Ben Folds

Ben Folds Biography

Singer, Guitarist, Songwriter, Pianist (1966–)
Ben Folds is best known as the lead singer of the alternative rock trio Ben Folds Five, famous for songs like "Brick" and "Battle of Who Could Care Less."


Born in North Carolina in 1966, Ben Folds began collaborating with friends and fellow musicians Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge in 1994, and the trio soon became known as "Ben Folds Five." The band released their first, self-titled album the next year, followed by 1997's Whatever and Ever Amen, which included the hits "Brick" and "Battle of Who Could Care Less." With Folds on vocals, Ben Folds Five became known for their fresh, soothing melodies and guitar-less sound, finding a spot in the "nerd-rock" music scene. Following a third release, the band broke up in 2000. Folds went solo, releasing Rockin' the Suburbs in 2001. Ben Folds Five reunited in 2012, releasing their fourth studio album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, that same year.

Early Life

Benjamin Scott Folds was born on September 12, 1966, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The son of a carpenter, Folds began playing the piano at the age of 9, after his father brought one home for the family as payment for a job. His interest in music blossomed from that point on, and as he grew older, he added many instruments to his repertoire. Folds played percussion in the North Carolina Symphony's youth orchestra and dreamed of one day performing with a professional ensemble. By the time he entered R.J. Reynolds High School, Folds was playing a number of instruments with many different bands.

Following his high school graduation in 1984, Folds briefly attended the University of Miami's Frost School of Music on a drum scholarship. Only one year into his enrollment, however, he lost his scholarship because he'd been unable to perform his final drum exam due to a broken hand.

But Folds didn't let the event deter his musical aspirations; he took it as an opportunity to move around and find a place where his genre of music and songwriting could flourish.

Music Career

In 1988, Ben Folds played bass guitar in a new pop-punk band called Majosha, with the group debuting their sound at Duke University's "Battle of the Bands." Playing mainly house parties, the band gained a strong local following and eventually put out an EP, Shut Up and Listen to Majosha (1989). Soon after the album's release, the group broke up.

In 1994, Folds collaborated with friends and fellow musicians Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The trio soon created a band with a fresh sound, calling it "Ben Folds Five"—a confusing name for the three-member group that the guys reportedly chosen because they simply "thought it was funny." In 1995, the band's debut, self-titled album, featuring fresh melodies and a guitar-less sound, made quite a stir. Record labels took great notice of the trio, and they soon signed with Sony Music Entertainment. Ben Folds Five followed that success with 1997's Whatever and Ever Amen, which took the airwaves by storm with hits such as "Battle of Who Could Care Less" and "Brick." Differing from the heavily distorted alternative music sound popularized during this time, Ben Folds Five seemed to fit nicely into the "nerd-rock" music scene.

While the band didn't create any new material together for nearly a year after Whatever and Ever Amen's release, their 1998 collection of rarities and B-Sides, Naked Baby Photos, was quite well received. That same year, Folds released an album entitled Volume 1 through an experimental side project that included collaborations with musician John Mark Painter and producer Caleb Southern; famed actor and musician William Shatner was featured on the work.

In 1999, Ben Folds Five released their third full-length album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, which had a much darker tone than their previous work, but was still well received by fans.

In 2000, the band parted ways. Folds went on to work on a solo career, releasing Rockin' the Suburbs in 2001. The album was successful among loyal fans and catapulted the release of a string of solo albums, including 2005's Songs for Silverman.

The band reunited briefly in 2008 for a one-time performance of Reinhold Messner, playing the album in its entirety. This hometown performance inspired the band to revisit creating music as a trio. Sledge and Jessee contributed to Folds's 2011 release, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. That same year, Folds was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

In 2012, fans were elated to hear that Ben Folds Five had reconciled. That same year, the band released their fourth studio album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind.

Personal Life

Ben Folds's personal life has inspired many of his songs, including "Brick," which recalls the experience of his high school girlfriend having an abortion.

Folds has been married four times. In 1987, he married childhood friend and co-songwriter Anna Goodman, who helped write lyrics to songs such as "Alice Childress" and "Kate"; the couple split five years later. Folds married for the second time in 1996, to Kate Rosen, who worked as a light operator for the band while they were on tour; the marriage lasted only a year. In May 1999, the singer-songwriter wed Australian photographer Frally Hynes. Two months after the couple exchanged vows, Folds became a father to twins: a son, Louis Frances, and daughter, Gracie Scott. Not long after the twins' birth, Folds moved to Australia to make a solid foundation and home base for his family, traveling to the United States periodically to play gigs. But after his demanding schedule put a strain on the family, they relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Folds and Hynes divorced in 2006, a short time after the musician met mononymous yoga teacher Fleur, who would become his fourth wife in 2007; the couple lasted four years, parting ways sometime in early 2011.

"As much as I love the idea of being married, it's not for me," Folds stated in a 2012 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'm reckless, which has helped my music, but taking risks in my private life hasn't measured up."

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