Here's part two of my conversation with Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, in which we continue to discuss the new album Underwater Sunshine, plus his habits as a music fan and his thoughts and feelings on the current state of the music industry. We wrap it all up with some discussion about the Outlaw Roadshow tour.
You alluded to it earlier, but that’s what is cool about this record is that hearing a song like “All My Failures,” “Like Teenage Gravity” and perhaps “Start Again,” those are all songs that if you don’t know what they’re sourced from, you could hear those for the first time as Counting Crows songs and they sound like Counting Crows songs.
Well, I think we made them into Counting Crows songs, but we also paid a lot of....once you do hear the originals, you’ll hear the homage in our song to their song, the spirit of them. “Start Again” is probably the most different in some ways from the original....well, I guess “Teenage Gravity” is [also] pretty different. But “Start Again” still has that thing in it, it has that sort of strum along comradery that they had with the 19 electric guitars going on and the 60 thousand harmonies. And ours was a stripped down version of it, but you can hear in little flickers of the arrangement, there’s a 12 string guitar part in the choruses I think, that we heard, it’s on one of the guitars on the Teenage Fanclub version.
There’s this one part I wanted Dave to lift, there’s this melody that plays in the chorus and I was like “well get this, I think it will sound really good, you just lay it back and it will sound really cool in this version.” It’s not the foreground part, but it will be cool in the background, the part really works.” It’s a very orchestrated kind of part. You know, we grabbed little snippets like that and I think, you can tell from the liner notes, the level of respect that we or I have for the source material. I did want you to hear it as a Counting Crows album, but we were very diligent about talking about source material and who the other bands are, so people can go find them. Those records are worth getting too.
It certainly does leave you with a lot of music exploration to do after the fact, which I’ve always thought is something that any covers album should accomplish.
Once I realized what it was, that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want a karaoke album. But having made a record of covers, I wanted you to go find the music, make it fun and go check out all of these bands. Rather than it being a list of your favorite songs on a record that Counting Crows is now playing for you, you know, like “Counting Crows plays the Christmas hits!”
I’d rather, you know, here’s a lot of stuff that we like you probably don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t intended that way, but once I realized what the record was as we were listening to it, it’s like “now go buy all of these records - you’re going to love them all.” Here’s a link - make it a trip to the music geek land. This is what music geeks do. People search out shit and make lists of records and go find them. Now you should do that. I was writing those liner notes and it was taking me so fucking long to turn them in.
They were supposed to be turned in and it was taking me forever. I was literally beating myself up, because you know, there’s only so much can expect of yourself, but I also felt like “fuck, Adam, will you just get your head together and speak clearly and finish writing these liner notes?” Nobody will take weeks to do liner notes or a week, whatever it took - nobody would take that time to write the liner notes. They’re due - turn the goddamn things in.
When I finally finished them, I wanted to do a more complete spell check on them, so I lifted it into a Word document - it had just been in an email, I was writing it - when I put it into a Word document, you know it will tell you how many pages you’ve got, how many words, you know? And it said 23 or 24 pages - then I realized why it had taken me so long to get it down. I wasn’t being lazy, I was writing a fucking 25 page book - that’s why it took so long. Okay, you can forgive yourself for that.
Well, the liner notes are certainly a very essential component that they help to fill in a lot of detail about this album. As a music fan, what’s your collection like? Do you still have a lot of physical media, or is it all digital?
Oh yeah, I have walls and walls and walls of stuff on CD. I have an entire library. I mean, I buy a lot of digital stuff now, because a lot of the bands I like, their stuff is online - they don’t have any CDs of it. I used to be more diligent about trying to get a hard copy. I don’t care as much about it anymore, because I carry most of the music around with me on computer anyways. I have a lot of vinyl, but most of my vinyl that I grew up buying is actually in storage.
The vinyl that I have around the house is a lot of older stuff that’s been given to me by great aunts or grandmothers left for me. They’re those really heavy duty, heavyweight singles from the ‘40s, I guess, like “Mr. Sandman” and stuff like that. Those I have in my house and it’s almost more because I’ve gotten them in recent years, but I still keep a turntable around the house, to play stuff. But again, it’s mostly not my collection I have at the house, my stuff is all in storage.
