October 17, 2013

Mike Doughty plays Port City Music Hall in Portland on Sunday

The founder of Soul Coughing comes to town solo but will perform an entire night of songs from his old band.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

K, so here’s the rundown: Mike Doughty founded indie rock outfit Soul Coughing in the early ’90s, broke up the band around 2000 to deal with various addictions, launched a successful solo career with the help of Dave Matthews, and is now playing Soul Coughing songs again.

Mike Doughty, formerly of Soul Coughing, will perform solo at Port City Music Hall on Sunday, playing a lot of familiar songs.

Courtesy photo

click image to enlarge

“At its best, music is absolutely present,” says Mike Doughty. “I know I’m in danger of sounding super New-Agey here, but I believe in the cosmic notion of the song.”

Courtesy photo



WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $22 in advance; $25 day of show

INFO: Statetheatreportland.com

In fact, when Doughty plays Port City Music Hall in Portland Sunday, he’ll do an entire show of songs from the albums “El Oso,” “Ruby Vroom,” and “Irresistible Bliss.”

For lack of plainer language, what’s the deal, Mike? Doesn’t playing all the old songs bring back memories of the old pain?

“I guess I’m in a place now where I can live in the oceanic feeling of the music. I’m into approaching every song without thinking about the history or the future,” said Doughty, 43. “At its best music is absolutely present. I know I’m in danger of sounding super New-Agey here, but I believe in the cosmic notion of the song.”

Certainly anyone who goes to see Doughty’s show Sunday, with Sons of Hippies as the opener, will be treated to his unique voice and perspective on alt rock. But if you still want to know more about Doughty, more of his essence, pick up his 2012 memoir “The Book of Drugs.”

In it, Doughty writes about his early years in music, about founding Soul Coughing while working as a doorman at a New York City jazz club. He writes about his years of addiction to pain killers, heroin and alcohol. And he calls his years in Soul Coughing “a dark, abusive marriage.”

“It’s pretty dark, it’s not a tale of merry hijinks,” said Doughty. “I wasn’t trying though to write your typical narrative of a bad-ass junkie. It’s more Buster Keaton as drug addict.”

Doughty wrote the book without help from a ghost writer, and finds it surprising that even friends of his are surprised he wrote it all by himself.

“I’ve been working with words for a long time,” he said.

Doughty was born into a military family, in Kentucky, but lived all over the country growing up. He went to New York City after high school to study poetry at the New School, where singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco was one of his classmates. About four years after leaving Soul Coughing, and trying to develop a solo career, Doughty met Matthews at the Bonnaroo music festival. Matthews, a longtime Soul Coughing fan, asked Doughty to open for him on two U.S. tours.

So now Doughty says he’s living in the moment, in Brooklyn, N.Y., using some of the discipline he says must have rubbed off on him growing up in a military family. He gets up in the morning, sits down to write songs all day, and if he has some time left over, he does errands and hangs out with friends to drink coffee.

“I’ve always been driven, but I sort of had to learn how to do this (music), how to be disciplined at this,” said Doughty.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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