Interview: Ben Folds on his classical turn and why pop fans shouldn’t be afraid

02.03.14 5 years ago

Ben Folds is taking a classical turn. The musician has just finished a three-movement, 25-minute piano concerto. In fact, the day we caught up with him, he had just sent the piece to the copyist.

Co-commissioned by the Nashville Symphony, Folds tells HitFix he will begin 18 months of international touring with symphony orchestras next month. The first date is March 13 with the Nashville Symphony.

“In some ways, it won”t be any different than touring [solo or with Ben Folds Five],” he says. “And that”s kind of my point. Music is made by human beings for human beings  and I think we do ourselves a disservice by not seeing it performed the best that it can by a symphony orchestra or the best that it can by a pop group.”

“The Sing-Off” judge also hopes that he can bridge the gap that exists between pop fans and classical music fans. “I feel like there”s a  little wall sometimes between the symphony orchestra and people of my generation and down and this concerto is very formal in some ways, but in many ways, it”s just me playing a piece that I”ve written. It”s not any different from my pop songs in that way and I want to bring my audiences out to gather human beings playing music for human beings. It”s a long way of saying it”s not a big deal.

“It”s not that different from what I do normally,” he continues, comparing playing 25 minutes of new material to debuting music from a new pop album. “It just sounds more high-falutin” and I”m going to have to practice  a little bit more to pull it off.”

As far as any of the formality that one can sometimes expect from a symphony, his fans can forget that. In fact, he wants to keep the shows so low-key that he laughed when asked if he”ll wear a tux for the gigs, adding “It may be a t-shirt and maybe people should clap between movements too.”


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