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Artist Spotlight: Jonathan Coulton

Apr 27, 2019

Photo: Pieter van Hatten

FROM CODING SOFTWARE TO BROADWAY SONGWRITING

Jonathan Coulton is an American singer-songwriter known for songs about geek culture and using the Internet to reach listeners worldwide. A former computer programmer in NYC and self-described geek, Coulton tends to write quirky, witty lyrics about science fiction and technology.

In 2005, Coulton had chosen to leave his computer programming job and launched the Thing-A-Week Project,  during which he recorded 52 musical pieces in an effort to push his creative envelope. This and his direct communication with his audience resulted in internet fame, earning him the reputation as “the internet music-business guy.” Coulton releases his songs independently under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license and some of his best works are known for their use in video games including Valve: Left 4 Dead 2 (“RE: Your Brains”), Portal (“Still Alive”), and Portal 2 (“Want You Gone”).

In May 2012, Coulton became the house musician for the NPR game show Ask Me Another. Coulton performs some of his own songs on the show, as well as covers of other songs related to the trivia and puzzle challenges.

On April 15, 2013, Coulton announced that he was working with comic book writer Greg Pak on a graphic novel based on the characters in his songs, called Code Monkey Save World. The project was funded on Kickstarter, and reached its goal within 12 hours.

Jonathan Coulton at Opening Night of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical
Photo: Jenny Anderson / Getty Images

On August 31, 2013, it was announced that Coulton would be contributing lyrics to The Spongebob Musical, which premiered in Chicago on June 2016. Coulton composed the opening number “Bikini Bottom Day”, which is reprised multiple times throughout the show as Spongebob’s main theme. Coulton also contributed to additional lyrics for other musical numbers featured in the show. Along with other musical contributors to the show, Coulton won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score, and was nominated for Best Original Score for the 72nd Tony Awards.

Coulton co-wrote the songs “Good for Me”, “Patient Zero” and “Rollercoaster” with Aimee Mann for her 2017 album Mental Illness, for which he also contributed acoustic guitar and backing vocals. He joined Mann as opening support act on the European and North American tour of Mental Illness.

In 2019, Coulton released Some Guys, an album of 70s soft rock covers. For the project, he created a Kickstarter campaign that earned $150,000. In the week of April 6, 2019, Some Guys reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Some Guys is currently available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, and at jonathancoulton.com.

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