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Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Fame came very suddenly and I felt as if I was losing my mind'

Even as a child, Adam Duritz dreamt big. What would be the point, he wondered, in fantasising about a life in rock 'n' roll, if you didn't go all out? "Because that's how people think," says Adam, vocalist and ringleader with California's Counting Crows.

"When you're a kid, you don't dream of growing up and playing for your favourite team for a week, you know? You dream of growing up and playing with them for a career."

For the record, Adam also dreamt of becoming an astronaut, but hey, the alternative seems to have worked out just fine. And yet, even when Counting Crows - America's dominant force in stadium-prepared, daytime-radio alt rock - were at the height of their fame, selling millions of copies of their celebrated debut, 1993's August and Everything After (featuring global hit, Mr Jones), Adam's mind was elsewhere.

fantasy

"I was a very shy person and [fame] came very suddenly," recalls the dreadlocked singer.

"You get famous, and all of a sudden, millions of people who do not know you at all have an emotional attachment to you, and a sense of ownership over you. And it's just based in fantasy - it's not based in reality at all."

"And I was already someone who had trouble distinguishing those things because I have a dissociative disorder and that makes it hard for, like, the world to seem real sometimes, so then you add to it - everyone else starts acting like they're out of their f***ing minds and, you know, it's like waking up on Mars."

Eventually, he "adjusted to the gravity". Moving from LA to New York helped. But it would be another decade-and-a-half before Adam decided to publicly address his mental health. "There was a time in my life where I really felt like I was losing control," he recalls, "where I felt like I was losing my mind, and that it was just a matter of time before I was locked up. And I didn't want to talk about it then, because there's no sympathy in this world - there's just spectacle. If you're going to fall apart, you don't want to do it in the public eye."

It was only when Adam started to "dig his way up" that he felt it was safe to open up in interviews. It wasn't easy. "At one point, I had checked myself into the psyche ward at UCLA and the day I checked in was the day Mariah Carey checked out, and the public knew about it and they just tore her apart," he says.

"I mean, they faked having a little sympathy here and there, but mostly, it was just about Mariah Carey being 'crazy' and she became a spectacle. And I don't know what she was going through, but I knew what I was going through - and it was horrifying. What I was going through was madness and it was really scary."

These days, Adam is in a better place. He also keeps to himself on tour (Adam says he suffers from "rest-of-day-fright" as opposed to stage fright, and admits to feeling more comfortable on stage than at home). "It's just something I was born with," he says of his disorder. "I would love to not have to deal with it, because it's horrible and it's probably never going to be gone. I'm not going to have a regular life like I was hoping, it's just never going to resolve itself like that. I'm not sure how it's going to work out, but I'm surviving it now. It's not everything I want in life, but I've accomplished a lot of things and I'm not falling apart. That's cool."

In 2014, Adam Duritz turned 50. It was no big deal, he insists. Well, sort of. "On my 30th birthday, we opened for the Rolling Stones," he remembers. "When I turned 40, I was 10 years into a very successful career in rock 'n' roll so ... so I mean really, who cares?

"On the other hand," he laughs, "just last summer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when I woke up and realised I had turned 'old' - that f***ing weirded me out like nobody's business. I don't know, there was just something about like some memory of my grandmother at 50 … it just seemed like 'How is that possible', you know?"

Indeed. Google Adam Duritz and you'll find a long list of articles not so much related to his band but instead, the fact that (a) he has a Tinder account, and (b) he is rumoured to have dated a long list of Hollywood actresses, including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Winona Ryder. Two decades on, and it doesn't surprise him that journalists still write about his love life.

"The fact is that journalists could get through a piece without writing about it," he insists, "they choose not to. For a good reason, I guess. It's just what people want … but half of it's fictional. [The media] have no qualms about making up people I've dated, too, and they really don't know what went on in those relationships that I was in, because I never talked about it."

Admit

But back to the band. Seven albums in - the latest of which, Somewhere Under Wonderland, was released last year - and Counting Crows continue to sell out venues all over the world. Still, Adam admits that he always wants more. For various reasons.

"I'm fine. I don't have a family, I don't have a wife, I don't have a lot of expenses - it's easy. But some of the guys have a lot more responsibility than me and, you know, we're splitting everything seven ways, so I have lot of people to take care of."

They've always had the same crew, too, including Irish tour manager, Tom Mullally. Indeed, having a tour manager from Cork has led to some surprising friendships along the way (Adam counts RTE sports broadcaster Tony O'Donoghue as a pal). "We do have a lot of friends in Ireland," he says. "Tony will come visit us on the road as often as he can. When you're in a band, there's two things you like [about touring]. The place has great food, and it feels like home. For us because of Tom being from Ireland, it always felt a little more like home than most places."

Which reminds me, didn't Adam once write a tune about a walk he took around Stephen's Green? "Jesus, that song was sad," he laughs. "Dublin brought out some sad f***ing songs in me. A beautiful place, though … "

Counting Crows play the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Wednesday, June 24

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