Counting Crows
Counting Crows
Photo: RED LIGHT MANAGMENT
Adam Duritz

Counting Crows' Adam Duritz talks working on kibbutz and surprising origins of Mr. Jones

Ahead of rock group's first concert in Israel on September 14, frontman of legendary American band talks to Ynetnews about visiting the Holy Land for first time in 40 years and Joni Mitchell loving his cover of Big Yellow Taxi

Yulia Karra |
Published: 09.04.22, 13:54
When music lovers in Israel and around the world think of American rock band Counting Crows, one of the first things that undoubtedly comes to mind is the group's charismatic frontman Adam Duritz, characterized by his melodic voice and signature dreadlocks.
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  • Duritz had rocked the dreadlock look for nearly three decades, until recently deciding "on a whim" to do a makeover, in a move that perhaps signals a new chapter for him and the band. The new chapter also appears to include new venues and destinations for performances - one of which happens to be Israel.
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    Adam Duritz
    Adam Duritz
    Adam Duritz
    (Photo: Mark Seliger)
    Playing shows at any place new after a 30-year career is exciting, Duritz said in a recent Zoom call with Ynetnews, ahead of Counting Crows’ first ever performance in Israel on September 14 at the Ra’anana Amphitheater.
    It is especially so for the singer, who is of the Russian Jewish origin, when it comes to the Holy Land - the place he hasn't visited since he was 18.
    "I’m very excited. I’ve visited before but thrilled about getting to play. Hopefully I’ll have time to explore as well," he says.
    The show is Israel is part of a world tour, promoting the band's 2021 EP, titled "Butter Miracle Suite One." But, to say the band's discography is vast would be an understatement. Their catalogue includes 1993 multiplatinum debut "August and Everything After," as well as a hit single "Accidently In Love" - which was on the soundtrack of the animated film Shrek 2 and won the band an Oscar, Emmy and Grammy nominations
    "I have no idea what the show [in Israel] will be like. We don’t write the setlist for a show until sometime after dinner that night. I know we’ll play the entire suite that night but it’s only about 20 minutes long, so there’s plenty of concert left to play songs from every record," Duritz says, adding that "summer evening in Tel Aviv" is the perfect atmosphere for a concert.

    Work on a kibbutz

    As a teen, the singer worked at Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel. The kibbutz has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years, having become one of the most frequently targeted places by rocket fire from Gaza. But, some 40 years ago, the kibbutz was operating in the truest sense of its definition.
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    קאונטינג קרואוז
    קאונטינג קרואוז
    Counting Crows
    (Photo: RED LIGHT MANAGMENT)
    "It taught me what work is," he says. "To wake up at the break of dawn everyday to work with your hands."
    Duritz recalled one time getting into trouble over throwing an apple at someone, while working at an apple field. He also recalls having to clean the chicken coop. "It was disgusting."
    The singer said his work at the kibbutz helped him get acquainted with manual labor. As a result, he was able to finds work in construction as well as landscape to support himself while trying to make it in the music business.
    And, if you're one for anecdotes, the person who helped Duritz get his first construction gig was his former bandmate Marty Jones, whose father was an acclaimed flamenco musician in Spain. Jones and his father were the ones who inspired Counting Crows' arguably biggest hit to date - Mr. Jones. The single was very popular in Israel, reaching Gold status on the local charts with 20,000 copies sold.

    'Pandemic was longest I haven't played since starting in music'

    The band's current tour is even more significant given the fact that like most musicians, they were was unable to tour for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    4 View gallery
    Counting Crows
    Counting Crows
    Counting Crows
    (Photo: RED LIGHT MANAGMENT)
    "It has been the longest I have gone without performing since starting in music," Duritz says.
    He added that he didn't try to stage shows within health restrictions like many other artists, such as rooftop concerts, due to living in New York - where coronavirus was raging during the first infection wave. But he said he did take part in virtual performances.
    "It sucked, but what are you going to do? Everyone had to put life on hold."
    The absence from stage during the pandemic did not make Duritz lose his musical powers, and neither did him cutting his signature dreadlocks - like a modern day Samson. "But I call my girlfriend Delilah now," he laughs.
    "I decided on a whim while at the farm in England. I just shaved my head; I was thinking about it for a while and then I just did it. When my girlfriend woke up, she screamed because she didn’t know who I was. But I love it."
    He admits that sometimes he misses being recognized as frequently as he used to, but he enjoys the easiness with which he is able to wash his hair now.

    Joni Mitchell is also a fan

    Even if you are not a huge fan of Counting Crows, you may have heard the band's cover of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi on the radio sometime back in 2003. The cover, which features "Thousand Miles" singer Vanessa Carlton, became a hit - to the dismay of some music publications. Some critics at the time slammed the band deemed as "mainstream" for covering an anti-establishment, protest song.
    Duritz says although he does not completely ignore the opinion of critics when it comes to his work, in this particular case he could not care less. "You know who liked the cover? Joni!" he says smiling.
    "When I played it for Joni, she loved it. She flipped, and she turned around and asked me if I wanted to hear the record she was working on. So I spent the afternoon in her studio listening to all the songs on TRAVELOGUE with her, and chatting about life and music.
    "Once Joni Mitchell tells you she loves your cover of her song, who cares what some guy thinks who doesn’t even play music?"

    No requests for boycott

    Finally, the band's show in Israel may also signal some good news on the international cultural front for the Jewish state. When asked whether him or the band have been approached by organizations promoting a cultural boycott of Israel, like many other artists, he said that was not the case.
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    Counting Crows Butter Miracle Tour poster
    Counting Crows Butter Miracle Tour poster
    Counting Crows Butter Miracle Tour poster
    (Photo: Courtesy management)
    "I have not, but every single interview I’ve done with Israeli media keeps asking me about it! So far, it’s been a positive ride."
    Maybe Israelis can take it as a sign that the boycott movement has run out of steam just in time for Counting Crows to perform on our soil.
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