As an artist and a music fan, are you still an album kind of guy, or are you more about tracks and EPs?
Making or listening?
I guess both.
Listening, I feel like, whatever the band wants to make, I guess. A lot of bands have made records in recent years, but also I think one of the great things about the music business right now is the inexpensive nature of recording, means that you can afford to do it on your own without any support from anybody else. So with that in mind, some people have been making EPs as well. In that case, look, whatever enables them to continue to recording is good by me.
Mean Creek, one of my favorite bands, I love their first album, but they made an EP last time, Hemophiliac, which is phenomenal. Their new record, which isn’t out yet, is a full record. But in making it, they didn’t come to South By Southwest this year, because they couldn’t afford to. They weren’t on the Roadshow this year down there, because they were making the record. My feeling about it is that the great thing about the music business is how you can do it for less money nowadays. Because there’s no money coming in sometimes, the other bands are supporting themselves by their other jobs, so hell, whatever they want to make is fine with me. I’m just happy to get anything. Golden Bloom, their last record was an EP, but they just finished a writing a bunch of songs. I talked to their lead singer a couple of days ago when he came to see the show and I think that might actually be a full length, but you know, it’s hard to predict.
We’re dealing with the realities that you can make records without the record company now. You can have a career without anybody helping you out at all. But that may mean you need to make EPs sometimes.
From our perspective, I am certain it is better to make EPs for a band. I do think the public doesn’t digest stuff in large portions these days as much as it does the other kind. That said, I am also certain that what we do that a lot of people don’t do well is make albums and it sets us apart. So I think it would be a mistake for us to start making tracks. Because I think what we do is we make bodies of work. Not everybody can do that. Not everyone’s songs lend themselves to that as much - a lot of bands would be better off making great songs.
We make great bodies of work, you get into them and then you start listening to them and even if you’re not one of those people who listens to the whole thing, I think it flavors everything else completely and it’s part of a whole record. And especially because it’s what we do, we do it very well. So as contradictory as that may sound, I think we’ll probably end up making records still. I can’t imagine not doing that.
One of the things that has gotten a lot of notice and press, is the band’s decision to share music from this new album via BitTorrent. For the members of the media who don’t have any knowledge beyond “this is what the kids use to steal music,” the decision to give away music via BitTorrent is something they can’t comprehend. For you guys however, I look at it as using one of the primary delivery vehicles that people are using to acquire music to your advantage. Has this move given you the bump in awareness of the record that you were hoping for?
I don’t know, a lot of it’s educating people. And maybe this is what the kids use to steal music, but we worked for years with what the adults use to steal music. They’re called record companies and they do quite a good job of stealing your music. They take 80 percent of it and they don’t give you much in return. I mean, look, there’s a system out there that people have used for years, where these people get 80 percent of your product. 90 percent if they can get away with it and they often do get away with it. And then they sign you up for indentured servitude for seven years. And then in order to promote you, all they do is spend enormous amounts of money bribing radio, which is by the way technically straight up illegal.
Payola is illegal and the fact that they want to criticize BitTorrent for being illegal while they’re doing payola. Alan Freed got busted for it what, sixty years ago? And they never batted an eye. They just kept doing it through independent promoters and never stopped. And they bribe record stores to put you in the front. There’s no other way to look at those two things but [as] bribery and that’s their whole system. And you know what? When there was way, way, way more money to be made? Their 90 to 99% failure rate still made them a lot of money.
But there’s not as much out there anymore and it’s not working that way for them. So all they do is spend enormous amounts of money on a few artists and then the rest of the artists are stuck in the graveyard. Now BitTorrent to me, is a delivery system. Yes, this is exactly how Napster came along and stole all of our music. But hey, guess what? If the record company hadn’t fallen on their heels fifteen years ago like complete idiots and never recovered from the internet, they could have turned around and started using BitTorrent themselves. It could have been a delivery system.
