His days of leading avant-rock outfit Soul Coughing are long behind him, but singer-songwriter Mike Doughty continues to carve out a sturdy solo career with releases like the well-received 2005 disc Haughty Melodic and his most recent, 2008’s Golden Delicious. Doughty will play Tuesday night at Hotel Cafe and Wednesday night at Largo as part of a duo with fellow musician Andrew “Scrap” Livingston in what is being dubbed “The Question Jar Show.” The premise? Audience members write questions pieces of paper and place them in a jar before the show. Between each song, Doughty will pull a question or two from the jar and answer it. A simple idea, yes, but also a good example of why Doughty remains a fan favorite. Doughty sat down with Decider to talk about back-in-the-day blogging, The Question Jar, and what he hopes to find in it.
Decider: How did the idea for "The Question Jar Show" come about?
Mike Doughty: One of my favorite parts of playing live is having a dialogue with the audience, and it's hard when you're straining to hear what the single drunk guy is yelling. So, the jar enables a more fun conversation.
D: You're playing with Andrew Livingston on this tour as part of a duo, which is a middle ground between doing solo acoustic shows and playing with your full band. Why a duo this time around?
MD: There's no rationale. I just enjoy playing with Scrap. I'm somewhat guided by my whims when it comes to choosing things like that. Playing with a band is about rhythm and energy and when I'm playing alone or with Scrap on cello, my head gets sucked very deeply into the songs.
D: You recently spent some time at an artist's community, Yaddo, to work on new material for your next album and an upcoming electronic side project, Dubious Luxury. How did you handle being separated from everything?
MD: Being at Yaddo was pretty amazing—off in the woods at this historic artists' colony. They feed you and give you time to work. They give you a lunchbox—yes, an actual lunchbox—so you can stay in your studio all day working. The best part of it, actually, is having no Internet access. I'm hoping I can go back at some point.
D: You've been blogging since before there was even a word for it. Is writing on your blog part of your creative process?
MD: I started writing long posts for the Soul Coughing message board on AOL circa 1994. Then I moved on to bulletin board systems and then blogs were invented and I was like, “Finally!” Now I'm a committed Twitterer (@MikeDoughtyYeah), as well. I've always just used it as a casual creative outlet. I used to do some writing for newspapers and it's so freeing to have as much or as little space as you want—no deadlines or limitations. I usually just write as an observer of the world around me. I don't know if it connects directly to the music. I think I'd be doing it even if I wasn't a musician.
D: You've traveled all over the world over the past few years. Has that contributed to your sound?
MD: I think that if you're an artist you have to work for the art. It's not working for you. So, you have to keep it entertained, you have to feed it. That's why I've been traveling. I think I might be going back to Cambodia for the third time this summer—studying German, reading, searching out visual art, and brilliant comedians and stuff like that. I don't know if it's changed the sound, but it's definitely kept it healthy.
D: What question are you hoping will show up in the Question Jar?
MD: Will you please let me give you this suitcase full of cash?