Jonathan Coulton is what happens when a computer geek starts making music
Jonathan Coulton is okay with being a geek. After all, his geekiness is the key to his success as a musician who writes about mad scientists, sad robots and being a code monkey.
"I'm lucky in that the things I am interested in and the things that I write about happen to resonate with the people who basically own the Internet," he allows. "The only people who know how to download MP3s and Twitter about the things that happened when they went to a Jonathan Coulton show are the geeks."
In 2005, Coulton left his job as a computer programmer to pursue music full-time. He kicked things off with a project called Thing a Week, a commitment to record and release a song every week on his website. After several of those songs — most notably, a folky cover of "Baby Got Back" and a touching ballad of the travails of a programmer called "Code Monkey" — became hits, his decision to leave proved prudent.
"The hardest part was admitting to myself that that was what I needed to do and then saying the words out loud to the people around me that it would matter to, like my wife and the parents and my boss," he recalls. "Actually, saying it was the hard part. Doing it became easy, because of course then I was strapped to the rocket; I didn't have much of a choice."
Coulton's music is both funny and touching, a delicate blend of clever wordplay and heartfelt emotion. He sings about the things that matter — love, loss, Flickr, zombies — and backs it up with a poppy take on folk inspired by everyone from Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles to the Dixie Chicks. One of his biggest influences is They Might Be Giants.
"I am so close to them on the tree that I am basically stealing from them," he acknowledges. "I learned quite a bit from them. I think the thing they do really well is write songs that are really goofy and ridiculous but also move you in an emotional way."
These days, Coulton is moving ever closer to world domination. He's released a number of albums, tours frequently and has a concert DVD called BEST.CONCERT.EVER coming out in March. Then there's his website, his YouTube videos, his Twitter feed, MySpace, Facebook...
"There are many ways to enjoy Jonathan Coulton, whether it's listening to the music, reading the blog, coming to a show, Twitter," he says. "Please, sign up for all of these things and I will spam/entertain you."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.