Because guess what? Nobody’s carrying a fucking boombox around on their shoulder anymore. You don’t see kids walking down the street with a boombox. You’ve got an iPod or an iPhone - it’s in their pocket and your radio does not broadcast to them. But your BitTorrent song does - an MP3 will go on their iPhone and they can carry it around...and the other thing is, they can play it as much as they want, without getting sick of it. Because at its best, all radio does is make people really sick of you. I mean, you can’t trust them to play the stuff [by] paying them all that money.
But even if they do, if they decide it’s going to make them enough money to play you, they’ll play you until people fucking hate you. The thing about the iPod is that it gives people...I believe in giving people their own choice to make sometimes, you know? Your iPod and your iPhone and BitTorrent in a way, it enables people to choose for themselves, how much they play you. So if they don’t like it, they won’t play it. But then again, why would you want them to play it if they don’t like it anyway? My feeling is that this is what kind of, if handled correctly, it could be a form of radio. I don’t know that it is yet - I don’t know that people think of it that way yet, but it does deliver the music in a form that people can carry in their pockets. And it delivers them to a shitload of people.
That to me is a delivery system and we are an independent band. We need delivery systems, because radio doesn’t work for us. Even Top 40 doesn’t play 40 songs anymore, it plays 10. And there is no college radio or alternative radio at the same level there used to be. So we need delivery systems for independent music. I don’t know if BitTorrent is the be all/end one and it’s certainly how they stole all our music, but it isn’t going anywhere at the moment, so you can either look at it as a solely negative thing, a drain down which all of your profits are being flushed or you can look at that tube as a tube. And a tube going both ways is a conduit - you can give stuff to people too and you can get responses. You can put links up and do ticket sales or CD sales.
I don’t think all of that is us working at the level we’d like to be working at - not at all, but we just started using it.Part of using things right now and part of setting up these whole new systems is education. It’s like educating people in different ways to do things. When you’re promoting a tour and you start doing stuff [like telling people that if you] share stuff on Twitter and on Facebook and if enough people share it, you’ll reveal the tour dates. You know, it’s not normally how people find out about tour dates, it might frustrate them a little bit right now - but it is a way of getting people involved and I think you have to start these things and try these things now in order to make them workable systems for later.
The greatest thing about the internet and being independent is that the internet makes anything you want to do possible. You’re only limited by the boundaries of your imagination. But you have to have an imagination. And the other limits are the amount of people you can get to respond to something that they’re not used to responding to. But part of that is that if they’re not used to responding to it now, they will be next time if you do it now. I mean, I don’t think that we can expect that massive success right now of a lot of the things that we’re trying. But I’m perfectly happy because I’m free to try them now. I can’t tell you, in some ways, especially as Americans, we bandy about words like “liberty” and “freedom” with such ease that they do become meaningless at times.
But let me tell you, it was not “freedom” being on a record company, because they don’t allow you to do anything. And some of it is fucking stupid - some of it is completely counterintuitive. They’ve been fighting against the internet for years and guess what - it’s free and it’s out there and we’re going to use it. I’ve got to tell you, there’s a real liberation in knowing that we can do anything that we want to and we’ll succeed and fail on our own. I’m okay with failing some because nobody succeeds all of the time.
I don’t know if we’ll ever sell 20 million records again, but right now, we do it our way and I’ll tell you one thing: From the beginning, it was our records that we made. That first one was our record, we made it how we wanted to make it and so was our second one and the third and the fourth. We had creative control from the very beginning and that may have hindered us in some ways. Some of the things that we did weren’t what everybody wanted us to do, but they were what we wanted to do. I feel a lot cleaner in my life knowing that I did what we wanted to do. Having gone through all of this stuff, because you know what? I wanted to play rock and roll when I was a kid and nobody gets to - it doesn’t work out that....and we did and it did work out. Even rarer is the fact that 20 years later, we’re still here. That’s a fucking miracle.
