Ben Folds will release his new album What Matters Most on June 2 via New West Records. The 10-song set was produced by Joe Pisapia (K.D. Lang, Guster) in East Nashville, TN and features guest appearances by dodie, Tall Heights, and Ruby Amanfu. What Matters Most is Folds’ first studio album since his chart-topping collaboration in 2015 with the string ensemble yMusic.
The masterful collection is a bold, timely, cinematic work. It is one that examines the tragic and the absurd in equal measures as it reckons with hope and despair, gratitude and loss, identity and perspective. The songs are bittersweet, hilarious at times, yet often laced with a quiet sense of longing and dread. Taken as a whole, the result is an undeniably joyful album that refuses to succumb to the weight of the world around it, an ecstatic reminder of all the beauty and promise hiding in plain sight for anyone willing (and present enough) to recognize their moments as they arrive.
Folds says, “There’s a lifetime of craft and experience all focused into this one record. Sonically, lyrically, emotionally, I don’t think it’s an album I could have made at any other point in my career.”
Today, Folds shared the video for the single “Exhausting Lover,” which was directed by the actor and comedian, Derek Waters of Drunk History fame. The video depicts an outrageous staged musical directed by Folds and based on the song’s lyrics. Derek Waters said, “I always have and always will love Ben Folds. But now I have a deeper appreciation for him knowing we shared similar experiences in a motel 6 with a hot wheels track and dancers dressed as animals.” Folds’ added, “This was my first foray into musical theater, and Derek’s, too. We both vow to actually go see a musical now.”
Folds also previously shared the first new music from What Matters Most with the album highlight “Winslow Gardens,” an off-kilter pop song about losing track of the passing time while isolating with a loved one. Hear it HERE.
“I come from the vinyl era, and this perhaps more than any record I’ve made is a true album,” says Folds. “There’s a very specific sequence and arc to each side, all building up to this almost surreal positive finale, and that structure was really important to me.” He adds, “More than anything, I wanted to make an album that was generous, that was useful,” says Folds. “I want you to finish this record with something you didn’t have when you started.”
Ben Folds also announced an initial round of new tour dates in support of What Matters Most, with shows across the US, the UK – including a concert at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London – and throughout Europe. Please see announced dates below as well as www.benfolds.com/tour. Additional shows are expected to be announced soon.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Folds first rose to fame in the mid-’90s with Ben Folds Five, whose acerbic, genre-bending take on piano pop helped define an entire era of alternative rock. After scoring multiple hit singles and a gold record with the band, Folds launched his solo career in 2001, releasing a series of similarly acclaimed albums that would firmly establish him as one of the most ambitious and versatile songwriters of his generation. In 2010, Folds teamed up with celebrated author Nick Hornby on a collaborative record titled Lonely Avenue. In 2014, he composed and performed his first piano concerto for the Nashville Symphony & Nashville Ballet. In 2017, he became the artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, where he began curating a series of performances marrying contemporary artists with symphonic orchestration. In 2019, he released his New York Times best-selling memoir, A Dream About Lightning Bugs; and in 2021, he launched the Lightning Bugs podcast, an interview series on creativity and process with guests as diverse as Jon Batiste, Sara Bareilles, Rainn Wilson, and his close friend Bob Saget. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Folds also revealed himself to be a prolific photographer with gallery shows in the US and Europe, appeared onscreen in films and television (most recently playing himself in three episodes of the hit Amazon Prime series The Wilds), composed music for a 25-minute stage adaptation of Mo Willem’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (which premiered at the Kennedy Center and was featured on PBS), and serves on the boards of the Arts Action Fund, the Nashville Symphony and Planet Word, a new immersive museum in Washington, DC, dedicated to celebrating the power of language. Last year, Folds was nominated for an Emmy for his composition and performance of the theme song to the Apple TV special It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown.
“It can be difficult jumping back and forth from one discipline to another,” says Folds, “but you learn so much from moving between worlds and collaborating with so many different kinds of artists. I performed some of the songs on this record with the National Symphony Orchestra before I finished recording them for the album, and that context gave me so much insight into how I wanted to handle them in the studio.”