Adam Duritz Interview on Counting Crows’ New Charity, GreyBird Foundation

Image Credit: Taylor Spaulding

In our exclusive interview with Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz, we discuss details of the band's long-standing community outreach program and their new charity organization, The GreyBird Foundation.

The world of rock and roll is known for decadence, indulgence, and destruction. Think Van Halen and their “no brown M ‘n Ms” rule, Led Zeppelin’s countless trashed hotel rooms, and all the other sordid tales we’ve seen a thousand times on Behind the Music.

Counting Crows, who’ve been topping the charts for nearly 15 years, should fall right into that category - but instead of spending their millions on drugs, alcohol, and blinged-out mansions, they’ve done something far more radical: Quietly, with little acclaim, they’ve spent much of their career focused on community service, finding ways to provide support and a voice to those in need.

More than a decade ago, the band set up a community outreach program at each of their concerts. The idea came out of a discussion between the group’s singer, Adam Duritz, and his sister, Nicole. Though there was no shortage of benefit concerts out there already, the amount of money spent to organize such shows “seemed really top-heavy,” says Duritz. “It reminded me of a debutante ball.”

Duritz knew that “a lot of people need help every day,” so he and his sister decided to use the band’s concerts as a public platform to provide help and support, and to spotlight causes in local communities. They thought, “let’s go find a park in someone’s town that’s run down, or a women’s shelter in Cleveland, or someone delivering food to people with AIDS in Berkeley,” says Duritz. Then, at each of the band’s shows, they gave the local groups space to share information and collect donations, and Duritz discussed each of the nonprofit groups onstage in front of thousands.

Though the community outreach program is based on dealing with small organizations, the impact of the program has been huge. When women are “beaten by the person they live with, they believe there’s no hope,” says Duritz. “I’ve had quite a few testimonials from people at the shows who went to get a Coke and found a pamphlet for a women’s shelter.” Thanks to these resources, many of those women found the strength to escape from their abusers and change their lives. Other concert attendees who approached the community outreach booths later became the primary funder of an organization in their neighborhoods, providing the capital to make sure the nonprofits are able to help their causes for a long time to come.

Now, the band’s brought their community service agenda to the next level: They recently created their own nonprofit organization, The Greybird Foundation, which is partnered with a group called Kids for Tomorrow that builds schools for children in Nairobi. Their first event, an eBay auction featuring autographed merchandise from the band, a chance to film a Counting Crows video, and other music-related prizes, raised more than $70,000 for the organization. They’re now in the process of lining up more auctions and corporate sponsorships, and are getting other bands, including Dashboard Confessional and Sugarland, on board to raise money for their own causes of choice.

“We liked the idea because none of the things we do [with the community outreach program] bring in money,” says Duritz. “We’re trying to empower people. We really want to say, ‘Look how much can be accomplished.’ Kids for Tomorrow bought the land for their school with $30,000 - with a few dollars, you can accomplish a lot over there.”

The GreyBird Foundation aims to do more than raise money for nonprofit groups, though - for Duritz, “the point of our organization is to remind people that they have a responsibility and a duty to take part,” he says. “There’s nothing you’ll accomplish in this world that’s more important. It’s your town, your country, your world. It belongs to each and every one of us, and we belong to it.”

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