I kind of feel like - it came up the one time...somebody complained at the concert because we didn’t play “Mr. Jones” and we usually play the song - I love the song. And someone said “Fuck you Duritz, remember what got you here.” But see, the thing is I do - it wasn’t “Mr. Jones.” It was play great concerts and play the songs that you want to play that night because faking it isn’t going to work for me - I don’t do it very well. I think we owe an audience our complete passion and commitment in concert.
So in order to do that, we make our setlists up after soundcheck or after dinner every night. It’s a different setlist every night. Sometimes it’s the same setlist, but it’s the songs we want to play and that enables us to play really good concerts every night. That’s what got us here 20 years later, so we didn’t burn out. The thing is, out of all of this stuff like BitTorrent and everything else, we made the choice. People are going to steal from you.
I’m not sure BitTorrent ever stole more from us than the record companies did, but this was our choice to go to BitTorrent, not somebody’s choice to steal from us and not somebody’s choice to not go there. We chose to go there and to give songs away. That kind of freedom feels pretty good. I mean, we’re adults, why shouldn’t we be able to choose our own thing? And I don’t mind failing every now and then. I’ll tell you what I am doing - I put out a record this year with my band of a bunch of songs that I really love. I made a difference, I think, in the careers of a bunch of people I really respect.
Right now on the Outlaw Roadshow, I’ve got three of those bands out with me on the road. They’re playing in front of crowds they’ve never played in front of live and they’re having the time of their lives learning to play. There’s a rotating slot they play in every night - it’s making a huge difference to them. In a few more weeks we’ll go home and then we’ll take a week off and we’ll call up three more bands and three more after that. I’ve been doing it for the last few years with Ryan, the Outlaw Roadshow showcases we’ve been putting on and that’s all pretty cool - it’s fun every night.
There’s a nice sense of like “I’m not sure how much you could possibly be failing right now.” It’s not as easy as other things we’ve tried, as far as immediately succeeding at things, but the BitTorrent thing was a good experiment. I’d like to do more with it - I’d like to try some other things. I would have given the whole record away, but it was a covers album, so I can’t do that.
You have a lot of toys at your disposal at this point, some of which you can control and some of which you’re automatically a part of. I buy a lot of albums and get other albums for free through a publicist, for example, but I also enjoy streaming a lot of music from sites like MOG. How do you feel about the streaming thing?
Well, I think they’re all just business. I think that where people make a mistake is getting up on their high horse and “this invalidates this and this fucks us.” I know iTunes doesn’t like Spotify very much. But I don’t feel the need to compete in that way. I know friends of mine who have been very angry with me about the BitTorrent thing, because they think....I don’t know what it is....it is a system through which people have done some damage to artists, but there are larger concerns for artists. The truth is, taking away artists copyrights and not abiding by that is horrid and it’s completely without any morals, the people who just want to do that, they’re completely without any morals or values.
But the larger concern for us to me as artists is how do artists survive? Is there a system under which artists can make music and make money and survive? That’s the really important thing. How are you going to do that? Now there was a system in place for years with the record companies, but it didn’t really work - not for 90-plus percent of the people on it. It was a graveyard for most bands. Bands that got signed and just sat there on the shelf for years and couldn’t do anything else, it’s terrible. A few of us succeeded, but just because I made a lot of money on it - most people didn’t. I don’t think that’s a great system. So with that gone, how do we get our music played?
Well, okay BitTorrent - they’re definitely stealing shit from us and they’d like to pretend like we have no rights as artists and that’s bullshit. But how do you get your music to people? Because I don’t think radio does a great job of it - they don’t play enough of it and they annoy the shit out of people. And anyway, it’s not how people listen to their music as much anymore. Whereas MP3s are and BitTorrent is a good delivery system. So maybe you have to not look at anything as absolute. Maybe if enough people are going to get on Spotify where they can listen to it, are they going to find a way to pay us?
