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Counting Crows: ‘We’ve never paid attention to what is in fashion … we still have something to say’

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 28, 2021

It takes courage to thumb your nose at trends and convention, but that’s what Counting Crows has done for nearly 30 years. When Counting Crows released its breakthrough album, the straightforward rock effort “August and Everything After” in September 1993, grunge prevailed.

There were bands aping Nirvana, such as Bush and Silverchair, and an array of vocalists doing their best Eddie Vedder impersonation – hello, Scott Stapp of Creed fame. And then there was Counting Crows, which had more in common with Van Morrison than DGC labelmate Kurt Cobain.

“We’ve never paid attention to what is in fashion,” Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz said while calling from his New York City apartment. “That has never been important to us. Making the best music that we can has always trumped making something that sounds like what’s on the radio at the moment.”

However, Counting Crows has been able to create on its own terms and experience chart success. “August and Everything After” went seven times platinum and was the fastest-selling rock album since Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here” and “A Long December” are three of the band’s hits.

The pretty “Accidentally in Love,” which was written for “Shrek 2,” earned the group an Academy Award nomination to go along with a pair of Grammy nominations. Counting Crows has enjoyed significant commercial success and critical acclaim.

“Recovering the Satellites,” which was released in 1996, is a compelling and exceptional reaction to the overwhelming adoration the band experienced after “August and Everything After” ruled the charts.

Duritz was rocked by going from being an unknown to a celebrity under the microscope. “I’m not complaining, but it’s not as easy as people think,” Duritz said. Duritz remarkably has only been part of Counting Crows, which has eight releases to its name, including the EP “Butter Miracle,” which dropped in May.

Many vocalists leave their band or at least work on side projects, but not Duritz. “Why leave the group I love being part of?” Duritz said. “I have everything that I want with this band.”

“Butter Miracle” is the first offering by Counting Crows since the group released “Somewhere Under Wonderland” in 2014. Counting Crows could ride the nostalgia wave, but Duritz and his bandmates opted to create new material.

“We still have something to say,” Duritz said. “It’s not enough for us to just play the hits and the other songs in our catalog.” However, Duritz is less than prolific. “I’ve never been a guy who wrote all the time because I can’t write on the road,” Duritz said.

“I play piano. I can’t bring one in my hotel room, so I’ve always gone several years at a time without writing. I’ve always been a guy who just didn’t write reflexively all the time, and I only write when I want to record. I kind of didn’t want to make a record for a while.”

“Butter Milk” is a 19-minute suite, which ranges from mellow to moody to spirited rock. “It’s kind of weird since I hadn’t written in a long time,” Duritz said. “I was on my friend’s farm (In England), and I just wanted to play piano. I rented a keyboard in London and had a friend drive to the farm, and I started playing.

“I wasn’t playing very well at first. I had to reteach myself to play each time, and it was a bit of a struggle. … We tried something different this time. We went into the studio with just the five of us because three guitars gets a little chaotic at the beginning.”

When Duritz sits down to write, it’s a process in which he is exacting when it comes to music and lyrics, which are typically vivid and detailed. “I try not to ever take a shortcut,” Duritz said.

“You just can’t settle as a songwriter – that would drive me crazy. I can’t write a lyric that is just ‘I met her and fell in love.’ That’s not enough for me. Instead, I’ll write, ‘When you look across a crowded room / see the way the light attaches to a girl.’ “

Counting Crows, who will perform Saturday at the Pavilion at Riverfront, is back on the road after a two-year hiatus from playing live. “It’s strange not playing out in so long due to the pandemic,” Duritz said. “Playing live is always something we’ve enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being on the road again.”

Duritz and his bandmates make an effort to stay in serene areas. When the band played the festival at Sandpoint in 2012, Counting Crows chose to take a few days off in Coeur d’Alene. “We like to stay in college towns if we can, like say Bloomington instead of Indianapolis,” Duritz said.

“Yeah, we did stay in Coeur d’Alene a couple of years ago. We spent a couple of days there. I love the lake. It’s so beautiful there.”

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