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Over two decades, the alt-rock troubador has been consistently surprising, embracing the high & lowbrow and recruiting unlikely collaborators.

Folds is more of a quirky nostalgia-bomb.

Folds has always had both a strong charming voice and a pleasant affable personality.

Those two qualities unite every odd choice Folds has made in his career, including his new album, So There. 

His tenure on NBC’s a cappella show The Sing-Off was unexpected (so is the fact that he’s been replaced by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, but we’ll save that for another article), but then again, with that voice and that smile, you can swallow (though not necessarily always love) anything Folds releases, even an album recorded in collaboration with a classical ensemble. Suggest that he belongs here, blending grand, layered orchestral arrangements with pop songs is difficult work, but this song proves he’s capable of it.

Go through the whole article to a must read piano man story

It’s a good time to be Ben Folds.

The 49-year-old pianist known for rule-breaking melodies and sarcastic wordplay littered with f-bombs and offbeat cultural references saw his latest album, So There, make its debut at No. 1 in an unusual place: the classical-music charts.

Maybe it wasn’t such a stretch, though.

The Brick balladeer had, after all, reworked some of his previous pop material for large ensembles and toured the world with orchestral charts for a decade (including two gigs with the Columbus Symphony — plus another booked for April 9).

And an ambitious original Folds piece, a three-part piano concerto composed last year with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, drew a collective crowd of 10,000 people over six nights of Music City shows.

“I was crazy enough to jump off the bridge and do it,” said Folds of the original effort, a lush and occasionally jazzy 21-minute work featured on So There among more-conventional selections.

“It’s resonating in that community, in a way.”

The shift in direction has yielded not only commercial success but also an emotional boost for the headliner: “I got lucky, and I’ve hit a chord I can feel.”

The public response, likewise, has surprised Folds, a North Carolina native who — despite a childhood spent devouring classical music and, later, earning a percussion scholarship to the University of Miami — made his artistic mark as an indie-rock antihero detailing anxiety and ex-girlfriends while bashing the ivories with aplomb.

Such sensibilities, he said, were influenced by the vinyl records that his carpenter father scavenged from abandoned properties to take home.

“I did love Shostakovich . . . things that seemed ‘naughty,'” Folds said. “I liked Dvorak, Sibelius, Debussy. For piano, I loved Chopin — the little etudes that are within reach for a child.”

It led the youth to “audition for every state and regional orchestra I could find” and, as a drummer, take pleasure in performing works such as Tchaikovsky’s boisterous 1812 Overture.

“I got to set up two or three bass drums and just beat the (expletive) out of them,” Folds said with a chuckle.

His endeavor with yMusic seems to find the ever-evolving artist, now in middle age, on middle ground — a place between gilded auditoriums with dozens of tuxedo-clad players and the gritty rock clubs that once booked Folds’ career-making trio, Ben Folds Five (which disbanded in 2000 and held a reunion three years ago).

The present perch provides muscle and malleability, just as he likes it.

“For me, it’s like playing with an orchestra — except the orchestra is like an oil barge or a moving tractor-trailer, and this is a little sports car,” Folds said. “We’re still discovering what we can do.

“It feels like a really good in-between.”

StreeXB extend special thanks to Dispatch for the article. Click here to read the rest of the story.

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