Counting Crows' Adam Duritz finds a new songwriting groove decades into his career

Counting Crows' Adam Durtitz finds a new songwriting groove decades into his career
Counting Crows are pushing themselves in new directions.

Adam Duritz didn't resent the unexpected, pandemic-forced time away from performing with his long-running pop-rock band, Counting Crows. The band recorded its latest record, Butter Miracle Suite One, in February and March of 2020, but a scheduled supporting tour never happened due to COVID-19.

"We've been on tour for like 30 years now, basically, so I don't know that I miss it," he says. "I tend to be in the present more than anything; I am where I am. If I'm touring, I'm completely involved with it, but I'm not missing it if I'm not."

Ruminating on the present moment has been an important exercise for Duritz throughout his time as the primary songwriter for the Crows, though he acknowledges that his music can powerfully recall the past, as well.

"It touches emotional places in people that remind them of other times in their life, maybe, or music they loved at those times in their life," he says.

Counting Crows is playing the new Spokane Pavilion in Riverfront Park on Saturday. Duritz is excited by the prospect of performing all 20 minutes of Butter Miracle Suite One for audiences for the first time. It remains to be seen how well the new material translates to the live setting, but he's optimistic that it will fit into the band's greater catalog.

"I think it's going to be a great chunk of the show, to be able to do it all at once," Duritz says. "I'm very curious to see how prepared the band is going to be. You never know how much you need to kick some butt to get people moving, but my hope is that everyone will come in really prepared and we'll just be working on details."

The hits "Mr. Jones," "Round Here" and "Rain King" off the 1993 album August and Everything After ensured that Duritz' voice would forever be part of the sound of the 1990s, though those songs — along with a 2002 cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" — were brutally overplayed on the radio, likely causing some listeners to tune out from the band's more recent records.

Those who haven't checked in with Counting Crows since its heyday may be surprised by how the band has retained its signature sound, both in terms of rootsy instrumentation and the emotive quality of Duritz' voice.

"What you're writing about changes a lot, but you're still you," he says. "How I write changes all the time. I wrote all these songs on a farm in England — that's certainly never happened before. For whatever reason, at that point in my life, that was the place that made me want to write songs."

He adopted a new style of songwriting, with the ending of one song "very much determining" how the next begins, he says. The end result was Butter Miracle Suite One, which comprises four tracks — "Tall Grass," "Elevator Boots," "Angel of 14th Street," and "Bobby and the Rat Kings" — designed to blend seamlessly together, blurring the lines between endings and beginnings.

"I think I would have loved to have done this at any point in my career, but especially nowadays, music is so seemingly digestible in one-song chunks; nobody is lining up to listen to a record," he says. "In some ways, it may be smarter to make singles, but we're not really a singles band — we make these worlds you can climb into. So, it's kind of about finding a way to do that that's not an hour long, getting people who want to listen to one four-minute thing to listen to more because they go together so well."

Duritz has since returned to the same farm in Western England and written another batch of songs in a similar style — "each song being born from the one before," he says — finding the new method to be an intriguing challenge and the place to be mysteriously productive. The new material lends itself to following up Butter Miracle Suite One with another multipart suite intended for listening all the way through.

"Making the songs flow together like that seemed, conceptually, like a really cool thing, but there wasn't any way to know until we finished mixing it and played it back," he says. "Then I heard it and was like, 'Oh, it works.' There was no concept at the beginning for a series of suites, but I really loved doing it, and I think I'm going to do it again."

No matter the format of the band's next collection of music, it surely will be covered in the fingerprints of Duritz and his bandmates, whom he credits with maintaining the band's sonic consistency. And he'll personally give it everything he has.

"That's something we've always tried to do — make music we're passionate about, make it as good as we can, make it everything we want it to be and play it with all our heart," he says. "We've always approached music the same way, and I think that's why it always turns out well — we're just trying to make something we love." ♦

Counting Crows with Matt Sucich and Sean Barna • Saturday, Aug. 28 at 6 pm • $50-$100 • All ages • Spokane Pavilion in Riverfront Park • 574 N Howard St. • • 888-929-7849

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