I’m Jonathan Coulton is who! You may know me from these things: In 2005 I quit my job in software to start a project called Thing a Week where I released a new song every week for a year. Later, I wrote the songs from the Portal games. I was nominated for a Tony for my songwriting work on Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical, and then the same year I was nominated for an Emmy for a song I wrote for the TV show The Good Fight (it was a weird year!). I am the house musician for the NPR quiz show Ask Me Another, and I host and run the annual JoCo Cruise. Nobody is more surprised about all of this than I am.
My new album is called Some Guys, and it's a collection of soft rock songs from the 70's that sound exactly like the originals. Why would anyone even do this! Well.
I was born in 1970, and I spent a lot of that decade riding in the way back of station wagons listening to sad soft songs on the radio - Gordon Lightfoot, Bread, Dan Fogelberg. I started playing the acoustic guitar when I was a kid, and spent a lot of time learning to play these songs gently and quietly in my room. There was something about this kind of music that really hooked me, and looking back I have to admit that these artists are a huge influence that for a long time I NEVER MENTIONED because I was always a little ashamed to be such a sap. But as a budding songwriter and a boy, these guys were my role models. These guys were sensitive and sad and sang well-arranged songs with pretty melodies in high falsetto voices. These guys I understood.
The last couple of years the world has gotten pretty hard and mean, and I found myself listening to all this music again. It made me feel better. I got together with my friend Christian Cassan, who produced my last record Solid State, and we basically took these songs apart and reassembled them piece by piece. I didn't want to make new versions of them, because the versions I knew were already perfect. I wanted to put them on like clothes and roll around in them. So we did our best to recreate the arrangements exactly, all the parts played and sung the same.
We didn't worry too much about matching the specific amps, guitars and studio equipment. Our approach was more, what if we put these guys in a time machine and brought them into this studio and recorded them here today? What would that sound like? And what if we hired real horns and real strings? How much would that cost? A LOT! But would it sound delicious and make us giddy, like we had discovered an amazing secret or invented a new magic trick? Yes, it would. The end result is that these songs sound exactly like you expect them to, but they're also different and new in an alternate universe sort of way.
The cover may look familiar to you. This is not an accident! If you want to use these two covers as a jumping off point for a 3-page, probably B+ paper in your American Studies class, that would be OK with me.
Projects like this one remind me how great my job is. Because you supported other things I've done in the past, I'm now able to follow through on an idea that is weird and fun and maybe not commercially viable in any way. Nobody asked for this record, but apparently it was my heart's desire, and now here it is! I've listened to it many times, and I still can't believe it exists.
These days, the music industry being what it is, most albums are basically vanity projects anyway. It costs a lot of time and money to make a good album, and nobody buys music anymore, because we all just stream it from space satellites into various wireless devices. I'm going to keep making albums regardless, because I really like doing it. And I really want you to hear them too.
Digital is a pretty amazing distribution method because it costs zero dollars. But man, do I like a nice vinyl package. Can you even image a 70s soft rock cover album that was NOT on vinyl? Bonkers! And I know that some of you still like the charmingly quaint CD format as well. The dumb thing is, these things are made of stuff, and stuff needs to be assembled and printed and shipped, and then all the extras sit in your basement and mock you. I'm doing this Kickstarter to pay for all the physical printing I think I'm going to need. That way, the basement extras can mock me if they want, but at least they'll be paid for.
You can get an idea of what this thing sounds like if you watch the video. And maybe I'll sneak out a preview track or two, who knows! Here's what's on the album:
- Sister Golden Hair - America
- On and On - Stephen Bishop
- Alone Again (Naturally) - Gilbert O’Sullivan
- The Things We Do For Love - 10cc
- Make It with You - Bread
- New Kid In Town - Eagles
- Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
- How Deep Is Your Love - Bee Gees
- Easy - Commodores
- Wildfire - Michael Murphey
- Everybody's Talkin’ - Harry Nilsson
- If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot
- Crazy Love - Poco
- Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg
Digital and CD, yes and yes. I'll give you plenty of options for digital format, both lossy and lossless, because I know everyone has their favorites. CDs, we know what CDs are, and this one is a simple cardboard sleeve. Here's what one looks like in this case:
It's not bad. But would you just look at this vinyl:
Yes, the cover is die cut with peep holes for all of my heads. It's two vinyl discs so it will sound great, and those discs have this color splatter pattern that will make you want to eat them (please do not eat them). The whole project is designed by Ed Sherman and Gail Marowitz, who also did the extremely yummy Solid State design, which was nominated for a Grammy. Just saying.
Right now only three of my albums are on vinyl, but if you're like me, you recently remembered how fun it is to have and play vinyl records, and now you want to have everything on vinyl. For you I recommend the Vinyl Collector reward level, because it'll get you three records closer to that goal in one fell swoop: Artificial Heart, Solid State, now Some Guys. Oh man, the other kids are going to be so JEALOUS.
The Super-Powered Mystery Box is only for serious collectors, so don't mess around! You'll get all three vinyl records plus my entire digital catalog, plus a bunch of other things that are in my basement (not garbage, but merchandise). I don't even know what's down there because I am too lazy to go look right now, but there are many kinds of T-shirts and books and CDs and extra bits from various special edition releases and WHO KNOWS WHAT. I'll also include a unique, signed and personalized polaroid of me, possibly wearing a nice new/old 70s shirt that I buy at the thrift store down the street. It'll be fun, mysterious, and above all, super-powered.
I'll be using BackerKit to deal with add-ons after the Kickstarter campaign is over, so if you want a second copy for a friend, or you suddenly inherit a record player, or you just really like me and want to buy multiple copies of things, you'll have a chance to do it then. I've got some books that would make good add-ons. And a little bird who lives in my basement told me that I have a bunch of Artificial Heart special edition boxes down there, so expect those to make an appearance as add-ons as well.
This chart should give you a basic idea.
I've already paid for all the recording expenses, including the services of my extremely talented producer Christian Cassan, all the musicians (real strings! real horns!), and the post production (and I don't know, office overhead? How does business work?). All of that is on me, and it is my pleasure. Design and manufacture for all the CDs and vinyl will cost about $20,000. I figure, you guys pay for that and we'll call it even.
I had such a good time making this record, just pure joy every day. What really delights me about it is that I honestly have no idea if anyone is going to care about it besides me. What a luxury it is to be able to approach an album with this feeling! I know how lucky I am to be able to do this sort of thing for a living, and I feel especially lucky that I can do it in this really dumb, flight-of-fancy, seems-like-fun kind of way. And I owe that to everyone who has supported me over the years by buying and listening and coming to shows and cruises. So thank you for everything, and I hope you like this one as much as I do.
Risks and challenges
There isn't much risk that the album won't exist, because it already exists and is awesome. Vinyl manufacture is sometimes time consuming, but I have a pretty solid estimate from the people who are making it, and I've added a little cushion to that in the planning. In fact, I've already listened to some test pressings and they sound great. I've done this sort of thing a few times before, and I have probably made all the mistakes one can make, so I'll be using that hard-earned expertise to DO IT PERFECT THIS TIME. Any problems along the way, I'm very serious about good customer service, and you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.orgLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)