Michael Stipe Successful touring musicians often live fishbowl lives…
- Posted on Sep 28th 2010 2:00PM by David Chiu
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"The fact that Levi Johnston has become a celebrity was never ever in either one of our heads," he tells Spinner. "I find it a little unfortunate because now it looks like some kind of a novelty song or satire. There's no satire, no novelty. It's totally on his side. We were kids too. I just happen to like the guy."
That song is just one of the highlights of 'Lonely Avenue,' which showcases Hornby's incisive, character-driven lyrics and Folds' catchy pop melodies. The two seem to be cut exactly from the same cloth when it comes to their writing -- witty and funny in one sense, and poignant and provocative in the other.
"It does seem really obvious," Folds says about their partnership. "When we started working on it and even when we finished it, I had a sort of a first for me, which is to finish an album and feel like I wanted to make another one immediately."
Their earliest association dates back to sometime around 1996, when Hornby attended a show of Folds' former group, Ben Folds Five. However, the two wouldn't meet until years later backstage in London. Their first collaboration was 'That's Me Trying,' a song they co-wrote with Aimee Mann for William Shatner's 2004 album 'Has Been.' "I think the vague notion that we were going to collaborate on an album probably took route in that era and we finally found a moment to do it," Folds says.
The collaborative process involved Hornby e-mailing the words to Folds, who then composed the music. According to Folds, Hornby's lyrics were mainly kept intact, aside from a few cosmetic changes. "I didn't revise what he sent," Folds says. "When I sent it back to him, he didn't send it back to the tailors or anything -- we were done. That's a really nice way to work. I believe it yields good results."
The method yield songs that sound almost like mini short stories, such as 'Belinda,' about a singer who always has to perform his hit song about an old flame. "Nick had said several times that specifically was inspired by Eric Clapton having written 'Layla,'" Folds says of the latter song. "He just wonders what that's like to have to go in front of an audience and profess your love for someone who you probably don't remember at this point."
As of now, Folds says he'll tour behind the new album sometime in November and would like to get Hornby involved. After the experience of working on their first full-scale project together, he also doesn't rule out a sequel. "It's just so natural to write with Nick," he says. "It's a joy. We talked about maybe making an album of songs that's just basically a demo that we take around to artists we like and try to convince them to do our songs. That would be a lot of fun."
Now that novelist Hornby has written lyrics, would Folds entertain the idea of becoming a literary writer? Not quite, he says. "I don't think I get the long form," he says. "You can't start over, like you're on chapter nine and then you go, 'Is this working? Oh, let's go back to the beginning.' So you have to have a lot of sense of long form. It's a pretty impressive focus."
'Lonely Avenue' is due out Sept. 28 via Nonesuch.