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Live From The Current Studio

Mike Doughty performs in The Current studio

  Play Now [21:31]

by Bill DeVille

November 22, 2014

Mike Doughty - These Are Your Friends (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Mike Doughty - Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Mike Doughty - When the Night is Long (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
mike doughty 1
Mike Doughty performs in The Current studio
MPR photo/Luke Taylor

Mike Doughty, along with cello player Andrew "Scrap" Livingston, is in town for back-to-back shows at the Dakota in Minneapolis tonight, but beforehand, he stopped in The Current's studio to play some songs off his new album, Stellar Motel, and to chat with Bill DeVille.

Looking ahead to the evening's doubleheader, DeVille asks Doughty if he finds two shows in a single night a difficult task. "Not really," Doughty says. "I prefer to be playing music than not playing music."

No stranger to the Twin Cities, Doughty says he's probably played here about 30 times and is quite familiar with the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. He also cites the Replacements and Hüsker Dü, along with Billy Bragg, among his earliest influences.

Doughty calls New York City home, and he finds it a rich source of material for songs. "I'm always taking notes," Doughty says. "A lot of writing happens in the transit system."

Here are additional highlights from Doughty's chat with DeVille:

On how he connected with Stellar Motel producer DJ Good Goose:
"He was a big nerd for my album Haughty Melodic — made with Dan Wilson here in the Twin Cities. It's a very pop, acoustic-y kind of album; given the hard EDM and hip hop tracks as [DJ Good Goose] does, I thought it would be a really interesting experiment. … I'm very happy indeed [with the result]."

On living in New York City:
"It's about done for me, to be perfectly honest. At this point, it's a very different city than the one I moved to in 1989. … It's strikingly, just a completely different vibe. I keep wondering if I should get out, go to Texas or Tennessee and start over, but then again, my whole life's [in New York], so I don't know."

On his banjo-playing style:
"I just play it like a guitar player. I play it incompetently. You can sort of imitate whatever fretted string instrument you play on any other fretted string instrument, so you can muddle your way through, I think, to a large degree."

On the impressionistic lyrics in his songs:
"That's my style — a lot of imagery, the language being musical. I just figure out what words are suggested by the melody and what melody is suggested by the words."

On the state of the music business today:
"It's great for somebody like me who's been doing it for a long time and has an audience and can do crowd-funding. There's all kinds of opportunities for established artists. For newcomers, for young artists, it's really hard and it's kind of a shame because there's not that money to get them started. If you're a local band, your friends aren't enough to send you around the country in a van enough times that you really start to have a career."

On whether he'll write another book (Doughty's first, The Book of Drugs: A Memoir, was released in 2012):
"That's a good question. I have a couple of friends that are really kind of deep cats in the fiction world who say, 'Give it a try; you should just try it,' which is really encouraging. But I don't know if I'm ready yet. I imagine I'll do it at some point."

Listen to the complete interview to hear more about Mike Doughty's current stable of projects — which includes writing a rock opera.

Songs Performed:

"These Are Your Friends"
"Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future"
"When the Night Is Long"
All songs off the album, Stellar Motel, out now on Snack Bar via Megaforce Records.

Hosted by Bill DeVille
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Web Feature by Luke Taylor