Niagara Gazette

June 27, 2013

Counting Crows' Adam Duritz talks live shows, past regrets

By Thom Jennings ngedit@niagara-gazette.com
Night & Day

Night & Day — When I received the email confirming my interview with Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, I noticed something unusual, a 30-minute time slot. Most artists allot 10 or maybe 15 minutes, but within a few minutes I realized that Duritz takes his interviews as serious as he does his music.

Duritz and his band have garnered a well-deserved reputation as a great live band. One reason for that is that no two Counting Crows shows are the same. They’ll be playing a show Friday at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor with The Wallflowers.

“I think you owe an audience your absolute commitment to the show. You need to be up on stage bringing something to them that is unique in that moment. I send a text to the band, crew and opening bands and ask if there is anything, they want to hear or play that night and then I sit down and try to make up a setlist,” Duritz said.

In an era where many bands play the same set of songs night after night, and some are even contractually required to play their radio hits, Counting Crows approach to live music is unusual, and may upset the casual fan hoping to hear “Mr. Jones.”

“We are very proud of our records. The songs that you think of as singles are actually just one song on an album; it was just a song that someone at a record company, who thought knew what they were doing but more often than not did not, picked out to try to sell to you on the radio but it has no more value than another song. We have so many songs that there is always going to be some song that someone wants to hear that we may not play some night, but you have to pick the songs you want to do and play them well.”

The Counting Crows have never done anything in the traditional way. Duritz remembers the early days before Counting Crows had a record deal. The major record labels offered lucrative advances but Duritz chose to do to forego the easy money in order to control the band’s destiny.

“We traded all the money away to get higher royalties and complete creative control; it was about more than a bunch of money in the pocket. I don’t think a lot of bands want to do that, they were rather take the money but it was great for us because we had creative control. It is a big risk.”

It was not the only risk Duritz took, shortly after their breakthrough album “August and Everything After,” the band appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” and the producers of the show wanted the group to play “Mr. Jones,” first since it was climbing the charts. Duritz had already agreed to play “Round Here,” first.

“We almost got kicked off of Saturday Night Live because we had an agreement about what we were going to play, then they tried to change it and we wouldn’t do it. It worked out for us because we got to play ‘Round Here’ first, which is what we wanted to do. Our record was not in the top 200 before ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

That’s not to say that every time Duritz took a stand, it worked out well.

“We have made our own mistakes. When we were supposed to do “Top of the Pops” in England, I felt uncomfortable lip-syncing, I didn’t want to go on TV and fake it. That was a mistake because it set us back a decade in England at the time. Who am I to have a problem doing it? I mean the Beatles did the show. It would have been three minutes out of my life, I should have known better.”

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night & Day.