Counting Crows counting on 'Candy'
Group forges new sound, copes with acclaim
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Adam Duritz is getting used to being famous. More or less.
The dreadlocked lead singer of Counting Crows was famously uncomfortable in the spotlight after the runaway success of the band's first album, "August and Everything After." The 1993 album was a post-grunge landmark, foregoing screaming guitars in favor of a folk-pop flavor and carefully crafted lyrics.
The band found a ready audience. Duritz was hailed for his skills as a lyricist and "Mr. Jones," the lone upbeat song on "August," became a breakout hit. Counting Crows became the official band of angst, and Duritz its poet laureate.
Which, fittingly, doesn't make Duritz happy, he says during an early-summer interview in Atlanta.
"I'm p---ed off," Duritz says, laughing, of the band's tone. "People pigeonhole your music first, then they pigeonhole you to be like that. ... No one's like that all the time.
"I'm just a normal guy," he shrugs.
Still, fans will look to the music for changes in attitude, and on the band's new album, "Hard Candy," they'll find it. The band recorded the album last year during a time when Duritz was also working on Ryan Adams' "Gold." The band also includes Charles Gillingham, Ben Mize, David Bryson, Matt Malley, David Immergluck, and Dan Vickrey.
The lyrics are still front and center, the pop sensibilities are still evident and more polished, and strings have been added. The first single, "American Girls," marks a definite shift of pop over angst.
Duritz says in his online diary that the changes in tone are intentional. "I guess the main thing for me is that I never want to sound like 'Counting Crows,' " he writes. "The moment it gets that predictable is the moment I know I've lost the ability to do this the way I want to."
The band's big swell of popularity in the U.S., Duritz has said, came when the band was on tour in Europe, and caught them off guard.
"We flew to New Orleans to play Jazzfest and I started getting mobbed. We had gotten famous while we were gone, and we'd had no idea," Duritz told CNN in 1999.
"I didn't know what was going on. That's when I realized that everything had gone through the roof. I can't tell you how scary that was."
Duritz pulled the plug on videos from "August," and the band went for a more pared-down sound on "Recovering the Satellites," the band's second album. The change of tone caught some fans off guard, but Duritz considers "Satellites" a leap forward from "August."
'You people are all insane'
Given his thoughtful lyrics, Duritz attracts a great deal of attention from fans. Now, he has found a way to talk to them while maintaining some measure of his well-known reserve.
While on tour, he has posted to his online diary every few days, replying directly and sometimes contentiously to fans' comments on the band's online message board.
"I know I have to stop reading the message board," Duritz wrote July 23. "I want to read it so I can answer your questions but you people are all insane. Well, at least some of you."
A couple of days later, he was warmer: "That's the weird thing about fame. It's so everywhere at once. Someone disagrees with you in your life you can usually talk to them about it, but it's all anonymous and public out here."
Not that he doesn't appreciate the concern.
"Still, I never do take the time to recognize the good stuff so thanks for reminding me. And thanks for everything else too," Duritz wrote.
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