So you feel the renaissance coming, right? I feel like it was really great for us, making that covers record (“Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)”. It revitalized a lot of stuff in the band. So it was a combination of that and working on the play (“Black Sun,” which premiered in Ojai in 2011) that opened me up to writing differently. I’d hit a dead end with the way I was writing.
What changed? After (2008’s) “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings,” that was pretty much the end of that story to me, that particular plot arc, as far as puking my guts out on a piano. Then these songs just started coming out, and at first I thought they weren’t good. Because when you’re used to, say, blue being quality, and all of a sudden things are coming out green? It’s hard to judge it, initially.
What finally convinced you that you hit paydirt? When we finished touring at the end of last summer, I asked some of the Crows guys to come to New York and hang out with me, to help me excavate the song ideas out of all these notebooks, my phone, the computer, and everywhere else I had pieces of music. So I started to pull these things out, and they were flipping out over them. They loved them. And I was like, “Oh, really? OK. Cool.” And then I got even more focused.
How did your play help? With the covers album, you’re playing music by a bunch of other people, and looking at lots of different ways to write music, different ways to rhyme, different viewpoints. And in the play, for the first time in my life I was writing for other voices, for characters that aren’t me. You see, I’ve never seen a Counting Crows show. I’ve watched films of them, but it’s not the same thing. But I watched a play, where other people sang my songs, and that was a big change in perspective for me.
IF YOU GO
Where: Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $39.50 to $85
Contact: (510) 642-9988; www.ticketmaster.com