I’m wrapping up my week of ‘interview replays’ with one I conducted in May of 2006 with David Immergluck of Counting Crows. Enjoy!
Counting Crows made their start in 1993 and have released 5 albums and had a string of hits. On the horizon, they are releasing a live CD, New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall February 6, 2003, recording a new studio album, and heading out on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls.
David Immergluck, best known for being the band’s guitar player and songwriter as well as his work with Camper Van Beethoven, has had a long and illustrious career playing with other such greats as John Hiatt and Sheryl Crow.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for this phone interview to discuss the upcoming tour, song writing, a new Counting Crows’ record, and music in general.
Would you like to tell me a little bit about the upcoming tour?
We’re doing a tour with the Goo Goo Dolls this summer. It’s been a little while since we’ve been out, so we’re excited about it.
We’re a little numb right now. We’re in the middle of recording a record and our heads are just somewhere else. I think the tour is starting in about six weeks or something like that.
A lot of your fans have been wondering when a new studio album was coming.
We went under the radar for awhile after being on the road for 2 – 2 ½ years straight. Everyone is in the fighting spirit right now.
The band has a history of cohabitation while you record. Are you doing that now?
No, not really. We’re doing it in New York. A couple of us are staying with our singer (Adam Duritz). We’ve rented an apartment where some of the other guys are staying. It’s a little different this time because rather than setting up a house, which is historically what the band has done, we’re recording in a proper studio this time.
We literally just started. We’ve only been working for about a week, but we already have a lot of stuff, much to my surprise. I think we’re going to record a block, go on the tour, and then record another block. Hopefully we’ll have it done by the end of the year, but you never know. The way the business works, when the band is done with the record and when the record comes out are two different things. It will probably be quite awhile after.
When you’re in the studio, do you work pretty long days?
Yeah, usually it’s like thirteen hours or something. There’s a lot sitting around. That’s what really kills you, the sitting around and waiting to work.
I’m really happy with the way things are going right now, I have to say. I’m very excited.
How many songs are you recording in this session?
We have about nine right now in various states of completion. Some of them were all ready and some are still being written as we record them. You always end up fine tuning. When you hear it played back in hi-fidelity, you’re like “this part isn’t working” and you rearrange it on the spot. That’s part of the magic of the studio.
I did notice that almost every one of your songs lists at least two or three of you in the writing credits. Is that a direct result of writing while recording?
It happens differently for every song. Sometimes … sometimes it happens in the studio, sometimes Adam and I have gotten together to have think tank sessions. It happens so many different ways.
Do you find, with the music, you can sit down and just write it or is it more like it wakes you up at 2am? Or a little bit of both?
Usually there is some germ of a song that will hit you. You know what I mean? You can’t deny it when you wake up. There’s something going on and you knock into your cassette deck or whatever it is. The germ of the idea has to come from some nebulous inspiration like that, but then you have to go in later and finish it. They all come with different levels of ease. Sometimes it’s obvious what needs to be done and you hammer it out like – bang! Then other times it takes a long time and a long metamorphosis before it’s in a completed state.
Like the song we were working on yesterday. It’s been sitting around in this one state for awhile and I just couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t hitting me right, then we changed just a couple of things, mostly the way the instruments sounded, and suddenly it’s a completely different song now and I’m just in love with it. It’s really amazing.
It’s always a surprise and a mystery, the act of making music; recording it. Mincing music is what I call it when you commit it to the recorded state.
About the live CD, New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall February 6, 2003, is there a particular reason you decided to release this show as a CD?
The recording had some fire to it. It had been awhile since I listened to it and well … first of all, this one was recorded multi track. We record every one of our shows, not multi track but stereo mix, but for this one we had basically brought a studio into the Heineken Hall and just had a lot of stuff to chose from.
In the early days you were a session player, but you didn’t tour with the band until ’99. Was there a reason for that?
Do we have time to go into this? Boy… that was a long and winding time. I just had so much going on musically back then.
You were involved with a lot of other bands at the time. So it was just a time constraint issue?
Definitely. I played with the Crows a bit at the very beginning. I spent most of the mid ’90s playing with John Hiatt, which I equate with musical boot camp. I learned a lot about being a musician by playing with him. It was sort of like going to a master class for a period of years. Looking back, I guess it’s something I personally had to do.
I’ve been doing stuff with Adam, I want to say it was 1984, way way pre-Counting Crows. We’ve had a long long history.
Just musically or as a friendship?
A lot of the Counting Crows’ songs have been used on television and in movies. In most cases do they ask you to write for them or is the music already out there and they pick up on it?
