Cult fame through file-sharing has been only one part of the strange journey that has led former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty to where he is now, coming into his own as a singer-songwriter. Starting out as a doorman at the Knitting Factory, Doughty hooked up with a trio of über-hip experimental-jazz players in the early '90s and proceeded to make something of a name for himself as a post-post-modern beatnik wordsmith with Soul Coughing. The critically acclaimed band achieved a modicum of fame on college campuses, but never really broke out big. Problems with drugs brought the experiment to a halt after eight years.
After he cleaned up, Doughty reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter, writing comprehensible lyrics rather than the disconnected lines that went so well with Soul Coughing's oddball aesthetic. In 2000, he cobbled together Skittish, a collection of rough-cut songs he had recorded solo in 1995. He remixed the songs and took his self-described "small rock" act on the road in a rental car, with a trunkful of CDs and his guitar. His latest album, 2005's Haughty Melodic, reveals a songwriter who has grown by leaps and bounds. Doughty's band has grown too. Taking a break from writing and recording songs for his next LP, Doughty is on the road to break in his new keyboardist, Jack Kirby, a renowned Fender Rhodes player.