Radio never paid us very much anyway. Are these Pandora people ever going to buy music again? I don’t know. I don’t think that streaming services necessarily mean that people won’t purchase the record that is out. I’d like to risk that, because I don’t see how else we’re going to get music to people other than playing it for them. That means either radio or streaming - I don’t see what makes streaming any worse than radio. After all, you don’t get to take it home with you, you just listen to it - that’s all radio was. The money we got paid by radio and stuff is gone. Spotify [and related streaming businesses] does pay, because they’re signed up on those services.
I think on some level, you have to be willing to believe that people hearing music will hopefully go buy the music or go buy a ticket. And you have work on that assumption. So in that case, you have to just find ways to let people hear your music - Spotify is one and Pandora is another. Pandora is the one radio station I still really like - that’s just my personal taste, but I like that. It surprised me, so I like that. They play stuff I wasn’t thinking of, they teach you about new music, just like my favorite radio stations when I was young.
But I think somewhere you have to have that leap of faith and make the connection between hearing you and wanting to buy you. I mean, isn’t that what we’ve been depending on all along anyways, that someone would hear our music and want to buy it. If that’s the case, then Spotify is a way to hear it. The answer about if any of it works or not, I don’t know. I’m not sure about any of it. I’m not sure about BitTorrent, I’m not sure about Spotify, I’m not certain about radio. I’m certain that radio works for some people, I’m certain it doesn’t work for us right now, because they don’t play enough for it to work. There’s got to be some things with a wider range because humanity has a lot of range and artistry has a lot of range.
Radio’s too narrow, at least the way it is now. You know, Spotify, I don’t know. I don’t use it as much. I can see people do. I have a massive record collection, a massive CD collection and a massive MP3 collection. So for me, Spotify is more of a great place to play playlists and I tend to get frustrated by what it doesn’t have. But for anybody else who doesn’t have a music collection like you or I probably have - it never occurred to me to use it this way until someone told me “oh, I had so much fun on Spotify this weekend” and I said “oh my God, how did you have fun, what did you do?” And they said “well, I listened to all of the Cheap Trick albums that I hadn’t heard in so long and then I went back and listened to all of the Grateful Dead” or whatever it was - they just started listing bands. And I said oh yeah, of course - you know, I have all of the Cheap Trick records, I have all of the Grateful Dead records, I have all of the Dawes records. I mean, I have all of the records to listen to period, so Spotify isn’t as useful to me for playing stuff as it is for other people, but it never occurred to me that when you don’t have a record collection like we have, Spotify is the way to go listen to bands and go like “oh God, I used to love this when I was a kid” or whatever. It really does work that way.
That’s kind of cool, it’s like a mobile record collection. It’s like what I take my iTunes for. I just loaded everything up into my iTunes and blew up a couple of computers [by using] too much space in them. But that’s what people use Spotify for now, the people who don’t have a massive record collection, Spotify is a massive record collection. As a music fan, not touching business-wise at all, as a music fan, somebody who loves to listen to music, that seems like a really cool thing. That’s what I love about Pandora is that they play new music [and] the challenge and the fun of trying to design the perfect radio station that plays the stuff that you love and surprises you all of the time.
What I want to hear is the stuff I haven’t heard - I want to be surprised and find out what I don’t have in my collection in a way. And for anybody else, that’s what Spotify does - they get to go listen to what they don’t have in their collection. And I think as a music fan, that must be pretty fun. So I don’t think that’s a bad thing. People have to at least trying to keep interest people in their music, so they don’t get bored with it. So they don’t turn to the record companies and their massive five billion dollar video product. If you want people to be interested in music and like your music, they have to listen to music. And that means they have to start with Justin Bieber, they have to start with boy bands.
It’s better if they do listen to that stuff, because it means they’re listening to it when they’re like six and seven. The main thing is, what do they turn to, to make their souls feel good and enrich their lives? Because it could be anything and I hope it’s music. I do believe that a six year old may listen to music that you don’t love, but that six year old’s special music, whatever music it is, is going to grow up and be an adult who loves music too. And they’re not going to listen to that music for their whole lives and what’s fucking wrong with that? I mean, me and Justin Bieber, or the generation before with Justin Timberlake and N’Sync, we have everything else in common. I know exactly what they did in their afternoons after school, they sat in their room in front of the mirror singing or they sat at their piano and they sang. I’m sure of it - that’s what we all did. I have that in common with them. I grew up to make this music.
