Counting Crows interview - full circle
- By Chris Copeland -
- Jun 28, 2012
Since Counting Crows debut in 1993 few bands have stayed as relevant through the changes in the music biz. The band hits the road this summer with The Outlaw Roadshow, a traveling showcase featuring new indie rock bands. Lead singer Adam Duritz spoke with Virgin Red Room en route to Asbury Park to oversee the sound check of the opening bands. We talked about the digital landscape in music, his new album and tour, and the strange cycle that finds Counting Crows come full circle.
Red Room: What is one thing that you think works better for artists in the current music industry?
Adam: I think almost everything works better nowadays. Anybody that wants to can make music. All that ability to get your music out there easier means that bands can exist now. It’s not like they can make millions of dollars, but they can survive for multiple records. It’s not just a one shot deal for a band, which is an incredible change.
Red Room: Do you think so much more music coming into the landscape makes it harder for fans to find good artists?
Adam: No, it’s much easier. There’s always been lots of good music. It’s just that you had a record company deciding which ones to sell you and radio stations deciding which ones to play for you. Anywhere you choose to go online you can find great music. Any website you go to is going to have a good writer telling you interesting stuff about a great band, and you’re going to be able to listen to it right there. It may make it harder for everyone to come together and like the same band, but I’m not sure that’s much of a hindrance.
Red Room: You are pretty prolific on Twitter with the @countingcrows feed. Is that something you enjoy, or do you tolerate it as a necessity for artists in the current social media environment?
Adam: I enjoy it. I think the reason I do well in social media is because I treat it like the real thing. The weakness is it’s very tied to how I feel. I have a lot of trouble doing it when I’m not in such a great mood. I’ve barely written anything this week, and I probably should be, because the tour starts.
Red Room: You just released a new record. Could Counting Crows have gotten away with an album of semi-obscure cover songs in the 90s?
Adam: When I first came up in the 90s college radio was pretty big, and there was all kinds of indie bands. That’s the last time, before now, where I felt like there was excitement in the public about lesser-known music. In the latter part of the 90s, radio stations were playing, like, three songs, and there was no independent music at all anymore. And then it came back, and now it’s a little bigger. [As for Underwater Sunshine], I don’t think it would have been a problem back then. I think the labels wouldn’t have been happy about it.
Red Room: Counting Crows are about to embark on The Outlaw Roadshow with bands that might be less established. Tell me what it’s like for you as an established, respected artist, to be able to give lesser-known bands a shot?
Adam: I don’t really think of it as established or un-established. Me and my friend, Ryan Spaulding, from [music and entertainment blog] Ryan’s Smashing Life, have been putting on showcases at CMJ and at SXSW the two last years. We just decided to make a tour that was based on a traveling version of the SXSW showcases. My ability to meet all these bands from doing the showcases gave me a bigger group of friends. Honestly, these are my peers. We do the same things regardless of our age or how many records we sell. It’s the kind of people I want to spend time with.
Red Room: Is there any element of it where you feel like a music mentor?
Adam: I guess in that I do know things, and I can take them on tour that they wouldn’t normally be on themselves. But I don’t feel like the grand master around the house. They are still just a bunch of people I’ve hung out with and gotten drunk with. And also, [Counting Crows] are an independent band now. It’s important to me that people start at places like Daytrotter and all the blogs online because that’s where these bands get played. We’re not a big part of the Rolling Stone rock culture, but I’m not sure that’s where music is nowadays. Five or six years ago, Absolutepunk.net, even when they didn’t love my records, I liked they way they talked about them. And that made me realize a while ago that this is a world more like the world I started out in when we were getting played on KUSF in the Bay Area when we were indie.
Red Room: It sounds like you’re saying you’ve come back full circle. What changes have you noticed in your audience over the past couple of years as you’ve taken on that role?
Adam: On this last tour, friends of mine commented on the audience and said there were people a lot older than them and there were people who were way younger than them.
Red Room: For artists who have to rely on the do-it-yourself model, what advice can you give?
There’re no rules out here like there was with the record companies. You’re only bounded by the limits of your imagination. More important than managers who are powerful people, you need to work with imaginative people. Also, social media is everything. It is not a slot machine where you put money and pull the handle and it pays off. You can’t use it like a tool and then expect it to behave for you. You have to go in there like a real person, and you have to live in there a bit. It pays off in the way real social relationships do. I really do think that’s true.
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