#057: Matt Malley – Life as a Counting Crow

Whether you’re slugging it out in small clubs, or selling millions of albums, there are consistent themes that run through every artist’s experience. Matt Malley, former bass player for the band the Counting Crows, has done both and he shares his experiences as an indie artist and as a member of a major label touring act. Matt joined up with the Counting Crows in 1990, when they were just a California indie band struggling to find a name for themselves in the Bay Area. Little did Matt know that the Counting Crows would soon become a household name. After years of success, platinum albums, and hit songs, Matt left the band in late 2004. Once again he found himself back in the world of indie music, though a bit older and wiser. In 2008, he released his first solo album on CD Baby. Matt’s journey as a musician has become a familiar story as major label artists decide that DIY is sometimes a happy alternative to the rigors of a major label relationship.

In this episode:

Some keys to the Counting Crows success and even a couple mistakes!

An inside look at the Counting Crows as a business

Matt’s tips for up and coming artists

Matt’s solo album is available at CD Baby here http://cdbaby.com/cd/mattmalley

  • Kevin,

    I mean no disrespect but, I do think you kind of missed the boat on this one. Matt came across as quite a genuine and humble person but your line of questions was a bit too fan oriented.

    It was interresting hearing the history of Counting Crows don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I was hoping you’d have delved deeper into Matt’s process now, at some point.

    Sadly, that aspect though touched on lightly, seemed more an after thought than the focus of the interview.

    Still, I enjoyed this episode and I wish Matt all the best of luck in his efforts.

  • Wendell Cotton

    For those of us who haven’t followed the life of Counting Crows or its members closely, this was an interesting and inciteful interview.

    It was interesting to hear Matt speak of accepting, if you will, a position in the “back office” of Counting Crows; and having the maturity to realize same, that it wasn’t anything especially unusual, etc. Matt strikes me as someone adept at reality based thinking.

    Matt’s decision to leave the band in favor of his family underscores the above and can only be cause for tremendous respect.

    My wife and I briefly met Matt shortly after CC signed with Geffen and shortly after they hit it big. My impression of him is as now: a very nice person with a great sense of humor and deep rooted values.

    Thanks for the interview!

  • Tim

    very cool interview Kevin. Keep em coming!

  • Good interview with Adam Duritz here – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8032659.stm – which kind of echoes Matt’s down-to-earth attitude.

    Looks like they’re coping okay too, now that they’re an indie band.

  • Cool! I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing the link.


  • I have to (respectfully) disagree with Robert Lee (no relation) King. I thought this episode of the podcast was one of the best. The questions were great and I think Kevin did an amazing job with his intervieiwing skills. It left me thinking that perhaps Kevin should consider doing this kind of thing full-time. Excellent!

  • Bassist Bill

    I enjoyed the interview too. I’ve heard of Counting Crows, but not heard any of their music (no I don’t live in the USA !^). It was interesting to hear about the band dynamics from someone who’d “made it” – but- I agree with Robert Lee King, I would have found the interview much more *useful* to me as an indie artist if the questions were more along the line of how Matt is approaching his indie music now that he has deep commercial experience & insight.

    Maybe you can approach Matt for a part 2?

    On reflection a few days since listening to the interview I realised that I had no compunction to search for Matt’s music. As a bass player myself I find this interesting – I’m normally drawn to find out more about other bass players I hear about. I think this may be because Matt didn’t enthuse about any specific album (not even his post Counting Crows stuff), or go into details about any particular song. Maybe Matt’s just too laid back! The one project that sounds *really* interesting is the Qawali album – unfortunately Matt considers this album as just a gateway for getting gigs. As I’m never likely to see him live he’s lost me on that one. Good on you Kevin for pointing out the popularity of World Music on CDBaby. If a few tracks were available on the ‘net & I liked them, I might well buy the album & search out his shows if I visit the USA. Currently I’m not likely to do either 8^(

    Also I was very disappointed that the interview was dismissed during the following round table podcast (episode #058) – not enough grist for the indie mill?

    BTW I hope you don’t think I’m just nitpicking! As I said at the start I really enjoyed the interview, and this series of podcasts as a whole.


  • Bassist Bill,

    Thanks for the post! I thought the most useful info on the interview with Matt was the band dynamics and the formation of the band as a business, and it seemed to be pretty much covered in the interview. I personally loved the interview, but I’m a fan as well. I wanted to highlight it more in the round table, but I also wanted to talk to Chris about his tour as well. I thought Chirs’ touring experience might resonate a little more with the audience.

    Addressing Matt’s laid back approach to his music now, I think it IS because of his commercial success. It takes so much time and effort to get to that level, that after you leave, there seem to be two things in play. 1. You’re tired and much of the passion is gone for “making it” 2. You know that it was a chance of a lifetime that will never happen again, so the pursuit of music changes.

    Thanks again for your feedback. I didn’t take it as nitpicking!


  • Jemma

    What a revealing and sincere interview. I found Matt’s Qawwali CD here: http://www.sahajaqawwali.com – there are even streaming audio samples and it sounds awesome. Thank you for this excellent interview – someone should post this at countingcrows.com on their message board – keep up the great work! CD Baby rocks!!!

  • Bassist Bill

    Thanks Jemma,

    Yes, it does sound great. I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing bass in such a traditional context. I’ll obviously have to stay intrigued… Matt’s playing harmonium. 8^)

    Cheers & thanks for the great work!