So the singer and songsmith behind such 1990s radio hits as Round Here, Rain King and Mr. Jones and such stylistically disparate albums as 1993's smash debut August and Everything After (which sold over 7 million copies) and 2007's distinctive covers collection Underwater Sunshine was both pleased and surprised to find his band booked as the headline attraction at this weekend's Master Musicians Festival in Somerset.
"It's funny," Duritz said. "You tour forever and then realize, 'How do we keep missing these places?' But we do it. We still manage to miss these places over and over again. That's why we said yes when they told us about the festival down there because it's been a long time since we've been in Kentucky. We've played in Louisville on occasion, but not a lot."
Counting Crows' performance Saturday evening comes as a new chapter of its career unfolds. Last spring, the band completed what Duritz promises as a very different new album ("It's not like anything we've ever done before") as an indie act. But it will issue the project, titled Somewhere Under Wonderland, this fall as the first release under a new contract with Capitol Records.
"It's really cool," Duritz said of the new recording. "The songwriting is different — the lyric writing, especially. The tunes are very emotional. But the record has also got humor, which I've never allowed myself to write with before.
"My songs come mostly from my life. Even with this record, where there are stories, the emotional weight always comes from how I feel about things. But the imagery in the stories that I'm trying to tell is a lot different this time. They are a lot more impressionistic. I've allowed myself to be a lot freer with imagery on this record."
Somewhere Under Wonderland comes at a time when the record industry is in great flux, with sales of product plummeting and major labels investing less in the cultivation of new artists. But as an act set to release its next album on a major label after recording the work entirely on its own, Counting Crows is using what is left of the record industry to full advantage.
"Some of the greatest songs ever are being written right now," Duritz said. "You just have to look for them. They may be a little harder to find, but they're out there. I mean music is being made by really good musicians all over the place.
"We did get lucky and make it. But it's going to be very hard for us to sell close to 10 million copies ever again. I mean, it will probably never happen again for us. I don't even know if we'll sell a million copies again. Maybe we will. Maybe this album will be different because it's been awhile and people are hungry for it,"
Somewhere Under Wonderland is Counting Crows' first album of new songs since 2008's Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings.
"I don't know. I do know that we were free to make it. It was affordable for us to make a record ourselves so we could bring a finished record to the record companies. Normally, they're telling us what we need to do with it, which is nothing we ever listened to anyway. But now it's not an issue because it's done."
Counting Crows' independent stance carries a level of responsibility, too. To that end, Duritz said he can live happily with the career choices he and his band have made over the past two decades.
"I'm thrilled that it's all worked out how it has. We're still doing this and I still feel very clean about it. I don't have a lot of regrets in my life. I have friends that have so many regrets about their musical careers because they did things they didn't want to do or there was a place in their careers where they should have done something and didn't. I don't really have many feelings like that.
"We may have made some wrong choices, but they were all our choices. I can feel a lot better about that. Love it or hate it, this career has been our career and it's been about all the choices that we made as a band. Plus, I've got these friends that I've been playing with for 20 years. I mean, I just like the jazz of being in a band. I never wanted to be a solo artist. That just seemed lonely and awful. But being in a band is really cool. There's just something really, really great about it."
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.