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September 30, 2014

Duritz preps for Counting Crows’ Myth gig, talks Mpls. music scene

When singer-musician Adam Duritz makes a tour stop with his band Counting Crows at the Myth Live Event Center Tuesday in Maplewood, it’ll be about the music first and social engagements second — even though his tour mates happen to be Jakob Dylan and his band, The Wallflowers.

It would seem to be a great opportunity for the two to meet up with Jakob’s dad, Bob Dylan, since the Minnesota music icon is playing in Duluth the same night. But truth be told, Duritz doesn’t even see the younger Dylan that much, even though their bands have been touring together since the middle of June.

Instead, Duritz says he’ll be doing what he always does preparing for the Myth gig: protecting his voice for the fans who are coming to jam with the Counting Crows in concert.

“I’m turning into a hermit a lot of time on tour nowadays since we’re playing much longer shows. When I was younger, I had a lot of trouble with my voice and had to take a lot of steroids to keep it together, so I don’t really do much now,” Duritz told me by phone from the road last week. “Two nights ago we were in Upstate New York, and since we had the night off, I had dinner with my crew in the bar and I saw Jake then. I don’t see him a lot, otherwise, because I really want to play and not to screw up my band’s shows.”

Playing live has long been a passion for Duritz, 48, performing such Counting Crows favorites as “Round Here” and “Hanginaround,” and these days, so much more. Since the band’s 2012 hit live album “Underwater Sunshine” — an acclaimed collection of cover tunes from such artists as Bob Dylan, Graham Parsons, Coby Brown and Teenage Fanclub — Duritz says the band has found a new sort of energy in concert.

“We’ve always been a good live band, but when we started playing the tunes it was incredible,” Duritz observed. “It’s weird after playing more than 20 years together how we could take a jump up like that.”

Duritz admits the new energy is probably was result of his willingness to play other people’s material.

“It really occurred to me how limiting it is, spending your whole career working with one songwriter, which is me,” Duritz said. “It was great seeing how other songwriters work. It was a great thing for the band.”

See a clip from Counting Crows’ recent show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City below.

Counting Crows, of course, burst onto the scene in 1993 with their smash debut album “August and Everything After,” which spawned the hit single “Mr. Jones.” Since then, the group has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.

But knowing the music industry is in a constant state of flux in the age of digital downloads, Duritz and the band are trying a different approach with their latest release: Every person who buys a ticket to one of their shows — including the concert at the Myth — will get a code to download their new live album “Echoes of the Outlaw Road Show.”

The album includes Counting Crows tunes and covers, including performances of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” and “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere.”

“It’s such a new world now with the music business. You just have to try things,” Duritz said. “If there ever was a good blueprint to sell music, it doesn’t exist anymore. We were out touring last year and we wanted to document it — we record every show — so we went through them and found the best stuff.”

The only way to approach the new age of music distribution, Duritz added, is to embrace it, and not fight it.

“You have to keep an open mind in trying to find the best way to get your music out to people, and find the best way to sell tickets,” Duritz said. “For the longest time, the only way music got delivered from bands to people was through the radio.  Now with the Internet, there’s a number of different ways, from Pandora to Spotify, or you can just download certain songs or a whole album. You have to find a way to keep in touch with people, and to do it with ticket sales to our concert was a great opportunity.”

Duritz says the band has swung through Minnesota on every one of its tours, and the stop at the Myth Tuesday will be a first. No matter where the band plays in the state, the musician loves his tour stops in Minnesota, and says he’s fascinated in particular by the rich music history of Minneapolis.

“In the heyday of independent music, Minnesota as a whole was unbelievable. You had Husker Du and the Jayhawks, and of course, Prince. That’s as big a melting pot of music as there can be,” Duritz enthused. “At the time, there wasn’t anything more important to artists than Prince in rock ‘n’ roll — especially in the ’80s and ’90s, when the music scene was so black and white.”

Duritz said the big change then came with the crossover appeal of Prince and Michael Jackson.

“Michael Jackson had his pop thing, but Prince, musically, was like Sly and the Family Stone. It was music for everyone. That was pretty incredible to me,” Duritz recalled. “Prince had one of those runs from ‘Dirty Mind’ to I don’t know where you draw the line, where he was putting out absolutely must-have perfect albums. It was pretty amazing.”

Who: Counting Crows and The Wallflowers

Where: The Myth Live Event Center

When: Tuesday night, July 9, at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $49.50, available at the Myth website.