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Friday, November 4, 2011

Ben Folds on Making the Most of a Misunderstood Career

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Page 2 of 2

Your music generally attracts smarter people than some other artists at a similar level of popularity.

I think most of my audience kind of get it. And there are people who don't. Twitter is a good way to see some things people say. I'll see "I'm watching Sing Off and I'm disgusted by your language" because I said "ass" on TV. I'm thinking, "You're disgusted by that? Wow. You really had better not listen to my records." But that's not my core audience. My core audience, we kind of get each other.

Has your core audience expanded because of The Sing Off?

I'm maybe more recognizable. But I wouldn't go out and buy Ted Koppel's album because I saw him talk on TV. You see somebody talk on TV and that's how you know them. It's like waiting tables with somebody. Another waiter made a record, so what? It's not a calling card but the show has been more recognized than I ever expected.

Is Imitation coming out now so people can have an entry point into your music if they are curious because of the show?

No, I mean...no. I had to do a retrospective best-of record by contract. I had to find a moment to do it that wasn't one of the down moments -- you have the ups and downs -- so it would be appropriate. We wanted to do this when it seems like I'm still out there doing it. Maybe two years ago, it wasn't as good of a moment to release a greatest hits disc. But like I said, that cross-pollination idea where you're doing TV, and then you're doing a greatest hits at the same time, they don't connect like you'd think. It doesn't sell records. I sell the same amount of records whether I do phone press or not, whether I play gigs or not, whether I'm on TV or not. Same number of records. Song on the radio, same number of records. It's the core audience of people who keep up with what I do and it's kind of the sum total of this stuff. I've never really had this kind of blow out selling moment, but I keep kind of cranking along.

If it doesn't matter to your record sales, then why are you talking to me right now.

Well, because I have an obligation to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to promote the show and sell tickets.

But your show is already sold out.

Oh, good, well then I'll see you later. [Laughs] There's not one thing you can do or one combination of things in a moment that makes any difference. But it also helps me be understood in what I do because I don't have the outlets. I have The Sing Off, but I normally don't have the outlets to explain a fairly misunderstood career. Like, you're asking me about cussing in songs and kids and stuff like that. If I'm not out there being somewhat coherent on the subject it could really be read lots of ways. I mean, I'm kind of tired today so I might not sound that excited, but this is important to me. I'm not Andy Kaufman or anything. I don't want to go out and play jokes on people and be misunderstood. I did a master class last night in Oklahoma with about 400 kids. It's nice to explain why I do this and how it's done because it's really easy to be misunderstood if you don't do the exact same thing as somebody else.

Final question - do you have a cat? It seems like you should have a cat.

I had a cat, I don't currently have a cat. Yeah, I like cats. I like dogs too. Cats don't give a shit which is kind of funny. I had a cat that always knocked water on my face in the morning. Alice Childress was the name of the cat. I named a Ben Folds Five song after her. She'd scoot the water over from my night stand. I'd hear the sound of the glass scooting on the table and then she'd drop it in my face to wake me up in the morning. It sucks, waking up snorting water up my nose.

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