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For Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, making the music wasn't the most difficult part of the group's new album "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings." In fact, the band recorded it in mere weeks, its fastest time ever. But Duritz's battle to maintain his mental health postponed the release of the group's fifth studio album and delayed touring.
"I was drifting towards being not functioning, in a very negative way," Duritz said of his dissociative disorder. "You just become more and more distant."
While Duritz, 43, loves performing for fans – in part because being around them helps him with his illness – touring takes a toll on him.
"I love playing gigs," he said. "I don't like touring. I tour because we have to tour — because it's magic."
But the competing demands have given him trouble before with the media, which he said misunderstood his condition. "It's very hard for me to tour because of this illness," said Duritz, who has been dealing with the illness for much of his life.
While many people might welcome the chance to travel, Duritz said the constant moving around makes it harder for him to ward off his illness, which generally affects memory, awareness, identity and perception.
The California native — known for his signature dreadlocks and scruffy beard — likes to be around people, friends and family, but touring often has him alone in hotel rooms for many nights of the year.
Waking Up on Saturdays and Sundays
From his struggle to balance the demands came the first part of the new album, "Saturday Nights."
"I reached my lowest low," Duritz said.
As the five-year New York City resident began to feel better and get healthy, he envisioned a companion piece, "Sunday Morning."
"I was doing a little better. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Duritz, who along with his bandmates recorded some of the album in his New York City apartment six blocks away from the studio.
But the Crows' album isn't a record of redemption and recovery.
"Sunday Mornings isn't about being better," Duritz said. It's really about when a person has wrecked his life for so long and doesn't know how to fix it, but wants to do so."
As with all the songs he writes, Duritz's tunes on the record are all about him, but it has nothing to do with hubris or an intense need for introspection.
"I'm the only one living here with me," he said. "I don't know what else to write about. They're all about how I feel about being me. I don't know too much about anybody else."
Duritz has penned songs about friends and former loves, but never about a concept.
"I could never write a protest song," Duritz said. For him, he said, feelings produce songs and then concepts; concepts don't produce songs.
A Band of Brothers
Duritz's journey with the Crows is nearly two decades long. The band, which includes David Immerglück, David Bryson, Jim Bogios, Charles Gillingham, Millard Powers and Dan Vickrey, has been together for 18 years.
In an artistically eclectic decade filled with iconic melodies, the Counting Crows achieved stardom on a grunge-heavy 1990s musical scene. The same year flannel shirts, Seattle, ratty hair and gangster rap had a stranglehold on the pop culture landscape, the alternative rock San Francisco-based band released its debut album and shot to the No. 2 spot with "Mr. Jones."
The tale – about two struggling artists who search for fame in order to be loved – became a Top 40 staple in 1994 and even surpassed R&B piper R. Kelly's "Bump 'n Grind."
Today, after several hit singles and millions of record sales, the Crows still are like brothers, despite their success.
"We do this together," the singer said. "They know how much I respect them. We don't have ego problems in our band."
"The proof is in the pudding," he added. "No one has ever quit our band."
But former band member Ben Mize did retire from the group after deciding he wanted to have a family, Duritz said. The two remain close and speak often.
Duritz's admiration for his fellow musicians comes across in his tone and description.
"We work together," he said. "They understand every nuance in my voice, I don't think the public and the critics understand what a great band they are."
A Normal Life
But often times the dark-haired crooner has found a lot of attention focused on his personal life, rather than the band. Tabloids have linked the San Francisco native to a slew of famous femmes including "Friends" stars Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox.
"They don't report on my love life, they invent my love life," Duritz said of tabloid speculation about his personal life.
He's often cited as a former flame of Winona Ryder.
"I've never dated Winona Ryder." he said. "I don't really know her. I don't think I've seen her in ten years."
He said the coverage has often been difficult for the women he actually was dating.
"The girls I'm dating at the time never really think it's funny that I'm dating someone else," he said. "I've never cheated on anyone in my life."
Any misrepresentations disturb him. "If I read I went to the bathroom and I didn't go to the bathroom that upsets me," he said.
That's because Durtiz is a man who longs for normalcy. He loves to spend time with his family and friends and doesn't party or go clubbing. He visits Berkeley often.
Had it been up to him, he would have his own family by now. But he wanted to make sure he got his health in check first.
"I would have settled down a long time ago, but I wasn't healthy. I shouldn't have had children," Duritz said. "I'm a normal guy. I want the same things people want."
And he is normal, minus the fame and fortune. He always gives up his subway seat and never takes a taxi cab. It's part of what endears him to his fans and has helped mold his intimate relationship with them.
So, for them the band continues to tour – every record means one and a half to two years on the road.
"'I'm still here because I put the work in," Duritz said, "even these last few years when I was losing my mind and it kicked my ass."
"I appreciate it and I never take it for granted," he added. "I'm not pissing it away."