We have this in common. I just think that the introduction to music is always going to be a good thing. As far as like which of these services is good or bad, it’s really hard to tell right now, because there really isn’t a working system in place for translating from exposure to sales, so it’s kind of wide open right now. What does a like on Facebook really mean? I don’t know. I’m sure it doesn’t really mean “like” in the same way we all think. You know and Twitter followers, I’ve got a lot. I took over our Twitter and there was like 90 people on it a few years ago and now it’s at one and a half million and it’s powered by the fact that it’s very much me and my real personality on there and that makes it good.
But it’s hampered by that, because me and my real personality gets down sometimes and can’t write and can’t be on Twitter, so it doesn’t function as a business as well as it should at times. But it’s very real and it does do something, but I’m not sure what it does. It doesn’t translate to 1.5 million people react - that I’m sure of - that’s not how Twitter works. I don’t think it works when you say something and everybody does it. I do think you say things and some people will react to it and repeat it and people get a stronger reaction out of that, the ripples that causes. It’s the repeating and the quoting that causes the ripples and hearing something immediately from someone you know, that makes a difference on Twitter.
That’s just my own theory, but I believe that it works in ripples, so the amount that you are repeated by people who other people trust even more than you, they might like you and they trust other people. I do believe that works in some ways, but I’m not sure. But we’re very invested in trying to find out and that’s what we’re doing, we’re trying to figure out how this all works and then we’re trying to have fun. You know, it’s a network - a lot of the people that are on the record, the younger bands, I met because of Twitter. Taylor from Dawes and Kasey, these are all people I made friends with over Twitter and then at South by Southwest and now we’re there reading some shit and repeating and talking to each other and they’re my friends. There’s a network of musicians out there, so many that I never saw before. It’s a new independent music scene.
It certainly is, it’s put a whole new face on the process of networking. It’s pretty crazy. Well, you and I could go back and forth for hours about music consumption and what it means to be a music fan, but I want to move towards wrapping up and talk about this current tour. Counting Crows have a long history of supporting new bands and I think back to when you would take bands like the Gigolo Aunts out on the road, for instance. How did you connect with the current crop of new bands that you have out with you now on the Road Show?
Well, I mean, I didn’t know Good Old War before this, but the others were friends. This really did grow out of the Outlaw Road Show itself that Ryan and I have been doing the last few years. The shows we’ve put on at CMJ and South by Southwest. Filligar’s played two or three of them [and] Foreign Fields played this year at South by Southwest. Ryan introduced me to to Filligar and he was just going on about how much they rocked and they do. They’re just a great band - it’s three brothers and a cousin and they’ve been together since they were very young. I know they’ve got to be no more than in their early 20s now and they were definitely making albums in 2005, so they were making records when they were 15 and they weren’t bad records either, they’re pretty good. It’s shocking that they were making records so good at that age.
One of the things that we did with Filligar is that they played near the top of the bill at CMJ and they were awesome. But Ryan and I had a thing where we’re really not about hearing bands status wise, we’re about making a whole show work. So it’s always really important to us that the first band on the stage has to be able to kill it. They’ve got to be the kind of band that can capture an audience at the beginning, because not all bands have that skill. So when we were looking for how to open - we had three stages going at once on the Road Show at South By Southwest, so we need a lot of bands that can handle a lot of different areas. One of the things we were trying to figure out was who was going to open the indoor stage this year, the main stage, and Ryan suggested Filligar, because they had been near the top of the bill at CMJ and I worried that they wouldn’t want to do it, but they didn’t really mind.
