Puddles Pity Party stands six feet, eight inches tall. That’s the same height as LeBron James, and two inches taller than Michael Jordan. But he’s got a voice that’s even bigger; that beefy baritone is on display when he performs at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall next Thursday night, Feb. 15. He first went national in 2013, in collaboration with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox machine, an audience favorite for years now. His cover of Lorde’s Royals (her personal favorite) was an instant classic in its own right, with more than 22 million views since then. He reprised the song for America’s Got Talent last year, as part of a run that took him from auditions all the way to the quarter-finals.
His YouTube page currently tallies up more than 344,000 subscribers, with nearly 300,000 likes on his Facebook page. He’s toured relentlessly, working concerts and festivals from Adelaide to Aberdeen, and everywhere in between. Aesthetics are only the beginning of his act, however; Puddles has a way of fundamentally transforming the rhythms and harmonies of the songs he chooses, leaving only the melody itself, superimposed upon entirely new backdrops that somehow feel like second nature. Put simply, he has a great instinct for arranging the music to suit his particular gifts.
Behind the myth lies, well, more myth. There have been rumors about his background, but none of those is certain. Puddles exists as his own self-contained entity, 24/7; in pro wrestling, this sort of all-encompassing devotion to craft is called “kayfabe.” Puddles doesn’t speak except through song, but he types just fine. We traded emails between gigs from the road.
Folio Weekly: Have you ever performed in Northeast Florida?
Puddles Pity Party: Yep, been through NEFLa a few times! I performed a little impromptu set at the Huddle House in downtown Callahan. Well, really, I was just singing along to the golden oldies on the jukebox, but I fortified that with some fresh dance moves and some audience participation. They loved it. Didn’t charge me for my well-done toast and coffee, so that technically made it a paying gig.
What’s your shoe size? What do you weigh?
One foot is a size 15 and the other is size 14 (I get mixed up on which one is which). I weigh all kinds of things when I’m in the produce section at the grocery store. They’ll let you put almost anything on those scales. It’s fun!
Do you make your own costumes? What materials do you use?
I have a friend who sews my outfits. She makes them with tough love and tender sympathy. She also makes tattered and ratty zombie clothes for that zombie TV show. You know the one? [The Walking Dead]
Who do you consider to be your biggest personal and professional influences?
Lots of great vocalists over the years I look up to artistically: Scott Walker, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Tom Jones, just to name a few. But the one who inspires me to be a better person is Kevin Costner. He is the ultimate Renaissance Man as an award-winning actor, director, writer. He also tours with his own rock band and gets involved in environmental causes. I wish I were half as cool as Costner.
What kinds of people most often show up at your appearances?
Folks of all shapes and sizes, from here, there and everywhere. Short, tall. Big, small. Young, old and everything in between. There’s always plenty of room for all who seek fellowship at The Pity Party.
How tall is your wife?
I’m married to the road and she is more long than tall.
How many shows did you do last year? How many are booked for 2018, so far?
I don’t know how many exactly. I try not to look back. It’s like when you’re trying to scale a real tall mountain ledge and you’re advised not to look down. That being said, it was a whole lot. And 2018 is shaping up to be pretty action-packed as well. I’m logging lots of Frequent Cryer Miles.
In what places would you like to perform where you haven’t yet
I’ve performed lots of interesting places. I’ve performed on a bus. I’ve performed while straddling a log over a canal in Gent, Belgium. I’ve performed on a cherry-picker 15 feet in the air. I’ve performed in a supermarket. I’ve never performed on a space station. I imagine it’d be fun to sing in outer space!
What do you look for when selecting material? Are there any common traits among the songs in your sets, in terms of theme or musicality?
They gotta have the feels, man. And danceability is nice, too.
What does Puddles eat? What does Puddles drink?
Savory pie. Gum. Coffee. Not exclusively, but regularly.
Puddles always seems so sad. What makes Puddles smile? What makes him laugh?
My heart smiles when an animal in a shelter gets adopted. Nothing floats my boat more than that. When I need some laughs, I watch This Is Spinal Tap.
How long does it take you to put on and remove your makeup?