21 years after the release of Counting Crows' notable debut August and Everything After, front man Adam Duritz is confident the band's forthcoming seventh album, Somewhere Under Wonderland, is their best work to date.
"Everybody's freaking out about it," Duritz says of the record, due out this fall. "Those who've heard it are through the roof."
Wonderland explores new lyrical territory for Duritz, who experienced writers' block before its making.
"It was weird," recalls the dreadlocked songwriter. I always finished songs in one sitting - and that could be one 45-minute sitting, like with 'Rain King,' or one eight-hour sitting, like with 'Mrs. Potter's Lullaby.' If I didn't finish a song in one sitting, I'd throw it out," he continues. "But I found that after a while, I wasn't finishing anything. So I started writing down every idea I had, as not to let anything disappear into Completely Forgotten Land."
Duritz compiled his ideas and beckoned his band for a weeklong stay at his house, where they sifted through his many notes and recordings, and eventually altered them from rough ideas into full songs. The septet repeated this process a few times, until the songs became Wonderland.
"I'd collaborated with the guys before," Duritz says, "But never so completely. I'd been thinking I didn't like the songs, but I just didn't know how to judge them. The guys inspired me to keep writing."
Wonderland's "broader" lyrics came as a surprise even to Duritz, a historically subjective songwriter.
"I've always written in the first person, but these songs are much wider range," he compares. "They're still songs about how I feel, but the imagery ranges much further out than what I was thinking while walking around New York that week."
"My friend recently described me as having been writing this epic tragedy for years, about how living with being sort of crazy fucks everything up," he says. "Then he reminded me that that's not all of me; I'm also goofy, and I don't just walk around tragically moping. He thinks these new songs are a truer picture of me than my old songs are."
After over two decades as Crows' chief songwriter, Duritz is learning not to take others' opinions of his songwriting too seriously.
"People want to hear one kind of song from me -- like if it's not serious or tragic, then it's not real art. And I've always thought was silly. I mean, I'm writing about my life," he says. "Life has a lot of different sides to it."
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He's been romantically linked to Hollywood starlets such as Courtney Cox and Emmy Rossum over the years, but Durtiz's longest union has been with his band, a relationship to which he is fully committed.
"A band is like a marriage," he compares. "It's something its members care an enormous amount about, and enough to fight about it literally everyday. If you want to make a band work," he continues, "your first thought can't be about what you deserve -- it has to be about doing what will keep the group alive.
"For me," he adds, "that's been surprisingly easy, because I love being in this band."
And 25 years in, Counting Crows' bond continues to strengthen.
"We've really just learned to be peaceful and collaborative with each other in the last couple years," he laughs. "Funny that it took so fucking long."
Duritz is eager to unveil Wonderland's material on tour, including at Bayou Music Center tomorrow evening. "It's the best record we've ever made," he pledges..
After years of openly struggling with anxiety and mental illness, Duritz's perspective appears quite healthy. It's another developing improvement he's slowly making with time.
"It's not like I haven't made mistakes in my life," he reflects. "But what can you really do about them? You live everyday, and you end up where you are.
"I haven't been happy or even sane every day of my life, but I'm 25 years into this band now, and I'm still here," he concludes. "And that's amazing to me."
Counting Crows perform with special guests Toad the Wet Sprocket Tuesday, July 29 at Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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