We need a band that could come right on stage at noon and crush so that the show would start off awesome. And that’s what they did for us. They blew the fucking roof off. My friend Frank, who did all of our posters for us, was standing with me in the audience as they played and I’ll never forget this, because I talk about it on stage, he said “whoa, that’s a lot of rock for noon!” And it was too, it was pretty impressive. I liked them a lot as a band before that, but I loved them after that. Because when you can walk on at noon and do that without a bit of resentment at being on there or fear or anything else, just put on a great show and crush it, it was awesome and that was really impressive.
It’s important on the [current] Roadshow, because we rotate the bands - we headline every night, but [the other bands] you play first one night and then you play second one night and then you play third and then you’re playing first again. A lot of these are GA shows, so there’s crowds out there anyway, but it’s a different thing being the first band on and it’s a good thing to learn how to do. It’s a different thing too playing, Filligar played first the first show and then the third show we were playing a brewery in Utica and there’s a big crowd out there and after Filligar came off stage, I was on stage - I’ve been on stage watching every band play every set pretty much.
They came off the stage and I asked the bass player Pete “how did that feel, that seemed pretty cool” and he said “aside from playing in front of the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen in our lives, it was cool - I’m glad it was over.” And I said oh yeah, it’s just daunting in a way to play in front of that many people - because there’s a lot of people out there. But they pulled it off and I think they’re all learning how to do all of those things.
Foreign Fields, they used to be called Flight and about six months ago, I got an email from Sean Moeller who runs Daytrotter and it said “dude, you’ve got to pick up this record, I just got this, go to this Bandcamp website - they’re called Flight, the record’s called ‘Anywhere But Where I Am’ - you’re going to love it.” So I went there and downloaded it and flipped out - it’s so beautiful and like nothing I’d ever heard. It was such a unique voice and just a very unique record and beautiful. It really blew my mind. I called up Ryan and said “dude, get this record right now - go get it - this band is amazing.” So Ryan went there and got it and same reaction - he flipped out. We decided to call them up and get them for the Outlaw Roadshow. It had been a week already and I’d been corresponding [with the band] because there’s so few people buying their record on Bandcamp at that point, so when my name popped up, they recognized it. I got a letter from the guitar player/singer Brian just thanking me and so we’ve been corresponding.
We wrote them and invited them to play and they said “fuck yeah” and they came down and it was really cool. Mistakenly, I thought they were playing a Daytrotter session when they got down there, so I congratulated them, but they didn’t have one. So I wrote Sean and I was like “dude, that’s so embarrassing” and Sean has Daytrotter down in Austin, so he found a spot for them. So one of the first things we did when we were down at South by Southwest was go over to watch them do their Daytrotter session. They finished the first song, a song called “Pillars” and we’re in this little house with a recording studio in it and most of what we’re hearing is just through the air, because the amps are in different rooms and the drums are in different rooms - nothing’s really amplified, so we’re just hearing this singing through the air and the guitars kind of in the distance.
It was so unearthly beautiful that I couldn’t believe it. I knew the record was pretty, but I couldn’t believe that they did it live and I couldn’t believe it was audible through the air - it was so good. I walked over to Brian after the first song was over and I said “dude, that was unbelievable - that was one of the most astonishing and beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It was incredible.” He looked at me and breathed this big sigh of relief and said “Phew, thank God, because it’s kind of our first ever public performance and we were just really nervous about it.” And I was like “wait, that was the first time that you played that song?” And he said “no, I mean the first time that we’ve played. So that Roadshow on Saturday, that will be our second.” So it was like “you’re off to a good start, don’t worry about it.
And it was even more shocking, because they were so good and they’d never played a gig out. They came and played the Roadshow on Saturday and they were just awesome. It was fucking amazing. A little while later, someone was talking to me, one of our managers, my friend Anna was telling me “you know, you’ve been curating all of this stuff with Ryan in your life and you made this record where you went and found all of this music that you really liked. But you’re doing all of these showcases and working with all of this independent music, why aren’t you bringing this together with the Counting Crows live [show]? I mean, this is what you really love doing and this is where you’re actually enjoying your life as opposed to being stressed about it. So why don’t you bring that area into the Counting Crows, into that arena.”
