Adam Duritz, the lead singer of Counting Crows, stopped by The Bobby Bones Show to share how he almost quit music, what inspired their song “Mr. Jones,” how he got asked to do a song for Shrek and more!
Duritz was naturally drawn to the stage from an early age. When he was 12, he sang to a group of girls and to his surprise received a positive response from them, so he started a band and went from there. He jokingly said he figured out that, “All you need in life is to find something you’re really good at to do in front of girls.” Throughout high school he played in mostly funk cover bands, but he didn’t stick to one genre of music. He had a good diversity of music growing up in Oakland, California, so he thought playing music meant everything, not just one genre. He was never in one particular scene, he just liked listening to and playing all types of music and experimenting. But it wasn’t until his freshman year of college that he wrote his first song, that was inspired by his sister called “Good Morning Little Sister.” Before that, he didn’t know you could do music for a living, but once he learned that it was like a light switch going off, he described. He was 18 and while all his friends were trying to discover themselves, he figured out that he was a songwriter. He started writing songs every day, so much so that it consumed his life and affected his schoolwork. When he would write papers, his teachers would ask him to rewrite it in a way that didn’t sound like a poem.
Duritz was more driven by his passion for music than naturally good at it. He confessed he’s not a good piano player, he can’t play by ear and fumbles along most of the time. To him, the reward he gets from making music is feeling like he can self-express himself through it. Before he made his own music, he didn’t know who he was or what to do with all his thoughts and feelings. When he started to write songs, he found he could take all that stuff inside of him and make it into art as a form of self-expression. Writing became such a part of his life that while he was student at Berkley, he never turned in his final thesis and was only one credit away from getting his degree. He has a lot of appreciation for where he went to college because he learned how to be a writer there, and the education was important, but to him, the degree was not important.
After college he fell behind while all his friends got real jobs after graduation, and he didn’t know what to do to make money. He spent 10 years doing random jobs to make ends meet, while still creating music on the side when he was in his first real adult band. But being in that band led him to almost quit music. He shared that it was hard being in a collaborative art form and there were lots of fighting and disagreements. They couldn’t separate the conflicts from the music and their friendship, and it turned him off from wanting to pursue that lifestyle anymore. So, he quit music in his head for a little while and went backpacking in Europe to distance himself. When he arrived back home, he knew he had to get back into making music. He said that everyone who does any form of art will go through a moment where it isn’t fun to them anymore. So, they take a break and if they fully stop, they realize it was just a hobby. But if you get over the hump, you realize it’s more than just a hobby for you.
When Duritz arrived back home and decided to start making music again, one of the first songs he wrote was “Mr. Jones.” The song was inspired by his friend, Marty Jones, but he said it’s a song more about himself. He was at a bar with Jones and his father who was performing, when they saw Kenney Dale Johnson, the drummer for Chris Isaak, and he was sitting with three women. He and his friend thought it’d be so easy to talk to girls if they were rock stars, so when he got home, he wrote a song about it. That song gave Counting Crows their first breakthrough, but it didn’t happen fast. Their fame had been building for a while when they got asked to perform “Mr. Jones” on SNL. At the time, the song was low on the charts and didn’t have much impact, but after their performance, it jumped 40 spots on the chart and became a big hit. He recalled the moment he truly felt like he made it was when he was in Birmingham, Alabama playing a show and had an off day, so he went to a local movie theatre. He was the only one in the theatre, until a man sat right next to him and said he was a big fan. He left and started calling people to tell them Duritz was there. Shortly after, an employee came into the theatre and told him about the crowd that had formed outside for him and asked if he wanted to sneak out of the back alley to avoid the crowd. While on his way out, he turned around and had a mob of people chase him down the street until he got to his hotel. He felt completely unprepared when the band blew up, especially in moments like that.
Duritz recalled when he received a call from Dream Works asking him to come to the studio to watch a scene from the movie, Shrek, because they wanted him to write a song for it. After seeing the vision they were going for, he took it home and started working on a song and created “Accidentally in Love.” He was so excited when he got asked to make a song for that movie because he said animated movies are the one thing in culture that are timeless, multi-generational and spans all cultures. It was also a chance to expand his music to a younger fan base. He loved creating the song for Shrek because it will be there forever and it’s a good movie and song, he is proud of.
Counting Crows are currently on tour and Duritz considers his road crew who has been with him for 30 years to be like his family. Doing music for a living once started as a pipe dream for him that now he gets to call a reality, and he’s happy with his life.