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Newly Independent Counting Crows In Free Flight

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

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After 16 years and eight albums, Adam Duritz and his band, Counting Crows, are ready for a free flight.

Earlier this year, the group announced its departure from Geffen Records, its home since the Crows took wing with the hit single “Mr. Jones” and the seven-times platinum debut album “August and Everything After.” Now, the band is fully independent and, according to frontman Duritz, “drunk with ideas” for the future.

“It’s kind of a golden age of music right now,” says Duritz, 44, who formed Counting Crows with guitarist David Bryson during 1991 in the San Francisco Bay Area. “You’re really so freed up to be creative with what you do. I think that’s fantastic.

“There’s just so many possibilities of what to do ... You have to gather them all together so it doesn’t become chaos in your head. I find myself dreaming about Counting Crows DVDs and Counting Crows records and Counting Crows concerts and movies and ... ”

Duritz pauses and laughs. “Yeah, man, it’s pretty intoxicating.”

He fully acknowledges that Counting Crows arrives at its new independence with an enviable track record. The group, which released “Flying Demos” on its own before signing with Geffen, has deftly straddled the line between commerciality and credibility. It’s never quite repeated the mass-success of “August and Everything After” but has maintained reputations as a steady album-seller (20 million worldwide) and a solid live act. It’s occasionally popped back up on the singles charts with songs such as 1999’s “Hanginaround” and a remake of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (with Nelly Furtado) in 2003, while “Accidentally in Love,” the Crows’ contribution to the “Shrek 2” soundtrack in 2004, was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Baltimore-born Duritz, meanwhile, started his own record label in 1997, E Pluribus Unum, which he sold to Interscope Records in 2000, and in 2007 launched another imprint, Tyrannosaurus Records, whose releases include the re-issue of an album by Duritz’s pre-Crows band the Himalayans. He’s currently producing an independent film called “Freeloaders” with the Broken Lizard comedy troupe.

Not surprisingly, in the Crows’ new world order, Duritz finds himself “thinking about all the things I’m involved in and all the different ways they can cross-reference each other and mix together and help each other.” But he does have some tangible projects in the works, too.

Foremost among those is a live album and DVD from the Crows’ September 2007 performance of “August and Everything After” at New York’s Town Hall. In addition to the album in its entirety, the show also included previews of material from the Crows’ 2008 album “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and an encore of covers with Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba and members of the Low Stars.

“It’s a really good concert film,” Duritz says. “It was really, really visceral, kind of a blur. I don’t remember much about the actual concert. I can only tell you about it ’cause I edited the film with the editor; I was surprised at what I was watching, like, ‘Ooh, wow, we did that? Cool ... ’ It’s really powerful.”

Duritz is hoping to release that in the fall, but he’s not sure how. “Maybe we’ll just make the CD free or something, on download or DVD,” he says. “We’ll figure out something.”

He’s also enjoying the Crows’ summer tour, which is structured more like a revue — with all of the participating bands alternating time on stage and playing together — rather than a standard headliner/opener situation. “It’s a whole night of music,” Duritz says. “The important thing is that people know these shows are going to start at 7 or 7:30, whenever they’re supposed to start, so don’t show up at 9 o’clock to see Counting Crows ’cause you’ll have missed most of the show — including a good chunk of us.”

The one thing that’s not in the offing, at least any time soon, is a new Counting Crows album. “I’m not looking to make a record right now,” says Duritz, noting that some of the other band members have new babies at home and that his own assorted projects have kept him working almost nonstop.

And after a tumultuous personal life that’s included high-profile relationships with actresses, Duritz — who resides in New York City these days — says that he’d “like to try living a little bit, get a little bit of a life together.

“I don’t want to write another album about the same thing, if I can help it,” he explains. “The songs are always real honest, but I’d like to try living something a little different than the life I’ve been living.

“I feel like I’m more able to do that nowadays than I was years before. I don’t think I had much of a choice about the way things were going then. But life feels more possible now, so I’m gonna have to clear some time to make that happen, and then hopefully have a fresh perspective to write from.”

Counting Crows and Augustana perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday (July 8) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills. Tickets are $45 pavilion, $25 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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