New album to crow about at Bluesfest
IT'S a long life full of long nights, Adam Duritz sings on the opening track of Somewhere Under Wonderland.
The Counting Crows lead singer, known for his introspective and sometimes morose lyrics, ventures into new territory on the Berkley rock band's long-awaited seventh studio album.
It has been heralded as a return to form for the group, which has sold more than 20 million albums since rising to fame in the early '90s with the college jukebox hit Mr Jones.
One critic even branded it their best work since their debut album August and Everything After.
Duritz has never preoccupied himself with critical reviews, although he admits it "makes the job easier".
"Everybody is vulnerable (to) blowing in the wind of what's cool - musicians, critics and fans alike," he tells APN.
"Music is your personal cool. You literally wear it on your T-shirt. You define yourself by the bands you listen to. It's much more of an emotional touchstone than other arts.
"It sort of sucks for musicians sometimes getting battered around in that.
"You've got to take it with a grain of salt."
Somewhere Under Wonderland is the first original material the band has released since 2008's Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings (Duritz is keen to point out it was not a hiatus, as he continued to write Counting Crows songs over the six years and the band released a covers album).
Eight-minute album opener Palisades Park marks a lyrical watershed moment for Duritz after more than 20 years of writing brooding and self-absorbed songs.
"I thought it was important for songs to be about how you feel and I didn't know what I could put a lot of feeling into except songs about myself," he says, reflecting back on his career.
"I'd been feeling kind of trapped in people's expectations of some sort of storyline I was supposed to be living. I didn't know how to affect the plot line of my life."
Writing the score for the play Black Sun, in collaboration with playwright Stephen Belber, which starred Evan Rachel Wood, four years ago changed the way he approached songwriting.
"It wasn't until I worked on the play (that I was able to write songs) that weren't about me per se, but were about how I felt with completely different situations and settings," he says.
The band headlines this Easter long weekend's Byron Bay Bluesfest after first playing the festival two years ago.
Duritz remembers it fondly as a "great festival" with a "great audience".
The tour, which also takes in four capital city shows, is also a chance for him to catch up with some Aussie mates.
Duritz called it a "great luxury" that his job takes him around the world.
"When I was young, I ended up backpacking around Europe with these two Australian guys and girls. We were really close friends when we were kids back then," he says.
"Then you don't see each other years, but the great thing is I have a job that takes me back down there. It's like nothing has changed. They're married with kids, but other than that, it's like it's still the same."
During the height of the band's fame, a lot of attention was paid to who Duritz was dating.
He was linked to a string of famous women, including Friends stars Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox, and has been very public about how depersonalisation disorder, which he was diagnosed with in 2008, has affected his relationships.
He's now 50, single and without kids. But the dreadlocked rocker also seems to be at peace and enjoying being back on the road with his band.
Bluesfest punters can expect to hear at least half the songs off the new album when the band closes the Mojo stage tonight, although Duritz says the set list changes night to night.
The Counting Crows plays the Mojo stage tonight at 10.45pm.