Adam Duritz and Freeloaders

RSL Interview Exclusive
Music & Film brought to life

Prologue: I am pleased to share with you the thoughts of one of the most creative people in the music industry today. For the two-plus years I have known Adam Duritz, having interviewed him the first time in early 2008 - I have come to appreciate and respect the way he works his ideas to fruition. He worships the live experience and shares a bond with his audiences. Creativity provides purpose and meaning to his life.

I was not born a Counting Crows fan - it's an important distinction I want to make, as you won't have to be either to appreciate what follows.

Ryan Spaulding - We’ve actually talked a couple of times recently about the recently finished Traveling Circus and Medicine Show tour. You’ve been really excited and it’s clearly been a good time for you. Why was this tour so special?

Adam Duritz - Well, I think it was, over the last two years, probably the most enjoyable tour we’ve been on,” Duritz said. “The only one I think that might come close to this was the first sort of headlining tour we did back 1994.”

[Editor’s Note: Adam references the August and Everything After Tour. The album came out in late 1993 and the memories of early 1994 find the Counting Crows on the road and relatively unknown. They had not yet won the rave reviews that would follow soon after. The fact that Duritz connects the Traveling Circus tour with those happy, early days is most noteworthy.]

AdamIt was freezing; Wintertime. The record had only been out for three months. We had just played Saturday Night Live. We hadn’t blown up at all yet. At that point, there was no huge single. The only people who were at these shows – and they were all packed to the gills, were people who had found the album. Music fans who were utterly open, to anything we wanted to do. There was no need for a particular song. There was no need for anything… Just these shows in front of hugely rabid music fans... We could do anything we wanted.

Ryan What was that like for you?

AdamIt was fantastic. You never really get it again. You have an early period in which you’re opening for people. You’re trying to make an impression on people who don’t know your music. Which is great and then if it blows up… And then after that there’s a period of which you have a body of work and hopefully people are pretty much acceptable of anything you are going to play. But there’s that brief period you have when, if you’re lucky enough, you can really pack them into small places and they are open to anything. The people show up and they just want to see what it’s like and they just want to see your band. It’s really about the even playing field of that day, with complete creative freedom, where the audiences really had no judgment of it at all.

Ryan - In those kinds of small spaces, when all those people leaning into you while you play or sing a note, do you find that you giving yourself to an audience more because of that? Has this changed at all?

Adam I think it’s the same, before and after, for me... You also have to remember they didn’t seem like small venues to us back then. I’ve always gotten really lost up on stage. Back then, you got the sense then that (audiences) were willing to get totally lost with you.

Duritz recounts that tour in 1994 – it’s clearly a story he relishes. It’s a series of days that see the Crows evolved from tour opener in small venues but soon they are named headliners with fans on five continents. It all happened over the course of weeks.

Adam Other than that first run, the Circus was the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Duritz produced and has a role in the new wicked offbeat comedy, Freeloaders, which will see its debut this Friday in Los Angeles. Making good on a comment he made to me during our conversation, Adam has organized an affordable, fan-friendly media event at the Ford Amphitheatre that will involve live comedy from Broken Lizard, a live set from Counting Crows and the film. Tickets, again by Durtiz’s design are only $20 – regardless of where fans find their seats. He says he’s doing it to reach people in new ways.

Ryan Can you talk a minute about the new movie, Freeloaders?

Adam Last year I partnered up with the guys from Broken Lizard, the guys who did Super Trooper and Beerfest and we made a really, really funny movie. Dave Gibbs, of Gigolo Aunts and now of Low Stars, co-wrote it (along with Dan Rosen). I’ve been an Executive Producer before but this is the first time I’ve ever actually been a full producer. Along with a couple of guys in Broken Lizard we were doing 17 hours a day on set.

Ryan Tell me about it.

Adam It’s totally different things you do, but it turns out that producing is a lot of the same skill sets as being a band leader. It was a lot of work and a lot of frustration as well. I really enjoyed doing it, I really loved it.

RyanI can't make it out to Los Angeles to see it. When will the rest of us get a chance to see the movie Adam?

Adam Hopefully next year. It’s an indie film. It has to be sold and find distribution. I think it will do okay. It’s very funny – it’s a silly, vulgar, funny movie.

[Ed’s Note: You can see an Actor’s List with a brief synopsis on the film’s IMDB page. The basis for the story is that a well meaning actor offers to help some friends who take advantage of him endlessly. It’s funny in the sense you can imagine our own good friends doing much the same should any of us become successful and famous. Duritz calls it “an untrue story” but he then tells of his ties to old friends in New Orleans – who came to visit his place in Los Angeles and it becomes clear the hilarious story has some basis in fact. There is a lot of friendly banter and laughter throughout.]

Adam - Literally there has not been an episode of Treme where somebody on the show didn’t stay at my house – at least for the first day. (Laughing) I’m not kidding, either. (Now we’re both laughing.) There’s not been an episode yet without a former, call them a Freeloader – because that’s the title of the movie. There were all kinds of musicians and writers – all the friends I made along the way who wanted to come out to LA to quote, un-quote, “make it in LA” came out. I said, ‘come on out, you can stay at my house’ – and they ALL did. Sometimes we had like 20 people living there.

The movie is written as a fictional account of what the fuckers did – behind my back - when I wasn’t around.

AdamThe story centers on the idea that I am getting married and I call my friends that I’m selling the house and I’m moving to New York. In my mind, they’re all going to be happy for me. In their mind, the gravy train just left town. They had been generally fucking me over and when they realize they are going to lose the house, they go into Full “Fuck Adam-mode.” It’s a really funny movie. I want to say none of it happened, but unfortunately some of it did.

Ryan - Do you have a hard time laughing at yourself?

Adam - (considers for a moment then laughs) No, I can laugh about this now…

RyanYou must be comfortable. You made this film and this is public now. You let this be funny instead of this being some kind of drama.

Adam I have no interest in doing dramas. Life is enough of a fucking drama, you know? I want to laugh. I have literally no interest in doing anything but comedies. The movie really isn’t about me. Gibbs is far more a main character in it than I am. The movie is really about a bunch of friends who are a bunch of fuck-ups.

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great interview ryan!

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