Interview with Adam Duritz of Counting Crows

Playing Pistoia on July 3

Rachel Vermiglio Smith
June 25, 2015

Having been a Counting Crows fan since 1993, I was thrilled last November when I finally got to see them live in Italy. The Californian band played a two-hour concert in Padua to a sea of adoring Italian fans (plus a couple of Americans). Between songs, lead singer Adam Duritz cracked jokes to a crowd that, for the most part, failed to laugh. Not because Duritz wasn’t funny but because many in the audience didn’t speak English. It made me wonder, what must it be like to play for fans that don’t understand your lyrics but love your music regardless? And, besides coming for the pasta, what would make you want to tour in a country so different from your own? With these questions spinning in my mind, I interviewed Duritz.


I had prepared a litany of questions, akin to an interrogation, but there was no need: Duritz was down to earth and pretty much an open book. In all my research about the band, I couldn’t find anything about what possessed him to do two European tours in less than a year. Could it be that Duritz loves il bel Paese as much as I do?


It turns out, he does, for both personal and professional reasons. Professionally, the band is focused on growing their audience base in Europe over the next five years. Duritz explained, ‘I really wanted to play more in the south for a while, especially staying in Italy, and we hadn’t been getting offers on gigs.’


So, he decided to do something about it. Last February, Duritz traveled back to Europe, and spoke directly with various promoters and asked them, ‘If I were to ask you to help me put together a plan for how to build Counting Crows audience in your country, because we really want to come back, how would we do that?’ The promoters were impressed as it was the first time a lead singer had come to them with such a request. Duritz’s efforts were rewarded. In less than a year, Counting Crows will play four shows in Italy, an almost unheard-of number for an American band.


So what is it about Italy specifically that keeps the Counting Crows wanting to come back? Perhaps it’s because Duritz spent time here when he was younger, backpacking through the major tourist spots, Florence, Rome and Capri. It obviously left an impression, ‘I mean, who doesn’t want to go to Italy?’ he asked me, with a heavy emphasis on Italy.


But it’s different to just ‘like’ Italy versus singing about it on multiple albums. Specifically, I was curious about the song ‘1492,’ and when I brought it up, Duritz laughed, reminiscing of days long past in Milan. ‘I spent a lot of time there doing tours back when I was younger and there was very little daylight seen...except on the way home,’ he joked, continuing more seriously. ‘In fact, the whole second verse is about Milan. It is a very important song for me.’ ‘So,’ I said, ‘when you sing, “into the dark Italian underground,” you’re actually talking about Milan?’ A slight pause, then, ‘Oh yeah!’ he admitted with a very mischievous chuckle. Partying and the Milan club scene aside though, ‘I just love being there,’ Duritz said, with a ring of excitement in his voice. ‘I got to go back to Italy in February and I had a spectacular dinner and this incredible veal,’ he tells me. ‘It was so good!’ Now it was my turn to laugh; even rock stars are rendered star-crossed by the food here.


Besides coming back for the food though, the band also has friends in Italy, who they have known for years, and it’s a big part of the draw to play here. Duritz understands and identifies with these expat friends well. ‘It’s a unique life choice…to go somewhere on the other side of the world; it’s just like being in a band. You chose to do something didn’t do…I relate to that. It’s probably the same kind of life choice you’ve made in some ways,’ he says, referring to my decision to live in Italy.


I was speechless for a minute as I thought about this. After all, I’d never been compared to a world-touring band before, but I could see what Duritz meant. As expats, we choose a path less traveled, scary but insanely rewarding, much like the life of musicians on the road. They leave their loved ones behind to discover new places and do their work, something that, for Duritz, never gets old.


‘To play a full two-hour concert, you really go on a…,’ he paused, then added, ‘this is going to sound sort of cliché…but you really go on a journey. At the end of the night you look around at your band and you’ve been some places with them, and the audience has been some places with you, and it’s really satisfying. Two hours is not a brief thing. It’s a real trek every night and that’s pretty cool I get to do that.’


Bringing up their upcoming summer concert in Pistoia on July 3, I asked Duritz how he felt about playing in piazza del Duomo. ‘I am really excited about it. That kind of venue, an outdoor venue, in a really interesting looking place, bands live for concerts in places like that. It’s the best thing, where you’re part of the history, in the middle of something. Those are the best, the coolest gigs. I can’t wait.’


Neither can I.


Catch the Counting Crows this summer during their Somewhere Under Wonderland 2015 Europe Tour:

July 1: Gardone Riviera – Anfiteatro del Vittoriale

July 3: Pistoia - Pistoia Blues Festival

July 4: Rome – Parco della Musica Auditorium Cavea


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