Having tired of the big publicity machine that is the major record label world, Ben Folds tells Billboard.com the recent downturn in the record industry is allowing him to release three five-song EPs this year via Epic, beginning with “Speed Graphic” on July 22.
“I’m going to do things that are really more about the music for me and less about the hype,” says Folds. “Because I’m on a major label, there is no escaping the way that we have to do business when I release an album — everybody wants the ‘Album of the Year’ Rolling Stone bullsh*t where you get two-stars in the review and your face is all over the front. The way to bypass that for me is just to not go through the normal channels. And if I put out an EP, nobody can take it seriously.”
Folds is eschewing the release of the EP to traditional outlets, instead opting to sell it at concert dates on his upcoming Lottapianos Tour 2003 with Tori Amos, on his official Web site and at Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Vinyl copies will be available in stores and the discs will not go to radio for promotion.
“This way, I don’t have to kowtow to the big-a** record chains and then in order to get a certain number of records shipped, I don’t have to kiss radio people’s a**es,” says Folds. “And in turn, I don’t have to do TV in order to get the radio slots and do certain kinds of press that I don’t want to do. It’s all kind of nice and the record business right now is going, ‘Okay, any way you want to do it is totally fine because we’re just barely getting by.’ So, they are not arguing about that. [Epic] is pretty well aware that I’m not going to be competing with Shakira. It’s a really nice musical way for me to do it. I just go into the studio, there is no ‘How does this fit in with anything?’ I just do five songs. It’s music. People who know my music and know who I am can find it, and that’s great.”
Folds hints that this could be his future modus operandi: recording a track, offering it on the Web and eventually piecing an album together as a “matter of formality.” However, the North Carolina native and current Australian resident (he also lives in Nashville) hasn’t completely shut the door on creative marketing. He discloses that the new track “Give Judy My Notice,” which appears on “Speed Graphic” sans the string section in which it was originally recorded, could turn up in its original form on a future album.
“When it comes time to fulfill my contractual obligation, and put things into an album and put them out, then what the record company does for me is makes me look important,” says Folds. “Probably get on MTV a couple of times, [in a] couple of major publications and people who come to the show will think I’m famous. And it works. But I think the institution of the album may be going away. That’s my gut feeling. I feel that it is more about songs and the album is a formality that packages things so that you can hype them real big and I’m just not very hype-able. We’ve tried that a couple of times and it is just not very effective.”
“Speed Graphic” also includes a cover of the Cure’s “In Between Days.” The second EP, due in September and currently titled “Sunny 16,” is nearly completed and will include a cover of either the Divine Comedy’s “Songs of Love” or Devo’s “Through Being Cool.” Folds has already begun work on the currently untitled third EP, due in November.
While he predicts an Epic album release in early 2004, the piano man is turning his attention to producing actor William Shatner’s upcoming album, sessions for which are slated to begin later this year and due in stores next year. Folds worked with Shatner on his 1998 solo album “Volume 1.”