Former Soul Coughing Singer Considers Selling His Soul

Major-label deal among considerations for Mike Doughty's next solo LP.

Mike Doughty has been hanging out lately with what he describes as "this incredibly motley collection of guys."

That's something fans might expect from the former singer of quirky rockers Soul Coughing, except that the guys aren't fellow New York City bohemians — they're record label A&R guys eager to release his first solo studio album since Soul Coughing broke up in March of 2000.

"It's like the most incredibly mixed crew of labels you've ever heard of in your life," Doughty explained. "It's like, do I go with the huge conglomerate, go with the big, well-respected indie label, go with the guy with the studio apartment, or put the damn thing out myself? I'm still weighing the options."

Doughty's taking his time with the decision, though he said he hopes to release the album by mid-year. Titled Haughty Melodic, the follow-up to 2002's self-released Smofe + Smang: Live in Minneapolis meets somewhere in the middle of Soul Coughing and Doughty's 1995 acoustic solo debut, Skittish.

Dan Wilson, who shared a few stages with Soul Coughing as the frontman of Semisonic, produced Doughty's album, which includes Smofe + Smang favorites "Madeleine and Nine," "Sunkeneyed Girl" and "Grey Ghost." The two have the same manager, who suggested a collaboration.

"Dan's very much considered a Midwestern rock guy, but he's really deep in terms of his influences, like his jazz thing and his classical thing, and he's definitely an underrated force," Doughty said. "We were talking about Joe Zawinul and Built to Spill and the Magnetic Fields and Elliot Smith ... he's a real musical guy."

In fact, the two learned a cover of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love" for a short co-headlining tour and eventually recorded it. The Haughty Melodic song getting the most attention, however, is the bouncy "Looking at the World Through the Bottom of a Well."

"Not to be a name-dropper, but it's something I spontaneously said to David Johansen one day, who is from the New York Dolls," Doughty said. "I was just hanging out with him and he asked me how I felt, and that's what I said, and he said, 'That's good.' So I wrote it down."

Doughty's favorite track on the album, though, is the love song "Unsingable Name."

"It's about this girl that I went out with that has a name that is really beautiful, but it's just impossible to fit into a song lyric," Doughty explained. "As long as we were going out, I was like, 'I've got to write a song about this girl.' And it was just impossible to fit it in a melody. I'm not going to tell you what the name is, but it was a three-syllable name that ... maybe there's some genius, maybe Burt Bacharach can use it, but I'm at a total loss."

Writing the girl's actual name into the song might not have worked out, but he had better luck once the song was finished.

"I actually wrote it for a movie, which I will decline to name, that was like the iconic failure the year it came out, like such a gigantic flop," Doughty said. "But they rejected it."

Doughty is previewing "Unsingable Name" and other new material on a spring tour.

Mike Doughty tour dates:

  • 4/23 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

  • 5/12 - Urbana, IL @ Canopy Club

  • 5/13 - Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall

  • 5/14 - Indianapolis, IN @ Jammin' on Jersey

  • 5/15 - Bloomington, IN @ Bluebird Nightclub

  • 5/16 - Louisville, KY @ Headliners

  • 5/19 - Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart's

  • 5/21 - Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel

  • 5/22 - Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre

  • 5/23 - Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre

  • 6/5 - Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's

  • 6/6 - Brooklyn, NY @ South Paw