On Aug. 15, Grammy and Academy Award-nominated rock band Counting Crows is scheduled to make their 17th career stop in metro Detroit with a performance at Meadow Brook Amphitheatre. The show comes on the heels of two canceled performances in Boston and Youngstown, which were postponed due to a COVID-19 diagnosis within the touring party. Despite the hiccup, the band plans to proceed with Sunday’s show, during which they’ll support their new four-song EP Butter Miracle Suite One. Released in April, the EP is Counting Crows’ first new material since 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland.
Prior to the start of the tour, we spoke with lead singer and songwriter Adam Duritz about the new songs, touring in the time of COVID, and his passion for all things music.
Hour Detroit: Butter Miracle Suite One, which you wrote while staying on a farm in the English countryside, is composed of four songs that flow into one another. Why did you decide to structure the EP that way?
Adam Duritz: It really was kind of an accident. I was playing [the first track] “Tall Grass” back to myself, I was trying to figure out if it was done or not. I was messing around with the chords at the end…and then I sang this line, “Bobby was a kid from ‘round the town,” which is from “Elevator Boots.” But at the time I just thought, maybe this is a longer song. After a little while, I realized, no, this is a different song. But I loved the way it just flowed right out of the song before it, and I couldn’t help thinking, ‘What if I wrote a series of songs where the end of one is the beginning of another, like a suite?’ I got really excited. And then I was kind of feverish about writing. I wanted to record, I wanted to make a record. It was the first time I’d had any of those desires in a little while.
Are there plans for a part two?
I just got back from England. I spent time over there writing, so I’ve got the songs for a new suite. [They’re] not quite finished yet, but pretty much all there, just needs some tightening up. I’m going to try to do another one. There was no plan in the beginning to do that, but that is what I’m trying to do now.
The lyrics to “Elevator Boots” read like an ode to touring. Are you excited to get back on the road and play shows?
I have to admit some concerns. I know vaccination is everyone’s personal decision, but I want people to come back out and go to shows, and I’m not sure it’s safe to be there if you’re not vaccinated. I’ve tried to move almost all the shows to outdoor [venues] so they’re safer, but with the new variant, it’s much more contagious. I do worry about the crowds, and I hope they take some precautions and get vaccinated. It’s important, especially so we can all get back to life.
Previous to Butter Miracle, it had been seven years since the last Counting Crows album. Did anything change for you personally during that time?
Well, I sort of settled down with my girlfriend, which was really a lifesaver, because I think this pandemic would have been brutal alone. So, that was a big difference, and I think that also made it okay for me to not prioritize [writing] music for a bit. Putting out a record involves the whole world, and press, and record companies…and I was just staying away from that whole business side of it for a while. I wanted to just play gigs and hang with the band. And I think one of the reasons that was okay was because I was happy.
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You make cooking videos, and you’re the co-owner of a winery now — any other side projects you’re excited about?
Me and some friends have been putting on Underwater Sunshine Festival for a few years now. We had to take these [last] two years off, but…we’re gonna do it at the end of this tour again. We’re finishing [the Counting Crows tour] in New York, and then the festival happens over three or four nights. It’s an indie music festival and I’m real proud of that — we’ve managed to make it free for everyone, and we expose a lot of people to a lot of really good bands.
There’s [also] the Underwater Sunshine podcast that me and [journalist] James Campion do, where we just geek out and talk about music. Of course, that’s been on the rocks for a year and a half now, too. But I’m really looking forward to that and the festival.
Counting Crows have played a lot of shows in Detroit over the years. What do you guys like about the Motor City?
A lot of my friends played for the Red Wings when we were younger, so coming to Detroit was always great. We’d stay in Birmingham where a lot of them lived. I have a lot of really good memories of all those guys coming out to the shows. Birmingham is a nice little town, and it was great, in the middle of a tour, to get to settle in this little town with ice cream parlors and see our friends. A lot of touring is about being on your own, playing for strangers, and Detroit was always kind of great because…we got to see a lot [of friends].
What should fans know when they come to see you at Meadow Brook?
Tell people to come out early, because [the opening acts] are pretty brilliant. They’ll knock you out.
Tickets for the Counting Crows show start at $29. Aug. 18. Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, 160 Festival Dr., Rochester Hills; 313-471-7000; meadowbrookamphitheatre.com.