Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
You’ve made stylistic changes and retained your fan base without sacrificing your own artistic integrity (for lack of a less pretentious phrase). You’ve even done this without any massive commercial success. How do you manage all this? Luck? Is it all those massive Daily Show royalties that give you this freedom of choice? —Randall Helmstutler, Fredericksburg, Va.
There are a lot of elements at play. Most artists I know, or am a fan of, go through many stylistic changes over the course of their work life. I would hope that those changes are precipitated by parallel changes in their personal lives. I don’t recognize my changes until after I complete a project and am summoned to publicly explain the work.
As with any line of work, there is the practical matter of earning a living. Some stylistic changes offer the prospect of a greater financial reward (work with a proven hitmaking producer or co-writer, reunion/‚Ä®nostalgia tours), where others (following the unfettered muse, singular vision of intent and content) might be less lucrative. The Daily Show theme was one of two outtakes from my eponymous 1996 solo album. I was friends with the creators of the show, and I believed in their ideas. No one could have foreseen the longevity of it, and yes, I have been compensated well for my very small contribution. Is that luck or faith? A smart choice or a logical choice?
As for keeping the fan base: I am blessed. I work hard. People identify with the work. That’s all I know for certain.
Managing all of this is a balancing act. Luckily for me, Libras are balancers by nature. It’s the ability to look forward and foresee the effects of career choices. For every right choice, there’s likely been a missed opportunity. But that’s the fun of living, right?