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Q: "Big Yellow Taxi" has been something of a radio sleeper success. How did you hook-up with Vanessa Carlton?
I'd love to tell you that I asked her mid-shag to sing on our new single, but darling, it's just not the case. Actually, Ron Fair, the guy we were collaborating with on the song, produced her record, and it was through him that she wound up on "Big Yellow Taxi". Yes ladies and gentlemen, through the miracle of modern recording technology, Vanessa Carlton sang on our record in L.A. while we were playing a show somewhere in Germany. I never even got to lay eyes on her!
Q: Why did you choose to remake "BYT," which was originally done by Joni Mitchell?
Well, there certainly wasn't any sort of sinister "brain-trust" decision-making going on; a good song's a good song after all.
When we were finished recording "Hard Candy", we kept the studio up and running for a few more days and bashed out about 14 cover songs real quick. "Big Yellow Taxi" was just one among the many, but it came out so good we decided to do more with it and put it on the album.
Joni Mitchell's really one of our living treasures, isn't she! ("She took it all too far, but boy could she play guitar...")
Q: A lot of reviews for "Hard Candy" say that Counting Crows has stayed consistent with the sound it became successful with on "August." What's your take on this?
Huh, I guess that's fine with me. I mean, we ARE basically still the same people, and we're not chasing any fads or trends, so it doesn't surprise me that we sound like Counting Crows. Still, we've got 10 years behind us and we can't help but develop as a band, so to me we're quite a bit different and more diverse now than the band that made "August And Everything After". Of course, I'm probably too close to it all, and a discerning fan would no doubt know more about this kind of thing than me.
Q: You've been out since '93 when "Mr. Jones" dropped huge, what's the Crows philosophy on success after a decade?
I look around me and realize that the fact that we're still here after a decade is a huge success unto itself! Obviously an outrageous amount of accolade was accorded "August And Everything After", but the real success is being able to get up onstage every night 10 years down the pike, and make a healthy living playing music we love and believe in. I also actually enjoy the company of my band mates, which is amazing in it's own way, as we basically live on top of each other most of the year.
Q: How do feel about today's musical climate?
It's not particularly anything I recognize from when I was growing up as an obsessed music fan. I mean, like in any era, there's always great shit happening; it just seems a lot harder for a young person to accidentally come across stuff now. They've turned marketing into such a high detailed science; it's really hard to get past what people decide they're going to try to sell to you.
Q: How do you see yourselves fitting into that?
In a lot of ways we exist outside and despite all the micro/macro marketing that goes on. I just got back from a month long tour of Europe with the Crows, and that new single "Crazy In Love" by Beonc? Knowles (sp.?) and Jay-z is really hot right now. I mean, it's literally played every 14 and 1/2 minutes on MTV (you'll see the video easily 3 to 4 times an hour), it's in the background at the clothing boutique you're in, it's coming out of the p.a. before Coldplay come on stage at the Southside Festival in Germany, everybody's dancing to it (including you) late night at the bar in Ireland after the Counting Crows show. I've never seen any thing like it-the song is everywhere, all the time (thank god it's actually pretty killer)! Someone at Clear Channel must have decided that this song was going to get the "Big Push". Counting Crows obviously don't currently enjoy that kind of promotional attention, nor are we at the "eye of the hurricane" of any kind of pop culture zeitgeist, but I can't help thinking our genuine love and belief in what we do, and our obstinacy in sticking to our own path, speaks to a whole lot of people and has allowed us to still be a growing concern after 10 years. Do I sound jealous? Naw, just fascinated, although I do find Beonc? unbearably gorgeous!
Q: What's in your CD player right now?
Oh, it's a weird one...I happen to be listening to a Weather Report bootleg from a show in Germany in 1978. It must be them touring on "Mr. Gone" (a totally underrated and bizarre album!). Jaco Pastorious is definitely in the band...I think I saw them on this tour at The Greek Theater in Berkeley, which certainly dates me, and definitely makes some people question my musical taste, but hey kids, ya can't be afraid of a little Weather Report!
About an hour ago I was listening to "Murmur" by R.E.M. We just saw them play outside Brussels at a festival we were also playing at, and I'm not gonna lie-they completely blew me away! They're touring all over America this summer, and I highly recommend you check it out. I'm systematically reconsidering their entire catalogue, desperately trying to recapture the magic of the set we saw them throw down the other night. We had to leave before they were through, so it was a bit of the old "coitus interruptus"!
Earlier today I was driving in my car listening to the new Tricky cd, "Vulnerable" and also the first Fairport Convention album, simply titled "Fairport Convention". They're both worlds apart from each other, yet similar in their extreme level of excellence, which is what I'm always looking for anyway. You might not like driving around with me though, cuz I seriously crank it!
Q: Who are some of the artists that you like what they're doing right now?
Hey, don't get me started; the list goes on and on! Let's see...
Radiohead (obviously), The White Stripes (just cuz they're hip doesn't mean they're not excellent!), The Moore Brothers (who?...ya better look ?em up!) Audioslave (come on!), Jurassic 5 ("What's Golden"- best song of the year!), Rza (freaky Wu-Tang genius), Justin Timberlake (deal with it!), The Neptunes (masters of the universe), Tricky (sexy, sexy, sexy...), Bob Dylan (hell yeah, I LOVE his latest albums!), Guided By Voices (ahh, to be stoned again...), Queens Of The Stone Age (rawk my nards!)...see what I mean? I'll prattle on and on. Ehh, I'm always keen to check up on whatever Stereolab are doing, or The Beta Band, or The Fall, or R.L.Burnside, or...
Q: You're touring with John Mayer, who had a big year. How did that happen?
The package tour got presented to us while we were on tour in Europe earlier this year, and we all thought it sounded like a good idea, so we gave it the "go-movie". I think it's going to give us the opportunity to win over a whole lot of new fans that wouldn't normally know about us, and let's face it, we're into spreading the word. That is what we're doing out here on the road, isn't it? Someone please tell me, cuz I haven't spent a solid 7 days in my own home in the last 8 months...
Q: You'll be in Philly at the Tweeter Center on August 16th- what's the first word you think of when you hear "Philadelphia."
"Cheese Steak". What are the names of those two cheese steak places kitty corner from each other with the heavy rivalry between them? One's sort of neon clean and the other's kinda 70's raunchy? I like the raunchy joint!
Back when I was playing with John Hiatt, whenever we came through Philly we'd always get a runner to stock the bus with an inordinate amount of the gawdawful things so we could have a major pig-out after the show as we drove out of town-a practice I always seemed to regret about an hour later, if you know what I mean; but as the saying goes, when in Philadelphia, do as the Romans.
Q: Every band leaves a legacy, what will be the Counting Crows?
In addition to our high quality musical oeuvre, I hope we leave an exhaustive dining guide of our favorite places to eat around the world, for all the young, hopeful and gluttonous bands coming hot on our heels. Kids, I can tell ya, we've done the research! A word to the wise-"Don't settle for Denny's!"
Q: What's the next single we can expect from "Candy"?
I'm not completely sure, but I believe we've got "Richard Manuel Is Dead" (or is that "All My love To You"? I can't keep track of what people call it!) coming out as a single shortly. Here's hoping, cuz I love the song!