Michael Stipe Successful touring musicians often live fishbowl lives…
- Posted on Dec 6th 2010 9:00AM by Steve McLean
"A cappella is wonderful because it's nothing else but people singing," Folds enthuses to Spinner.
Being a judge on 'The Sing-Off' -- the 'American Idol'-like competition for a cappella troupes which kicks off its second season Dec. 6 on NBC -- gives the impression that the vocal style is old hat for the 44-year-old. But it's only his recent collaboration with college a cappella groups from across the US entitled 'Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!' that readied him for the prime-time critiquing.
Folds came up with the concept for the special record after discovering a YouTube clip of an Ohio University a cappella outfit called the Leading Tones singing what's arguably his best known song, 'Brick.' He enjoyed it so much that he put out a call for other troupes to post similar videos, and he received about 250 submissions within a few weeks of people interpreting his material.
Folds chose his favourites and commissioned them to contribute to 'Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!' Along with his wife Fleur and engineer Joe Costa, he recorded each group using six area microphones in four-hour sessions. So impressed with the results, Folds says he considers the album to be a greatest hits collection.
"The 'Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!' record I did was totally inspiring because they got s--- right on the first or second take, and worked together really well," he says.
"People like to see groups working together. You're bombarded by the press, TV and radio with stories about people not working together. It's always about dissonance, like Congress can't work together, the airports don't work and the highway system is a mess. And then you see college students singing together in perfect harmony -- which takes quite a bit of working together and communication. I don't want to sound corny, but I think that's what we need -- it seems to be very healthy."
"People singing together is very underrated and very necessary," he says. "I'm sure there must be some sort of anthropological reason why people have to sing together. The movement of a cappella is just an extension of what people do naturally."
"The other significant thing about a cappella is that we don't know where the global economy is going, but no one really feels like they're going to be able to afford a lot of musical instruments and a P.A., and music lessons and that sort of thing. But four or five people can get together and sing, and make pretty amazing music -- the economy of it is almost as compelling as anything."
It's clear that Folds isn't the only one excited about a cappella. Ratings for the first season of 'The Sing-Off' suggest that many people are attracted to such a pure approach to making music -- something that isn't surprising to the acclaimed singer and recent Nick Hornby collaborator, who expects even more folks to jump on the a cappella bandwagon in season two.