As a young thrash fan, Frank found it hard to replicate the complicated riffs found in his record collection. But after hearing Counting Crows’ 1993 debut album, he picked up an acoustic guitar and the rest, as they say, is history…
“I was 11 or 12 when I first got into music… I was into thrash,” says Frank. “Thrash, though, is hard to play when you’re beginning to learn the guitar. But my older sister was into the first Counting Crows record, August And Everything After, which came out in September 1993. That record is all open chords and easy stuff to play and, partly because it was quite easy, but mostly because it kept my sister happy, I learned how to play a bunch of those songs. Initially, I really don’t think I was that into the band. But, over time, as I played the songs more and more often, I grew to love that album and each of their subsequent releases.
“I wonder if one of the reasons that I got into was the fact that my first experience of them was working out how to play their songs. I unpicked them and sang them for myself, it got me singing about songwriting as something that was separate to the guitar virtuosos I was hearing in the thrash I liked.
“I now feel very strongly that Adam Duritz’s songwriting forms the foundations of my opinions and my view of songwriting. Duritz is a phenomenal writer and great lyricist. His melodies are brilliant, but there’s a rawness, honesty and passion to what he does and what they do as a band. I’ve always loved that and their records sound as fresh now as they always did. I saw them live just the other day and they were brilliant.”
“Counting Crows reimagine and rework their songs a lot, they change them around when they play live. I do that too and I took it straight from them. Doing that teaches you that each song has a skeleton in terms of its chord structure, melody and words, but you can flesh that skeleton out in many different ways. That’s a very good discipline for songwriting and arrangement.
“Their best record is their third one, This Desert Life. But I should add that their most recent, Somewhere Under Wonderland is brilliant as well. I’d hate to pick my favourite songs though. But I will. Anna Begins is a heartbreaker. Goddammit, it’s a real heartbreaker. It’s a song about sleeping with somebody you used to be friends with, and then it’s about how everything falls apart. It’s painfully brilliant to listen to. I would also choose Mrs Potter’s Lullaby from This Desert Life too. As well as being a great song, it’s a masterclass in arrangement: it only has three chords in it but it’s seven-and-a-half minutes long and it never gets boring.
“Were they ever fashionable? I never really thought about it. I wasn’t savvy enough when I got into them to work out where they fitted in the grand scheme of things. If I’m honest, I just think of them as a country band. In fact, I think they sound like The Band. I think that might be the secret of their longevity. They’ve always been a band based on good songwriting and that shines through sooner or later.”