Ben Folds did not give a concert on Chatroulette, even though many people thought he did. But the singer-songwriter-pianist became a YouTube sensation with his send-up of piano artist Merton's viral sensation "Chatroulette Funny Piano Improv #1." Folds used a Charlotte, N.C. show earlier this month to record his own version of piano improv Chatroulette titled "Chatroulette Piano Ode to Merton.m4v."
"All I knew was that people were texting me and e-mailing me telling me that I had really done something funny with Chatroulette," Folds says. "My problem was I didn't know what they were talking about. I didn't know what Chatroulette was. When I finally got around to the link a few days later, I didn't really think he looked too much like me, but I thought it might be kind of funny because there was confusion to do it at a show one night and send it in. I wasn't really trying to add to the confusion, just tip a hat to the guy and have a good time. We've connected now, and I'm fascinated with the success that he had with the YouTube video."
Something else that is fascinating Folds is his upcoming collaborative album with author Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About a Boy"), which is tentatively titled "Picture Window" and is due out in September. Over the past year Hornby has been providing the lyrics, while Folds creates the music and vocals. In fact, the 43-year-old piano man said he just finished the project two weeks ago.
"With Nick's lyrics, sometimes all it really needed was one chord and two notes and that was going to bring the lyrics out and move people the most," Folds says. "And if I knew in the back of my head that a great deal of my audience - that was kind of music-oriented - was going to ask 'Why did he make it so simple?' Well, I'm serving the lyrics so I had to take myself out of it."
Among the songs set for release are the Internet-leaked "Levi Johnston's Blues," the upbeat "Picture Window" and the powerful "Claire's 9th." Folds says the latter sounds like a cross between Tears for Fears and The Beach Boys. Up next is deciding on album art ("My first inclination is to see if we can secure some Eugene Smith photography," he says) and figuring out a record label.
"I don't know, we'll have to pick a label and go with it," Folds says. "At this time and in this climate, I'm not going to say it doesn't matter, but it's just not that important. The record coming out in September is the important part, just to get it out there."