Counting Crows come calling

Updated Oct 05, 2015

Counting Crows last played in Austin in the summer of 2014, about a month before the band’s seventh album, “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” was released. When the band, famous for songs such as “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here” and “A Long December,” returns to ACL Live on Wednesday, expect a show that features a mix of big hits, now-well-practiced songs from the new album and maybe some spontaneous covers.

“If we don’t want to play a song, we just don’t play it that night, so you don’t get people onstage just slogging through something they feel like they have to do,” said lead singer Adam Duritz. “We play exactly what we want to play every night.”

We recently spoke to Duritz by phone about everything from highlights of the current tour to the possibility of collaborating with Taylor Swift. The following are some excerpts from the interview.

Austin American-Statesman: How is the tour going?

Adam Duritz: It’s been great. We’ve been going pretty steadily for a couple of years now. I think everybody’s ready to go hibernate somewhere, but we’re playing the best shows of our life, and I think that’s keeping everybody on their feet.

What songs are you having fun playing right now?

There’s generally something from every record in every show. It tends to be kind of all over the place. Lately I’ve been really loving playing “Goodnight Elisabeth.” We have a version of it that’s mixed in with Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” and it’s just been really, really cool lately. I’ve also been really loving “Elvis Went to Hollywood.” I don’t know why but that’s just been killing me lately.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Austin, particularly during South by Southwest, but your tour schedule this round doesn’t allow you to attend ACL Fest. What are you looking forward to doing while you’re here?

I have a lot of friends in Austin. Some of my best friends moved down there years ago, and a lot of bands I recorded with are in Austin. I just want to see my friends.

You played a lot of European shows this summer. How did you enjoy those?

I love it, personally. I really love it. I still remember very clearly being an indie band getting on college radio and playing the clubs in San Francisco, and the idea that your music reaches England and Holland and Germany and Ireland is just really cool. You get on stage in Spain, and your music has really reached a lot of people at that point, it’s really gone thousands and thousands of miles. I love playing over there.

You all frequently do covers and even released an album of them (2012’s “Underwater Sunshine”). Your friend Ryan Adams recently covered Taylor Swift’s “1989” from start to finish. Is there any artist you would consider covering in this way?

I don’t know. I think it’s really cool. The band that’s opening the tour for us, Hollis Brown, they play before Citizen Cope, (they have an) album that is a start-to-finish cover of Velvet Underground’s “Loaded,” and it’s really good. I love interpreting other people’s material. An integral part of being a musician is not just writing but interpreting. I love doing that. Absolutely love it. … I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about doing a whole record — there’s just so many songs out there you want to play. But I think it’s cool that (Adams) did it.

Do you have any interesting collaborations on your radar?

My friend Chris Carrabba, from Dashboard Confessional, he moved to Nashville and I guess he’s done some writing with Taylor Swift. He wanted me to come down and sit with him and her and do some writing. I’m not really big on planning ahead on stuff, but I would do anything with Chris. I love the guy, he’s great. I love his music.

Who do you consider your favorite singer?

I really love Sandy Denny. She was an amazing singer. A truly beautiful singer. I loved Alex Chilton’s voice. I love Frank Sinatra. … I always really loved Ella Fitzgerald. I got to see her play when I was kid, man she was something. There’s just so many great singers. I always love Steve Earle. … A lot of people think of Bob Dylan as not being a good singer and more of a songwriter but, for my money, when he really had his voice there, he was one of the best singers ever. His phrasing, his ability to spit out a song, I thought he was an incredible singer when he was younger.

How did you feel about the Austin show last year?

I thought it was a great show. It was one of those ones where you’ve got a lot of friends in the audience, a lot of friends who are musicians and good singers and good players. That’s an audience filled with your peers, so you really want to show off. … I don’t think we have off shows anymore, but I think we don’t always have people to celebrate with after like we did in Austin that time.

The tour wraps up this month. What’s your plan once it’s over?

I’ve been working on some ideas for songs, putting ideas in my phone, my computer. I’d like to get together later in the year and start writing. I could see recording in the winter, but it’s not really scheduled out. … I also need to finish cleaning my house. My parents sold the house I grew up in in California this year and they sent me about 80 boxes of childhood, 60 of which were comic books. It took me months to go through all that crap, put them all in order, and there’s still all this vinyl sitting out at my house, every itinerary the band ever had. They kept everything. They kept everything.