Adam Duritz speaks in the same manner that he sings: Each sentence flows into the next. It's hard to tell what he means and nearly impossible to tell what he wants.
The Counting Crows vocalist loves his band but hates his schedule. He wants to be with his friends and family but he “never returns their phone calls.” His best friend, Crows drummer Ben Mize, announced recently that he is leaving the band and the only thing Duritz can do is be happy for him.
Duritz is full of contradiction.
“Life is about making a choice of how to find your way through it,” Duritz says. “This is what we do and this is what it demands. It's not great. People always say, ‘Don't complain about this,' but I will give you the straight honest pitch about what it's like.”
Duritz asserts that no, he wouldn't trade the rock life for anything, since this is what he's dreamt since he was a kid. He doesn't, however, avoid paraphrasing classic Journey songs.
“It's murder on a family, it's impossible on relationships and there's a lot of things I hate about it,” he says. “But there's a lot of things I like about it and I'm here and it just comes to a point where the negatives outweigh the positives.”
Excuse Mr. Duritz if he's a bit down. He spent last night drinking excessively in a lesbian bar in Ohio and his morning is a bit fuzzy. Life for Duritz isn't quite as gloriously bright as the sun that's creeping in from his tour bus window.
“I've said this a million times to people: The upside of being self-employed is you can do whatever you want and the downside is that the only thing you're allowed to want is to work,” Duritz chuckles.
“That's the only way it works. Believe me, the people running every business are workaholics. Everybody else gets an eight-hour day or whatever and that may seem like drudgery but the people that are running it are the workaholics and same here, too. But at least your life is filled with your choices.”
Duritz has made a lot of choices. Emerging from the Bay Area coffee house scene in the early '90s, Duritz ditched his Berkeley thesis to start Counting Crows with guitarist David Bryson. The pair hooked up with bassist Matt Malley, keysman Charles Gillingham and drummer Steve Bowman and recorded their debut hit, August and Everything After, soon after. Guitarists Dan Vickrey, David Immergluck and drummer Mize joined up for later albums.
The fresh-faced group of 20-somethings that hit the road in 1993 was a decidedly different clan than the road-tested assembly that is currently roaming American highways in support of the Crows' latest, Hard Candy. And things will soon change when Mize leaves.
“Ben's not a kid dreaming about being in a rock band anymore,” Duritz sighs. “He's spent the last eight and a half years of his life on the road and his dream came true. He knows what it's all about and he's realizing that he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life doing this. And I totally understand it.
“I'm honestly a little bit heartbroken 'cause I love the guy, but I'm not surprised at all because he's been miserable lately. I felt like it was just breaking his heart being away from [his wife] Amy. Our schedule sucks, it's fucking brutal, it really is. I spent six of the last nine years away from home. It's a weird way to live your life and if I knew another way I would do it. I just don't know another way.”
“I've thought about doing what [Ben's] doing, but the band dies without me going on the road,” Duritz continues. “There's a lot of people depending on me. I like my band. I don't know another way to do this. I don't have anything else to do with my life. Ben has other interests, but I don't. I'm not that way. This is who I am. I don't see any other options for myself.
“I mean, what would we do if we split up? You're still left with what you're doing the rest of your life. This is draining emotionally but it's also exciting about finding someone new because the band is going to change now. That's exciting. You can always make something change for the better.”
And with that, Duritz seems to fashion up some sense of assertive aggressiveness about his career, about his life and about this specific morning. As his last sentence leaves his lips and creeps across the phone lines, he's suddenly stricken with an abrupt chuckle.
“I think people confuse doing the thing you want to do with a perfect life,” he smirks. “They get all bitchy when you complain about it but the truth is, life isn't perfect and there's a big difference between doing what you choose to do and being happy-happy, joy-joy all the time.
“But it's your own life! I don't undervalue that and I don't take that for granted. The thing I dreamed about doing when I was a little kid is the thing that almost nobody gets to end up doing and I'm here... in fucking East Lansing, Michigan!”
I can tell he's smiling for the first time this morning.