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Mike Doughty likes to catch hands in his Question Jar

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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From his tenure with Soul Coughing to his time as a solo artist, Mike Doughty has never been one to stand on convention.

That's why he's all too happy to rock the boat during his live dates, which he calls Question Jar Shows, and literally pass a jar around for them to submit queries for the singer-songwriter -- the more bizarre the better.

"They are trippy," the Kentucky-born Doughty, 44, says of the performances, "and there's definitely curve balls, which is what it's designed for. There's a lot of audience interaction at my shows in general, but when you do a whole tour you find that everything kind of solidifies; you look up and I'm singing the same damn thing every night.

"So the question jar idea was initially a way of knocking that out of place. You have to say something different every night because the questions are different. And Crap (Andrew Livingston), my cello player, is such a bizarre character; you don't get that when he's just playing cello, but if you get him to answer some weird question about astronomy you see him in all his delightful glory."

Doughty says some of the questions, such as "What cartoon character would you most like to be buried alive with?," lead to even stranger tangents, which is part of the fun. But talking about his music can be just as engaging, digging into a widely eclectic that blends rock, pop, hip-hop, folk and Americana flavors into a distinctive and indescribably melting pot heard through Doughty's catalog -- and especially on the new "Stellar Motel," a collaboration with producer Good Goose that was funded via PledgeMusic.

"The all-over-the-placeness is really a product of that collaboration," Doughty explains. "Basically I would go in every day to his studio and he would say, 'What kind of a beat?' I'd say, 'What about a four on the floor?' and he'd throw something together. I'd pick up a guitar or bass or banjo and improvise and he'd throw something together into some sort of skeletal structure in the form of the song. Then I'd sculpt the nonsense syllables into lyrics and record the scratch vocal and next day and star working on another song from a beat.

"It was all beat-inspired and a lot of fun. We covered a lot of ground without really making any specific efforts."

Mike Doughty

8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19

The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.

Tickets are $35

Call 734-761-1800 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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