When Mike Doughty released his second official solo album, Golden Delicious, the reaction from fans was intense. "Some hated it, some loved it better than Soul Coughing," Doughty says. "I tend to take sharp left turns. Every time I put out a record, the audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You'd think I could shrug it off because that's what always happens, but it always gets to me."
Doughty admits that his album Sad Man Happy Man—released October 6 on ATO Records—is a reaction to his fans' reaction and that he's giving the people what they want. "I really went for the 'na-na-na's and the simple choruses and stuff on Golden," he says. "The songs on Sad Man are more arcane and convoluted songwriting-wise, though they're sparer in terms of instrumentation. Although my choruses are still simple—I love taking phrases and repeating them ad infinitum."
"Basically I'm trying to make stuff I want to listen to," he says. "And I mean that in a literal sense, not like, 'Were I a listener, I would like this,' but rather something I can listen to on the subway on headphones and really dig. This is my life, this is what I do. That sounds matter-of-fact, but I really do look at it as a sort of calling—and being an artist at its best is selfless. I'm working for the language, I'm working for the music, I'm working for the songs. I'm a happier guy when I'm conscious of that."