And I thought “oh, that’s not a bad idea” and we talked to our agents about whether it would work and they thought it would and we then we put together this show and it’s been really cool. It’s been great to see these bands, who are friends of mine who I know, who I’ve been through things with, like our own showcases, watching them play every night. By the time we got around to opening this tour, that was Foreign Fields fourth gig! But they’ve been awesome on stage - it’s been really fun to watch. And then you give them suggestions about songs, switching order around, things that might work, try to help them create different ways of playing.
The audiences are really getting into it. I started feeling bad about only half an hour for the band, that it wasn’t a good set [length] for them, but I’m actually realizing now that it’s actually really good, because the audience I think gets to feel really cool, watching all of these indie bands and liking them, which they do. I think a half an hour is enough that they feel good without getting overwhelmed - it’s not too much new. You don’t want to overestimate what people can deal with. Half an hour each, they really dig it, they like that they dig it and then someone new comes.
We’re running these - thank God for my crew - we’re running these shows with 10 minute breaks between the bands. We’re pulling the changeovers in 10 minutes, which is not easy, but they’re pulling it off. It’s working really well and the audiences seem to be really flipping out and even more than they’re flipping out over those bands, they get keyed up for us. It’s like they’ve had a whole evening of enjoying music and I think they feel like they’re at a music festival and they just learned a bunch of new music, because they’re also flooding the merch booths and talking to the bands after the show. The other bands are out there signing CDs and selling stuff and from what I’ve been hearing from the bands, there’s tons of people hanging out with them, during our set, after the show.
People are really getting into it and I think they really enjoy it and they feel the variety of it and it feels like being at a music festival and when we come on, it’s a different atmosphere - it’s really electric when we get on stage. It’s not the normal thing - it’s not like a bunch of people who have just been waiting and the waiting is finally over. It’s a bunch of people who have been totally entertained and waiting and they’re not worn out from the waiting or from the noise or the volume, they’re really keyed up. We’re going on stage to a very vibed out audience when we get on stage. It’s really wild.
Somehow it’s the perfect length of things going on and that combination of Filligar’s very rock thing and the really beautiful ambient Nashville Radiohead sound of Foreign Fields and Good Old War’s great Simon and Garfunkel-esque, I don’t know they’ve got - it’s just great songs. They’re really fun and everybody’s really digging it and they’re really great guys too - I’m really enjoying them - I didn’t know them before, but a friend of mine introduced them to me and when I heard the records, I really loved them. It’s just been...everybody’s really nice guys, so we’re having a good time on tour. It’s a very cool vibe on this tour.
The next leg, we’ve got We Are Augustines, one of my favorite bands in existence right now, Kasey Anderson, who is a really good friend of mine that I can’t wait to see play every night, because I love watching people play and we get Field Report. Between Foreign Fields and Field Report, those two records are so good. The Field Report record is some epic shit. It’s beautiful, but there’s some scope to it - it’s really good lyric writing and I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s going to blow your mind when you hear it. That this album is out there and someone made it and people don’t know about it [is crazy], because it’s just really good.
Just get this record and the Foreign Fields record and sit down with them and realize what is coming out of Wisconsin and add Bon Iver on top of that. Because that’s where Field Report comes from. Chris was in Deyarmond Edison with Justin Vernon and the guy in Megafaun. When that band split up and Justin Vernon started Bon Iver and the other guy started Megafaun, Chris stayed home and was writing, didn’t leave Wisconsin and had a little band called Conrad Plymouth, which was mostly just him playing by himself, which some of these songs were played in Conrad Plymouth, I think. I know one of them was at least.
And then he made this record this year and it’s really good. When you hear Field Report, [hearing that] and Foreign Fields are going to make you wonder what the fuck is in the water out there, because these two albums are completely unique and they have something in common too somehow that makes you think there’s something about Wisconsin there. But they are completely unique and they make really well made great records. I feel like I’m overhyping it, but I’m not sure I could overhype these two records. They’re unique and awesome. They’ll blow your mind.
Adam Duritz photo credit: Pam Bogert via Counting Crows Official Facebook