It’s pretty hard to express how amazing it is to get a random email from the management company of one of your favorite bands asking you if you’d be willing to do an exclusive piece of art. There’s a split second when your inner fan-boy basically wakes up and jumps for joy while you take a quick moment to process the opportunity that just landed in your lap! And even though I’ve been lucky enough to call Adam Duritz a friend for a good number of years now, getting a that kind of email from the Counting Crows’ management office was (to put it mildly) a very huge deal.
Over the years, I’ve worked with Adam on a couple projects, including the production of The Outlaw Roadshow, but this was the first time I had ever been asked to do something for the Counting Crows. And as I said, my inner fan-boy danced a little jig at the chance! And beyond simply doing something for the band (which basically ticked off a bucket list item), I was being asked to create an exclusive piece that would accompany the band’s VIP meet-and-greet packages for their summer tour with Rob Thomas. And basically, how cool is that!
Creating something for the most serious of fans was a charge that I took very seriously, and I really loved the group’s concept behind the piece we were going to create. One of the items that those VIP fans would receive would be a custom CD “mix tape” of songs specially curated by Adam. And as someone who considers himself one of those hard-core, VIP fans, I was 100% “in” from the start. And also, as someone who is definitely old enough to remember spending hours and hours perfecting, crafting and honing hundreds of mix-tapes, I felt I was especially suited to the task.
From the start, I knew there were two important objectives: to make the artwork feel personal to Adam and to create something that felt authentic. My first goal involved creating something that felt like it had been found in an old, forgotten box in a dark corner of Adam’s attic. It needed to feel like he could have personally created it, drawn the cover, taken the time to dutifully write the track names, and (like I had always done) developed an over-arching theme to the entire tape - in this case, “summer.”
My second goal of authenticity was no less important. I began remembering all of my old tapes (or any mix tape for that matter), and instantaneously I knew I wanted to this piece to capture that spirit. You know, those homegrown, ballpoint, felt marker, hand-written sparks that one instantly feels when randomly encountering an old, forgotten tape in a drawer. Who created it? Why? What was the theme? What did the artwork mean? Those tapes were very special, personal, and creative moments. That was the magic I was trying to capture. Personally, many of my own mix tapes were far more special than a record I bought at the store.
I quickly started doodling - all the while asking myself, “what would Adam consider to be his favorite memories of summers past?” What would he hold dear, and what would those most dedicated fans of he band also identify with? After all, you can’t forget this piece is for the fans - it’s for people exactly like me. It’s for people who you hope will treat it as a special memento from an amazing experience, and I really wanted to make it relevant and personal.