Usually the music is out there and people come ask if they can use it, but some times they come to us to write it. We had a song in the Shrek 2 movie a couple years ago (“Accidentally in Love”) which was done specifically for them.
We had our recording of “Big Yellow Taxi”, the Joni Mitchell song, in a Sandra Bullock movie. The song was already out there. We’ve really had a lot of our songs used that way.
It’s really an incredible amount. Do you find it to be good exposure?
It’s always great. It’s good for the band but there is also something really exciting about it.
I played guitar on this Sheryl Crow song. This was years ago, back in 97, maybe it was 96. It was a B side from her second record.
Anyway, I was with John Hiatt at the time and we’re flying across the ocean, coming back from England. I’ve got the in-flight movies going. On the international flights you have time to watch about five movies and they go in a loop. I had the headphones on and I just passed out. I believe it was yet another Sandra Bullock movie and I just passed out. When I woke up, slowly came to consciousness, there was this music playing and I was like “oh yeah, I love this song … here comes the guitar. Who is this?” I knew the guitar solo intimately and then it was like “Oh wait, that’s me playing.” I had no idea it was in the movie or anything. It was so funny.
So you aren’t always aware the songs are going to be in the movies?
I was not aware of this one until I heard it on the plane in that dream-state. It was vaguely familiar to me and I was trying to pinpoint, “Who is this? Who’s the guitar player on this? I like it.”
Does that ever happen to you when your listening to the Radio? Does it hit you as somewhat familiar, and then you’re … “oh yeah!”?
(laughs)Usually I’m a little more awake when I have the radio on. Actually, I don’t listen to the radio very much. I program my own listening.
I read on one of the websites out there you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 CDs and 3000 albums.
Yeah, it’s something like that. It’s one of my vices definitely. My record collection exists in two cities right now. I can’t really keep it where I live.
I can’t even imagine the space it would require.
I have a bunch of stuff in storage, but my living space is always cluttered with just more and more CDs. I don’t know why that is but I’m just a born consumer of music.
What are some of your favorites?
Again … I don’t think we have time for that (laughs). The list would just go on and on and on. This morning I’ve been listening to The Fall, Infotainment Scan, it’s an album from the late 90s that just got re-issued. It’s killer, just killer. What else do I have up at … I’m staying at Adam’s house right now and I brought a small little collection, oh yeah, Kelly Stoltz, Below the Branches, his new record. There’s the record by The Congo’s, this reggae band from the seventies.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Are there any bands you’d be embarrassed to admit you listen to?
I’m not embarrassed to listen to anything (laughs) but guilty pleasure I’d say Steve Miller band I guess.
There’s nothing wrong with Steve Miller Band
I quite like them. It’s more a guilty pleasure that’s the one I’d pull out or I’d say Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is one, but then that’s like one of the greatest records ever made. So what’s to be embarrassed about?
Absolutely nothing. I also found lots of websites with Counting Crows Ringtones for cell phones?
(Laughs exuberantly) Did Jason put you up to this question?
(My turn to laugh) No, Why? I was going to ask since you listen to so much music if you have a ringtone on your phone?
No, I don’t use a ringtone. I keep my phone on vibrate. But I have this plan to make a ringtone. Now you don’t know me personally, but apparently I have this loud boisterous laugh and everyone is always telling me, “Oh! I need that on my phone!” So I’ve decided I’m going to manufacture a ringtone of my laugh.
I was telling Jason about this so now he’s trying to get in on it. He keeps saying, “Yeah, we’re going to record you…” and I’m like “What do you mean we?” So Jason wants to sell a ringtone of me laughing.
I must say his laugh is loud and fun. I’m sure it would in fact make a wonderful ringtone.
So in recent weeks, I’ve been sort of chiming in on these final episodes of ER. Seems like the end of an era on many levels, but I’ve also been quite intetrested as a writer, to see how they were going to wrap up so many monumental seasons. So far I’ve been pleased, and this next to last episode was no exception. Using the camp for kids with heart issues as a backdrop a lot of personal journeys resolved last night–of course the one I’ve been dying for–Archie/Claudia was one of them. Though the ‘Some day in the future I might…” was a bit unsatisfying, I can live with it. It has only been a few months afterall. Also was thrilled with Dr. Banfield and her hubby getting a baby and the ‘appearance’ that Tony and Sam are working things out. Still would like to see a satisfying ending for Simon, but can live with ‘he’s on the road to personal recovery.”
I expect next weeks final romp will pay tribute to the show’s great history, and don’t expect to see too much in story arc wrap up, expecially given the preview at episode’s end. Should still be a fun, yet tearful goodbye.
Speaking of Goodbyes… Goodbye Michael (AI). It was definately your time to go.