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and other rock acts were ruling the charts. The bouncy, upbeat feel of their debut single “Mr. Jones” indeed stood in stark contrast to what was happening in music otherwise in the first half of the 90’s.
“Music has always had a lot of different sides to it, so us coming up at the same time as Nirvana didn’t necessarily strike me as being that odd. If you look back to the 80’s when classic, corporate rock ruled America, there was this huge undergrowth of indie bands like R.E.M. standing in the shadows, making these really great albums before the mainstream latched onto them.
“I didn’t really see Counting Crows as a huge leap forward. If you were an R.E.M. fan, Counting Crows weren’t necessarily a huge leap from them, in terms of sound anyway. Looking back though, there wasn’t always a slot for us to slide into. We’ve had a hard time getting on radio at different times in our career, but we’ve never really struggled for fans, which we have always been grateful for.”
Since the dawn of the pop music business, dozens upon dozens of artists, whether they would admit such a thing or not, have ceded some, if not all, aspects of artistic control to their record company.
Although such decisions are typically driven by money at the outset of an artist’s career, some musicians undoubtedly grow to resent their success, as though they feel the public is not seeing their true artistic selves.
Duritz says that at the time Counting Crows were being courted by record labels, the group held firm to their wanting complete artistic control over their work. While the band has never abused the privilege, Duritz says the group turned down combined offers of millions of dollars from other labels in order to hold onto what mattered to them the most.
“At no point in our career have we ever thought ‘That worked well, let’s do that again.’ When your debut album sells 10 million copies and is produced by T-Bone Burnett, the record company does not want you to make an album with the guy that produced a Pixies album [Gil Norton]. But Gil was the guy we wanted to work with and so we made [1996’s] Recovering The Satellites with him.
“We have always wanted to keep our career in the present and follow our artistic muse. If you try to copy exactly what you did on previous records, it might work sometimes, but more often than not, you are driving yourself into a dead end,” Duritz says.
Through sold-out shows all over the world, and more than a dozen releases, including last year’s release Somewhere Under Wonderland, Counting Crows are far from being done.
Their current 16-date Canadian tour, stopping at Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick on Wednesday evening, is Counting Crows most extensive tour north of the 49th parallel yet. Duritz seems relieved that the group is finally getting the opportunity to explore Canada from coast to coast. In fact, if he had his way, they would have come north much sooner.
“When you start out touring, it’s just the best thing in the world because you get to go to all these countries and cities you’ve never visited before. Eventually though, you just end up going back to the same places over and over. We just finished a tour of Australia, where we played Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Byron Bay. All great places, but the same places we played last time we were there.
“That’s what is so exciting about this Canadian tour we are doing. We’ve never been to more than half of the cities we are playing; cities like Kelowna, Moncton, St. John’s, and Halifax. It’s been a long time since that has been the case for us, so everyone is really excited about it and looking forward to exploring this big country that is literally right next door to us. We’ve been looking forward to this for awhile now.”
What: Counting Crows with special guest Reuben & The Dark
When: Wednesday May 20, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $91.28 (taxes and service charges included). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca