Today’s Feature, July 12-13: Jonathan Coulton

January 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm (Today's Feature)

XXQs: Jonathan Coulton (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Jonathan Coulton (JC): I’ve always been into music, and grew up in a musical family. When I was just a kid I used to sing harmony with my Mom when we were in the car, and I took piano lessons, messed around on the guitar, and played drums in the school band.

PEV: Was there a certain event that made you decide to leave your job for music?

JC: It was when my daughter was born – suddenly I felt particularly mortal and it seemed like there was never going to be a better time to give it a shot. I also felt like a role model, and it seemed important to set an example by living honestly.

PEV: What was the first day like, after you left your job (writing software) and realized you were really going to do this project, “Thing a Week”? Fear? Excitement? Nerves?

JC: I think the first day was probably pretty awesome, just in that way it feels when you’re playing hookey. And I’ve always found it thrilling to make big changes – it’s awfully scary leading up to it, but once you pull the trigger it always feels great.

PEV: What can someone expect from a live Jonathan Coultan live performance?

JC: I mostly play solo with an acoustic guitar, though I’m frequently joined by friends and fellow musicians Paul and Storm. When we play sets together they add vocals and some shaker action to a few songs, which is always really fun. And of course, you never know if there will be a ukulele player joining me on a song or tow.

PEV: What is the secret to coming up with a song a week? What has been the oddest theme for song?

JC: The secret is just to do it. Actually, there are quite a few of those weekly songs that I think are not very good, but that’s the nature of the thing. It’s actually very easy to do SOMETHING every week if you’re not concerned about it being perfect every time. Though I always was pretty concerned about it being perfect, which is why it was often sort of excruciating.

PEV: Personally I’m a fan of “Code Monkey” but out of all your songs which one tends to get the most attention or comments?

JC: Code Monkey is definitely up there. But the Baby Got Back cover still gets a lot of comments – many of them along the lines of “this sucks LOL!”

PEV: Describe the feeling of knowing that you could actually make a living as a musician.

JC: It’s very satisfying. I feel incredibly lucky that things have worked out for me the way they have, and I’m surprised and delighted every time I run the numbers and discover that I’m still making a living.

PEV: When you are not writing or performing, what can we find you doing?

JC: Answering emails.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Jonathan Coultan? JC: I have never played Dungeons and Dragons.

PEV: What kind of environment do you prefer to be in when you write music?

JC: I usually have to mix it up. Sometimes it’s good to be alone in a room with a guitar, but there are definitely times when it’s better to be riding around on a bike singing whatever pops into my head. And of course a lot of the process happens when I’m not actively writing, so I need to remember to relax and have fun doing other things too, especially when I get stuck.

PEV: You’ve been compared to major artists such as “They Might Be Giants”, “Barenaked Ladies” and “Loudon Wainwright III” (to name a few) but which artist today would you most like to collaborate with?

JC: I’m a huge fan of They Might Be Giants, and I’d be thrilled to collaborate with them. Although they’re so awesome that they scare me a little.

PEV: What is the weirdest response you have received about your site/music?

JC: I posted a link to a funny recording of a guy trying to cancel his AOL account, and still continue to receive comments on that post from people who think I am with AOL and ask me to cancel their account for them.

PEV: Your dedicated fans, people have volunteered their services to design videos, sites, CD covers and many other items for you, free of charge. How does it feel to know that you have such a dedicated following?

JC: It’s great – I’m obviously very grateful to all the people who have contributed, and it’s amazing to me that people have the kind of free time it takes to put stuff like that together.

PEV: You often refer to yourself as a “geek”. Why is it so important for people to embrace their inner “geek-factor” (this interviewer included)?

JC: Well, I think that in many ways being a geek is about having a passion. You can be a WoW geek or a law geek or a finance geek – whatever it is, denying your inner fan boy keeps you away from the things you care about.

PEV: What do you do when you hit a “creative brick wall”?

JC: It’s always important to get away from it. I find that when I’m playing guitar my fingers actually decide what to do more than my brain does, so if I get stuck there I just have to put it down and do something else for a while. And then usually something just pops out of my brain.

PEV: What is the best advice you can give to a guy working a desk job, who dreams of a career in music or art?

JC: It’s probably a good idea to do both things for a while until you get the art thing going a bit – your day job is your friend. While you’re making money you actually have the freedom to do whatever kind of art you want without worrying about how you’ll make money.

PEV: Living in New York, what is your favorite part of the city and why?

JC: I think the parks are pretty amazing – it’s surreal to be in this big city, walk a few blocks, and then suddenly find yourself in the middle of a forest with no city in sight.

PEV: What is the music scene like in New York and how is it different from the other cities you’ve played?

JC: It’s always been harder for me to draw a big crowd in New York than in cities like Boston, Seattle or San Francisco. I think there are not many geeks here in NY, or if there are, they are afraid of enjoying themselves. I know I am.

PEV: What is in your CD player or on you iPod, right now?

JC: I’m listening to XTC Skylarking.

PEV: So, what is next for Jonathan Coulton?

JC: Still waiting for the next big thing to present itself. I’m enjoying playing live a lot now that there are actually audiences, so I’ll keep touring. And I’ve starting writing again, which feels good. The last song I did this live streaming of the recording process, which I found interesting and fun, so I’ll probably do some more of that. Who know!

For more information on Jonathan Coulton, check out:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: