If Ben Folds failed to note that Nick Hornby wrote the lyrics for his new project, ‘Lonely Avenue,’ no one would have ever guessed that an outsider penned words for his latest disc.
Folds, a gifted and humorous wordsmith in his own right made an interesting choice when he decided to tap Hornby, a renowned novelist (“About a Boy,’ ‘High Fidelity), to write the lyrics for his latest collection of songs.
Hornby and Folds each conjures up witty, misunderstood characters, who are often cynical but also sentimental. The common denominators are obvious, even to Folds.
“I think we have some things that connect us,” Folds said. “I’ve always been a fan of Nick’s work and he’s enjoyed what I’ve done. I’m very picky about lyrics. But I thought this project would be a natural for Nick since he puts words in people’s mouths all the time. I thought he could do it for my songs. There is so much compatibility with us.”
The challenge for Hornby was to be succinct. “He didn’t have 18 pages to get the point across,” Folds said. “But he proved that he didn’t need the 18 pages. He did the job and I could do my job.”
Not penning lyrics was a break for Folds, who was happy to just focus on the music. “I loved it,” Folds said. “I write the music first before I do anything else when I write a song. I have spontaneous melodies hit me throughout the day. I just focused on that. It was nice, especially since I knew the guy writing the words was going to come up with some special stuff.”
Hornby delivered lyrics, which ranged from wry to sarcastic to ironic. Folds offered up some hook-laden melodies.
“Your Dogs’ and ‘Belinda’ are perhaps the finest tracks to grace the disc. The latter is about a shallow one-hit wonder, that smacks a bit of ‘About A Boy.’ The challenge for Folds was coming up with a song that smacked of a ‘70s hit.
“That was an interesting exercise,” Folds said. “ My assignment was to make a massive chorus from that era. It wasn’t easy but it was fun.”
Folds will showcase the new songs Saturday at the Tower Theater. Hornby won’t be on hand. It’ll be Folds and whatever he wants to offer from his large canon of provocative and at times poignant songs.
“Nick won’t be at the shows but he’ll be represented in song,” Folds said. “I have the new songs and certainly a lot of other songs to choose from.”
Folds has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. His well-crafted songs are typically amusing or poignant, full of detail and catchy.
“I think it’s important to challenge the masses, which unfortunately have been dumbed down,” Folds said. “They don’t have to be dumbed down. They should experience some nuance in song. Nuance in song is a dangerous thing today. If humor is infused with a song with nuances, that can be an explosive alchemy. I’m all for songs that can be explosive.”