A couple of sources from Counting Crows' recent past were particularly impactful on the group's latest album, "Somewhere Under Wonderful."
During the interim between its Sept. 2 release and the group's last album of all-new material, 2008's "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings," Counting Crows recorded a covers album, 2012's "Underwater Sunshine...," while frontman Adam Duritz wrote a stage musical, "Black Sun, with playwright Stephen Beiber. And Duritz fully acknowledges that "you can see how ('Somewhere Under Wonderful') was formed by those two projects."
"With 'Underwater Sunshine,' maybe because they weren't my songs, I think you the group just took a lot more ownership of it as a collective," explains Duritz, 50, who founded Counting Crows during 1991 in Berkeley, Calif., and has fronted the band through seven albums and hits such as "Mr. Jones," "Hanginaround" and "Accidentally In Love" from the "Shrek 2" soundtrack. "They just dove into the songs a lot more aggressively -- the guitars are more aggressive, the drums are more playful -- and after a year and a half of being on our with that, when we went in to record this record, everyone was more possessive, in a good way."
With the musical, meanwhile, Duritz notes that "it was the first time in my life I ever wrote for characters that weren't me, for other voices and other people. I just started writing all these songs that were a little weirder than songs in the past; there were more spaceships and different things, a wider range of ideas.
"At first I thought these songs were less personal, then friends said no, they're more personal."
I think that opened the (new) songs up a lot more and I let myself be a little more imaginative than maybe I was before."
Counting Crows approached "Somewhere Under Wonderland's" in a more collective fashion, with bassist Millard Powers and guitarist David Bryson and David Immergluck joining Duritz at his New York home for songwriting sessions.
"We only really wrote nine songs," he says. "I wanted to make, like, a record-record, something digestible, and nine songs just seemed about right.
"Everybody makes hour-long CDs, and I really didn't want to do that. I really wanted to make a record-length record, the size of the bite I used to take when I bought records growing up. Once I finished the last song, "John Appleseed's Lament," I didn't want to write anymore.
"Somewhere Under Wonderland" also finds Counting Crows back in the major label world, with Capitol Records, after going independent for "Underwater Sunshine." Duritz says there were several offers on the table, but the group wasn't necessarily looking for another major deal at the time.
"I really liked being independent, honestly, and I was very hesitant to change that," he says. "We're not looking for big paydays now; we're just looking for good partners. We got a bunch of offers and narrowed them down to two big indies and two majors, with the option of doing it ourselves, too.
"The meetings with Capitol just kind of went really well. They were OK with 'Palisades Park,' an eight-and-a-half minute song, being the first thing people heard from the album. They're what we were looking for, someone who was willing to put together an album-promotion campaign that showed people what we were like."
93.9 The River Winter Icebreaker with Counting Crows and Twin Forks
Tuesday, Dec. 9. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Tickets are $40-$75.
Call 313-961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.
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