Counting Crows' Adam Duritz Discusses Mental Health and Metaphors
Duritz (center) has had a dissociative disorder since his early 20s.
Photo by Danny Clinch
Music and mental health have a complicated, reciprocal relationship. Songs can simultaneously settle and exaggerate moods, augment intellect, numb pain, recall thoughts good and bad. Many of music's most magnificent figures have grappled with various degrees of mental instability, experiencing the revelatory peaks and troughs of the human condition.
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz is one of rock 'n' roll's most cinematic songwriters. His
Since his early 20s, Duritz has suffered from what he describes as a dissociative disorder, which can, at times, make his world seem unreal. He perceives everyday scenes like a projection on a movie screen. These experiences create abstract associations between concrete things, as do many of Duritz's lyrics.
Counting Crows will kick off their Somewhere Under Wonderland tour at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre this Thursday. Before the show, Adam spoke with New Times about his lyricism and disconnect.
New Times: When I first heard the song "Dislocation," it reminded me of an interview some time ago in which you mentioned suffering from a dissociative disorder. This song seemed like the first time you explicitly reference this condition in your lyrics. How does your dissociative disorder inform your lyricism and songwriting?
Adam Duritz: It did, does, and will inform every song I ever write probably. The disorder makes it seem like the world isn't very real. It makes it hard to connect with people because I have to force myself to take [the world]
It's important to every single song I've ever written. It's the reason for all of them. I just didn't talk about it for a long time. I didn't know specifically what it was for a long time, but the feeling was always
There was a period when I felt like I was getting worse and worse for years. Then around Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, I felt like I got a handle on it a bit. Not necessarily that I got better, but I stopped getting worse, and I got a grip on where I was. A few years after that, I realized I probably wasn't ever going to be fine.
When you have something wrong with you, you want to get better. You get strep throat and you expect an antibiotic to be healthy again. A lot of things in life work that way, but not everything does. That was a hard realization.
No, I don't think there's anything therapeutic about songwriting. You've got to get your therapy done outside of things like that. But an album is probably a good way of judging how the person is feeling. I might have been feeling better at that point, but I think it's more effect than
That said, if I have to choose a day where I feel like shit and a day I feel like shit and finish a song, I'll take B. At least I was productive. It's always better to do something than just
You described a disconnect from people and places in relation to your dissociative disorder. But in your lyrics, there are always proper-noun people and places. How do you relate your real-world disconnect and your lyrical connection?
A lot of the songs are about connections I've made and lost. That's part of it. But when I started off working, a lot of people said, "You should use less proper names,
These proper names resonate with me because they're real people and places I'm writing about. The details fill out songs. People make the mistake of thinking you should sing about vagueness. But if it resonates for you, it will resonate for them.
Songs call up memories. If you want your song to call up memories, you need to put your own memories in there too — the details, the sense of place, the things that give your world gravity, as opposed to a free-floating series of ideas. The descriptions and the details give the world gravity, which makes it a place that people can live in. Without it, it's just air. People don't live in
Counting Crows with Citizen Cope and Hollis Brown.7 p.m.Thursday, July 30, at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $35 to $195 via livenation.com.
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