Ben Folds is the epitome of a musician aging gracefully. Even if I haven’t played Rockin’ The Suburbs since way back during my awkward, angsty high school years, there are few albums that helped me more when it came to surviving small town trials and tribulations. Folds’ songwriting had a grace and sort of an everyman humility that always struck me, and it looks like the source of that is completely based in reality, because Ben Folds is now rocking the Irish suburbs and just being an all-around affable dude over in Dublin.
As part of the Irish Ambassador Kevin O’Malley’s “Creative Minds Series,” Folds gave an hour-long performance at O’Malley’s home that was broadcast on RTE Radio 1, along with an unguarded interview with RTE Arena host Sean Rocks. The program seeks to “tighten cultural ties between the US and Ireland and inspire creativity in young people,” and both of those seem like worthy ventures. O’Malley and Folds are apparently old friends, and fell into the partnership that seeks to introduce American music to Irish kids.
Not only that, but O’Malley and Folds are also working together on a joint venture called “My Music Teacher Rocks” at Windmill Lane studios, Dublin.
The program’s focus is on music education — something that Folds has always been an advocate of — and he kicked it off by conducting two Master Classes, one at the classically oriented Royal Irish Academy of Music, and the other at the contemporary/rock oriented British Irish Modern Music Academy. Another aspect of the program is Suburban Sounds, a music enrichment program for kids from underprivileged backgrounds that offers songwriting and compositional/performance resources — Folds and O’Malley dropped by this program too to encourage and support the kids involved.
Here’s the statement that ambassador O’Malley issued about Folds’ involvement in the programs:
I am just thrilled that Ben Folds has joined us here in Ireland to launch this wonderful program, “My Music Teacher Rocks” Music can play such an important role in young peoples lives and the people who impart this gift can sometimes be forgotten about. I hope to find the best and brightest music teachers around Ireland and recognize their valuable talents.
Folds is also working on new music of his own in the same Dublin studio, Windmill Lane, with Ryan Lerman, Chad Chapin, Sam Smith and Andrew Higley, and Leo Overtoom. No word on whether these will be part of his orchestral album with yMusic or not. It’s official: Ben Folds is the shit.