On Friday (May 21), Counting Crows returned with Butter Miracle Suite One, a four-song, 19-minute song suite that finds Adam Duritz and co. continuing to turn everyday details into poignant songwriting fodder. Produced by Brian Deck and released through BMG, Butter Miracle Suite One represents Counting Crows’ first recording project since 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland, a welcome studio return for one of the most reliable pop-rock touring groups of the past two decades.
For Billboard’s 20 Questions series, Duritz discussed the new project, his writing process, musical upbringing and some of his favorite modern songwriters.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Jackson 5 Greatest Hits on vinyl.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
Jackson 5 in TX circa 1970-71.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
Both doctors. My dad is a neonatologist (high-risk newborns) and mom was a social worker but became a geriatric psychiatrist (mental illness in the elderly).
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
I think I did. As soon as I wrote my first song, I was a songwriter. I’m not sure I felt like I had choice after that.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
I never really [had] one. Do people really make bucket lists? I had a list of places I wanted to play but I played all of them except for CBGB’s and it’s too late for that.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
I grew up all over. Being a kid in Texas, growing up in Berkeley and San Francisco, eventually living in Hollywood and NYC, I think I have an appreciation for the breadth and scope of what makes up America. All those melting pots really made me feel there’s a place for everyone here.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” – The 5th Dimension.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
Big Star in 1972-73 or Rickie Lee Jones in 1981-82. Although, I saw Nirvana in SF the week before they released In Utero in 1993 and I’d kill to see that show again.
9. What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
The cool s–t is all happening onstage. Who watches the crowd?
10. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?
I wrote all these songs before it started.
11. When did the songs for Butter Miracle Suite One begin to formulate?
End of summer into autumn, 2019.
12. What led to the decision to release these four songs as a standalone project, with another suite of songs to follow?
I wrote a suite so we released a suite. There’s not much more of a plan to it than that. Who knows? Maybe there won’t even be a second suite. I know all about yesterday but tomorrow’s kinda up in the air.
13. The new project ends the longest recording gap — seven years — in the band’s history. Although Counting Crows has stayed active and toured during the interim, how do you reflect upon that downtime since 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland?
I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like writing. It’s not really anything new. I’ve always written in bursts – I write a record and then don’t write at all for a few years. Writing songs is so personal that it makes putting out records for the whole world kind of a hassle. I probably need some time to forget what it’s like before I do it all over again.
14. New single “Elevator Boots” touches upon the highs and lows of fame and the touring life. What compelled you to write and release that song now?
I’m dying to say “contractual obligations” but I don’t have any. Honestly, I have no idea.
15. As one of popular music’s longtime storytellers, which modern songwriters do you most appreciate, or look to for inspiration?
There are so many. Dave Le’aupepe from the Australian band Gang of Youths is a genius. I truly love Frances Quinlan of Hop Along. She’s amazing. Sean Barna and Matt Sucich are both brilliant modern voices. Margaret Glaspy is both an incredible singer/songwriter and an unreal guitar player. McKinley Dixon is a great rapper and writer. People need to hear him. Gotta mention both John Ross of Wild Pink and Gabriel Birnbaum of Wilder Maker as well. I will never get tired of hearing anything from Chris Carrabba and Dashboard Confessional.
16. What’s your karaoke go-to?
My go-to is to leave as soon as anyone brings it up.
17. What’s one thing your most devoted fans don’t know about the group?
I have no idea but it’s definitely not something I’d tell you.
18. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
The anime series Plastic Memories had me bawling like a baby. Broke my f–king heart.
19. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
20. What do you hope to accomplish or experience by the end of 2021?
See my family, eat dinner at a restaurant, visit our winery, go back to the farm and write the 2nd suite, finish the book, go on tour, go to the theatre, and stage another successful Underwater Sunshine Festival.