Counting Crows talk cover songs, Echoes and mental health

Counting Crows in 2013 - Adam (centre) having a pre-tour sit-down
Counting Crows in 2013 - Adam (centre) having a pre-tour sit-down

The college rock kings frontman Adam Duritz is hellishly excited about his band's new live album, Echoes of The Outlaw Roadshow. "It's visceral," he decided. "Medicine". And the UK tour? More so. A longterm diagnosee of Dissociative Identity Disorder, the illness colours most aspects of Adam's life except for one: when he's on stage.

The first of a two-part special, here the California songwriter whizzes through his Echoes favourites and explains how covering other people's songs has made Counting Crows a better live band.

Are you looking forward to touring?

"When I'm playing, life is extraordinary. It's weird because touring is bad for mental illness. You're gone for long periods, perform to huge crowds then go back to a strange hotel room by yourself. That's all bad, in your head. On the other hand, being on stage is incredible - the connection between me and the guys is extraordinary. It's a weird balance but those two hours on stage? Woah! It's beautiful to 'create' like that."

You often come to the UK...

"The UK is special to me - it was the first place we ever went on international tour. It always feels cool to play there, like the reverse Beatles experience. The first time we arrived in England for a show we couldn't sleep because of the time change so we went to a midnight showing of Back Beat in Leicester Square. It was surreal: I was watching a movie of The Beatles going off to Hamburg while I'd gone off to England. It still feels that way; that magic is still there."

Adam duritz on stage

Adam duritz on stage

Adam onstage in New Jersey in July, 2012.© Brian Hineline ./Retna Ltd./Corbis

You'll be playing arrangements from Echoes on this tour. What are the stand-out tracks?

"There's a killer version of Up All Night. We don't play that much in concert because it sounds better with lots of singers, so when we had the Outlaw Roadshow last year we had four bands on-stage and it was perfect. In the encores we started playing Up All Night with, like, 25 of us belting out these huge background vocals. Rain king was more off the cuff. It was recorded last November on the last concert of the tour in LA. We were playing it at the end of the show and, all of a sudden [at 3:15], I launched into Lippy Kids by Elbow. It was a cool moment. Start Again took us a long time to get right but that might be everyone's favourite song in the band. It's not the most dynamic, it's not the most exciting, but it's like medicine. Playing it makes us feel good."

Was there one show in particular where you drew most material from?

"There were so many memories of great performances I didn't want to spend a year listening to them by myself so I said to the band, 'Take two or three shows each, write a review, song by song, and tell me what you get.' There was a bunch of stuff from New Orleans: Untitled (Love Song) , Round Here and Girl From The North Country."

Was it hard making sure everyone's tastes were catered for?

"In a sense. After we cemented the record, I got an email from our engineer [Shawn Dealy] saying it was too long. I thought I'd done the math and was so pissed with myself. I sat there for hours trying to figure out what to take off the record. Everyone had become attached to certain songs so I ended up taking off my favourite, Carriage. It was five in the morning by the time I figured it out, so I went to sleep and when I work up a few hours later Shawn emailed saying, 'My fault. I left in a song you took out last week. Everything's fine!'"

Despite the teething problems, you sound excited about Echoes...

"Something happened to the band when we made [2012 covers album] Underwater Sunshine. Playing songs written by others was like getting to collaborate with a bunch of people who weren't there. When we recorded the album, we played our asses off and when we got out to play concerts we felt like we really were a good live band. I mean, we've always been good but we took this huge leap. We got great. I think it was spending time examining other people's perspective on how to write chords. Maybe not being stuck inside my head did great things for the band? [Echoes] is us at our best. It's visceral."

What are the album's defining qualities?

"It's the record where we've thought about ourselves first. I was comfortable putting on songs that we got fascinated with. Sure there are songs like Round Here and Rain King, but also Four Days, Untitled and Wish I Was A Girl. I'm not sure whether fans look at them the same way we do but we put them on anyway."

Sounds like you've put your tastes ahead of theirs for once.

"Nah, we've always done that! We've never really given a fuck what anyone else wants."

In part two, Adam discusses the art of songwriting and how (so far) it has betrayed him.

Echoes of The Outlaw Roadshow is released via Cooking Vinyl 8 April. The band's six-date tour begins in Birmingham on 19 April.

Tickets are £33.50 adv Reg / £36.50 Bristol / £37.50 London (all subject to booking fee). Online tickets available from Ticketmaster or Live Nation. Check for more info.