Counting Crows Working on First Album of New Material Since 2008

Photos: Scenes From SXSW 2012

March 16: Adam Duritz of The Counting Crows performs onstage at BMI Showcase.

With "Black Sun," his stage musical collaboration with playwright Stephen Belber, currently on hold, Adam Duritz has put a new Counting Crows album into motion -- the group's first of original material since 2008's "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings."

"It took me awhile to shift back to writing for Counting Crows, in that vein, but now I'm there," Duritz tells Billboard. "We've got about four or five pieces of music; we haven't finished any of them yet, but there are four or five songs I've been working on. We've been playing them with the band in sound checks on the last tour, down in Australia. We had a little time to work on them and the band really liked them. I just have to finish writing them now and get some more (songs) going and then get us back in the studio."

That will likely happen in late July or August, after Counting Crows finishes a run of summer shows that includes a tour with the Wallflowers. Duritz says the group might preview some of the new songs during those concerts "if I get them finished to the point where they're ready for that. If something's ready to play in a gig we've never had any hesitation doing that." And he predicts there will be a marked influence from making last year's covers set "Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)."

"It had a huge effect on the band, making that covers record," Duritz explains. "To me, there wasn't that much difference between making 'Underwater Sunshine' and an album where I wrote the songs. It would be different if we treated it as a karaoke album and just went in and learned the songs, but we often never played the original version for the band before we recorded it, so it still felt like a Counting Crows record to me -- except I didn't write the songs. And it really opened the band up to work with other people's ideas. It was like collaborating with people who weren't there, and it made us better. It was a great thing to do. It's an incredible waste to spend your entire career working with only one songwriter."

Counting Crows hit the road with the Wallflowers on June 14, repeating a tour the two bands did during the summer of 1997. Fans buying tickets to the shows will receive a free download road for the group's new live album, "Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow," a 15-track set recorded during 2012.

Duritz and company have no plans to commemorate this year's 20th anniversary of their first album, "August and Everything After," following a 2007 deluxe edition of the set as well as a 2011 live album featuring the debut in its entirety. "That time seems to have past. We did all that other stuff already -- the deluxe album, the live album," Duritz says. "I'm sure we could think of something to do if we wanted, but it would only be a money grab. Most people have paid for the album three times now. I think that's enough."

Duritz says the group is still considering doing some sort of deluxe package of its second album, 1996's "Recovering the Satellites," which will likely incorporate the vast array of video footage it has rather than additional audio material since the session tapes have mysteriously "disappeared." "We have a lot of cool stuff," Duritz notes, "but I don't know if we'll do it soon or wait another three years, when it'll be 20 years for that one. We'll see."

The "Black Sun" musical, meanwhile, is "just sort of sitting right now" while Belber is working on the film adaptation of his 2004 play "Match." "We had to put the play on hold, which I understand; when you have the opportunity to make a movie, you need to do that," Duritz says. "And while that was going on I wanted to shift to doing something for the band, which is good. It's about time for that, anyway. I felt with the play I was letting that slip, so it feels good to be back in that (band) frame of mind again."