Science meets music with Jonathan Coulton

Entertainment,Nancy Dunham
You have to love a musician who writes a Popular Science article titled "How Do I Become An Internet Rock Star on the Cheap?"

Jonathan Coulton, the magazine's "contributing troubadour," said he test-drove his tips — such as "promote yourself on Twitter, broadcast live shows on Ustream … " as he built his musical career.

"I had done enough work in my spare time putting out vanity press and doing some live performances with friends that I kind of got a feeling people liked what I was doing," the former computer techie said. "Plus, when my daughter was born, I wanted to set an example for her. If she had this decision to make, I'd want her to have the courage to do what she loved."

Although Coulton proudly calls himself a "geek," it's fairly evident the label isn't quite accurate. Intelligent, clever, creative, yes. Geek? Not so sure.

The Yale grad's resume has a heavy professional software slant, but Coulton's no one-trick pony. He always combined his computer work with making music — as evidenced by his savvy Web use that won him a legion of loyal fans. For him, the music bug started early and just didn't leave.

"My parents were not professional [musicians], but … my father played guitar and they sang duets together," he said. "Music had become a large part of their lives. My early exposure [to music] comes from them. My dad showed me the chords on a guitar, and my mom had me go to piano lessons."

While his peers were enjoying Van Halen and other heavy rockers, Coulton headed toward a "snooty attitude even as a child," gravitating toward such classic rock as The Beatles.

The musical result is folk-type rock that has fancy lyrics that sometimes border on science fiction. His live shows are heavy on the audience participation theme and will be showcased in a soon-to-be-released DVD "Best. Concert. Ever."

So what's next for this self-titled "Internet Superstar?"

"I never imagined I would get this far," he said. "I never dared to dream that in my lazy plan of sitting around in my room writing songs would lead to supporting myself and my family. … I don't need to be loved by millions or even recognized on the street. I mostly want to be a happy person that has the freedom to do whatever he wants creatively."

If you go
Jonathan Coulton with Paul & Storm
Where: The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Info: $25; 202-397-7328, (Tickets also available at
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