Toward the end of Ben Folds’ tour last fall in support of his Epic solo debut, “Rockin’ the Suburbs,” the jumpy piano player decided to take the stage solo for a few dates at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. As the artist tells Billboard.com, what transpired on stage was magical, which made the decision to go on the road for his first ever solo tour that much easier.
“All of my old songs and everything I’ve ever written, I’m just playing them at the piano and realizing that they’re giving me the same chill that caused them to be written in the first place,” he says. “And if I didn’t think that was translating to the audience, I would have second thoughts about it. But even people who work in my organization – like old, jaded tour managers – are telling me that those are the best shows they’ve ever seen. And I was like, ‘Hell, if everyone likes it that much, let’s go do it.'”
Beginning tonight (Feb. 25) at University of Iowa and running until March 31 in Solana Beach, Calif., Folds and his trusty piano will be going at it alone in what amounts to a relaxed, no setlist, “Storyteller” sort of affair. With fan interaction encouraged, the North Carolina native and current Australian resident says he’s driven by inspiration to open up his songbook and play whatever comes to mind. After a tour hiatus in April (during which he will play some shows in Australia with drummer Joey Waronker), Folds will be back in the States for another solo leg filled with Midwest and East Coast dates.
Creatively inspired of late (“Right now, I’m on like permanent caffeine,” he says), Folds plans on recording each show of the tour’s first leg for a hopeful live release in the near future. Also, there’s plenty of new material to debut on tour, which will eventually see the light of day on a new studio album. Folds says the new songs are jazzier.
“Think kind of irreverently jazzy, not like, ‘Hey I’m all jazzy and cool,'” he discloses. “That’s kind of where my head is at. Basically, sparse-when-it-needs-to-be-sparse and then go f***ing-ape-s***-when-it’s-time kind of vibe.”
Folds is even planning on entering the world of Broadway by writing a musical with a stage writer. Although all of these projects are still on the drawing board, but at the very least, Folds will be keeping himself busy over the next year or two.
As humble and pragmatic as Folds is, he understands his recent actions – disbanding Ben Folds Five, recording his first solo disc, touring with a new band and then deciding to go at it alone – on the surface appear to mirror those of a prima donna, but he says his intentions are pure. “With the timing of it, I was urged to wait and do this later, but I just don’t see the point in waiting,” he says. “If you are inspired to do it, just do it.”