Health

Adam Duritz Talks About His 'Downward Spiral'

03/27/2008 at 02:10 PM EDT

Adam Duritz Talks About His 'Downward Spiral'
Adam Duritz
Gene Shaw/Landov
It hasn't been an easy road for Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz. While touring the world and performing onstage for adoring fans, the "Mr. Jones" singer was battling severe depression and an inability to connect with people, he reveals to PEOPLE.

"I've been dealing with mental illness," Duritz, 43, says. "But I didn't want to say anything for a long time. I went crazy. It was scary."

After years of not knowing exactly what was wrong with him, he recently found a doctor who diagnosed him with a disassociative disorder, which can distort reality for those who have it.

"Being crazy is bad," he says. "It's scary when the world isn't real to you. You come untethered. Everything seems imaginary. You look around the room and nothing seems real. You don't feel pain. I stopped letting myself feel."

Now, almost six years since the release of their 2002 hit album Hard Candy, the Counting Crows are back with their newest studio album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, a double album inspired by the painful emotional journey Duritz experienced.

"The album [out March 25] is about a downward spiral, losing my mind and about trying to get it back," he says. "Not about getting it back but trying to get it back."

The album is divided as such: "The Saturday Nights record is about madness and spiraling out of control and disillusionment," explains Duritz. "The Sunday Mornings record is mostly about failing at the things you're trying to do when you are getting better. It's not redemption, necessarily. It's more like the hangover."

As Far Away Mentally as I Can Be

One of his lowest moments came on tour, when he lost two of the people he was closest to on the same day. "We were in Perth and in one 10-minute period I got a text message from my girlfriend telling me that I needed to get out of her life – eight minutes after the phone call from my mother that my grandmother had died.

"So not only am I as [far] away physically as I could be in Perth, which is farthest city from any major city on earth – but I am as far away mentally as I can be. So I lost a girl and my grandmother at the same time."

His grandmother's health deteriorated severely after a stroke. "In the last five years of her life I barely saw her because I was always working. She didn't recognize me. To her I was this fat, hairy, bearded guy with dreadlocks. I think I scared her some of the time. And then it was too late."

Instead of boarding a plane back to the United States for his grandmother's funeral, he decided to continue with the tour – with his "obligations." It was a friend's tough words that convinced him otherwise. "I thought about everything all night long. I decided to go to the funeral. Getting from Perth to Baltimore is not easy in one day," Duritz says.

All in a Song

The song, "Hanging Tree," reflects the angst he felt during this time. "It's about losing that girl. It's a snapshot about when I am very much in love but I know I have to leave ... I wasn't good at being caring. It was a lot to handle me. I was 10,000 miles away and I wasn't there for her."

The saddest song on the album is "On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago," he says. "It goes, 'Come around. I'm still here.' And the band is still here. We're still here 18 years later because we work our asses off. No matter what was going on in my private life, I played my heart out up there. The hours onstage are magic. I love playing gigs. I have been so lucky to have this one in a billion chance to do what I love."

And life is certainly better for him these days. "My friends are trying to find a wife for me," he says. "I'm dating a girl right now and a bunch of people are coming up to me and saying, ‘We love her. We love her.' " As for his take on her: "She's wonderful. I'm lucky to know her."

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