Counting Crows, after about two decades together, still tries to stay in the moment. The veteran alternative-rock group, best known for its hit "Mr. Jones," never performs the same set two nights in a row, according to lead singer Adam Duritz.
Instead, Duritz solicits ideas from the band, crew and sometimes the opening band, before deciding what to perform.
"There's nothing sacred about a set, except people have to want to play it," says Duritz, who performs with the band and opener The Wallflowers 8 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.
Counting Crows has long enjoyed complete musical freedom –– Duritz says the band gave up a bigger pay day when it signed its first deal to ensure creative control.
"I don't think there was any difference between our first album and second album –– we always had total freedom to do it our own way," Duritz says. "We had complete creative freedom in the deal –– we traded away a huge amount of money to get that. We always made the records we wanted to make."
The band, like so many veteran acts, is now fully in charge of its destiny, having opted to go the indie route. Counting Crows is touring behind its 2012 collection of covers called "Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)," and is planning a return to the studio later this year.
The band also recorded a live album, "Echoes of The Outlaw Roadshow," released as a bonus edition to "Sunshine" in Europe and England, that's included at no extra charge with each ticket.
"We thought it was a great record, and wanted to do something with it," Duritz says.
This flexible approach is part of the new reality of the music business. In the past, the band's label might have tried to talk members out of giving away product.
"No one knows what the rule or the magic bullet is for succeeding," Duritz says of the music business today. "The nice thing is being able to try new things. Sometimes you just want people to hear your music or increase your email list."
For Duritz, who is the band's chief songwriter, that creative freedom has extended to collaborating on a play with writer Stephen Belber. The work in progress was developed in part at the Ojai Writer's Conference.
"One of the reasons I didn't record an album (of original material) last year was I didn't want to write for two things at the same time," Duritz says. "I'm shifting back to writing for the band."
No matter the platform, Duritz mines his life for his material.
"You write about your life –– you write about how you feel about things," he says. "I don't think it's really changed at all. Maybe it's a different subject matter. If you live in New York, you write songs about New York. If you live in L.A., you write songs about L.A.
"It's still just your life. Maybe it's more embroiled in other people's concerns, but it wouldn't change the way you write. People think too much about this mythical thing called pressure the world puts on you. Who cares?"
A thread running through his songs is his ongoing struggle with mental illness. Duritz says he's been diagnosed with depersonalization disorder.
"It's in all my songs," he says. "It's part of life. It's certainly part of mine. I think that's what's not understood about what's going on in my head. I think it seems like I was writing songs about falling in and out of love, but there was a lot more going on than that."
As a practical matter, Duritz says the disorder is "a weird thing to live with," but that he's coping.
"I don't know that it's better. I don't think it's a lot worse. I think I've got a handle on it, so it's not like sliding down a hole any more," he says. "I'm a little more on stable ground these days."
Counting Crows and The Wallflowers go way back
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz still had his "day job" –– bartending at Los Angeles celebrity hangout The Viper Room in the mid-'90s–– when he met another fledgling artist, Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers.
Since then each band has hit it big –– Counting Crows with its 1994 debut "August and Everything After" and The Wallflowers with its 1996 sophomore release, "Bringing Down the Horse," which features Duritz singing background vocals on "6th Avenue Heartache."
The two old friends have reunited for their current 22-date tour, with The Wallflowers as openers. The latter got back together in late 2011 after a hiatus and is touring behind "Glad All Over."
"We haven't see those guys in a long time," Duritz says. "When somebody (asked) if we wanted to take them out, I thought it would be great."
Having worked recently with indie bands at South by Southwest and on its own tours, Duritz wanted to keep the summer tour straightforward.
"I've been doing more work promoting the bands," Duritz says. "This summer, I just wanted to get out for a little while. I wanted to write and get ready to record. When someone suggested The Wallflowers, it seemed like a no-brainer."