Adam Duritz is the voice and mind behind the 20-year career of Counting Crows. Before the band's current tour, he spoke with CP about songwriting, the possibility of going back to a label, and the new album the band has yet to release.
You're clearly a songwriter who values lyrics. Some musicians and critics have said lyrics aren't really valued right now. Do you feel like lyrical songwriting isn't in fashion?
I'm not sure I can think of a time when there weren't a lot of good songwriters around. They're not always in the Top 40, but they're still there. Anyway, with hip hop being as strong as it is, it's hard to not have good lyrics. I was in L.A. [recently] rehearsing with the band — I was driving around L.A. and all I was listening to was this 100-plus-song funk playlist from years ago. I kept going back to listening to Naughty By Nature songs over and over, or Run-D.M.C. songs, those incredible Nelly songs with the Neptunes and all the Jay Z songs he did with them, and the Dre stuff with Snoop Dogg and with Eminem. I was flipping out about how good the writing was on some of them.
I know you guys have been working on a new record; what are you able to tell me about its status?
It's done! It's really cool. One of the things I was doing [in L.A.] was — we've been independent for a few years, but I was meeting with companies, because everyone wants to buy this record.
So you're interested in working with a label again?
I'm not sure, entirely. The reason we left in the first place — that was just a really bad time for labels, six or seven years ago, because they seemed to be laboring under the misapprehension that the Internet did not exist. It made it really hard to work with them, because it was so frustrating all the time. I've really enjoyed being independent. But there are things you can't do independently. You can't promote the same way; you can't get everyone to hear your record the same way. This record is really good. It's not like anything we've made before. It's some of the best songs I've ever written. So I do want people to hear it.
What makes these new songs different?
I was talking to a friend who's a songwriter who's heard all of them, and I said, "At first I thought they were less personal, less about me in a way, because they're less autobiographical." And he said "No, it's weird, they're more personal. I feel like before, you were writing this long-form, epic tragedy about how fucked it is to be crazy, and live your life the way you want to live your life. But that's not who you are all day every day. You're an idiot. You're funny. You say stupid shit. These songs have some humor in them; this is more like spending a day or two in your insane brain. For me, it's actually closer to you than the other ones were."