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Ben Folds Joins John Mayer Tour

Musician Ben Folds grew up playing the piano, attended college on a percussion scholarship and recently performed with the world-renowned Boston Pops Orchestra. This multi-talented performer is currently on tour with John Mayer and is preparing to host a musical cruise to Jamaica. VOA's Larry London recently caught up with this busy musician.

Ben Folds loves to perform in front of a live audience. But in order to give the audience the sound they expect, Folds has to slow himself down on stage to make his virtuoso piano playing and passionate singing seem fast.

"I think some of it had to do with rushing,” says Folds. “Playing live shows, I play too fast. Everyone at the live show is thinking too fast, too. So, we are all on the same page [thinking the same thing], which made me realize that the record is one thing and the surroundings or the context in which you hear the record is one thing, too."

"Live shows do not have to be like the record at all. Although a lot of people may say, 'Man your records and your live shows are actually very similar.' But it is just that you put yourself in the surrounding. So, while everyone says you are playing slower, you are actually playing faster. It is actually a big difference, because tempo is really a big deal. That's why I realized that it was different."

Folds is among the rare rockers who feel comfortable playing alongside loud guitars and drums as well as symphony orchestras.

"I think there is something magical about a lot of people making music at once, when it is in concert, and it's a symphony orchestra, every individual player is disciplined, and musical, and has integrity, and is artistic,” says Folds. “You put that many people together in concert, with the idea of playing a bigger piece, it is just powerful, it's the main thing. It is a spectacle, all this, but it's actually powerful, like seeing a massive gospel choir."

The hit single "Bricks" is a song he recorded a decade ago with his now defunct band, Ben Folds Five. Now a solo artist, Folds' latest CD is a compilation he previously released on the Internet.

"The idea was to make music, and make the only outlet the Internet. When we started it, it was unusual. Now it is not that unusual to make iTunes (Internet download) records, but it was unusual then when we started doing that. And I just wanted to make sure I had copies, real CDs, rather than just mp3s (digital audio computer files). So, this is sort of a backup tape (spare copy)."

Folds has seen many changes in the music industry during his long career and believes more are on the way.

"I don't think these are the same industries. I think that the (music) industry that we used to know was using that (Internet) for advertisement. I think that the new industry is using the other side (old methods) for advertisement. Ultimately, all the sales and distribution of records will be advertisement for someone who has the talent to play the record live. If you can perform your music live, that becomes the real thing. The rest will become an illusion."

In explaining his future plans, Folds still has one project he hopes to complete.

"I plan to get some instruments all in one area, put some microphones on them, play the music and record it. Probably, we will mix those tracks and put an album together. We have been planning to do this for a while, but I just have not done anything about it… but I would have to write some songs for it, and I am really slow."