Be Somebody’s Ben Folds

Ben Folds is one of my favorite artists of all time. A lot of people are familiar with him because of his mainstream hit, Brick, from the late 90s. If that’s all you know of him, PLEASE dig deeper. He’s an incredible musician and songwriter, and his songs have fantastic lines such as:

“Make me feel tiny if it makes you feel tall, but there’s always someone cooler than you.” (There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You, supersunnyspeedgraphic, 2006)

“Sara spelled without an ‘h’ was getting bored on a Peavey amp in 1984, while Zak without a ‘c’ tried out some new guitar, playing Sara-with-no-h’s favorite song.” (Zak and Sara, Rockin The Suburbs, 2001)

“All this breathing in, never breathing out.” (Fair, Whatever and Ever, Amen, 1997)

“Neither of them knew what was going on–a strange feeling of never–heartbeat becoming synchronized and staying that way forever.” (From Above, Lonely Avenue, 2010)

I love him because he never settles–he’s constantly getting better and doing new and different things. He’s collaborated with Weird Al, William Shatner, and Regina Spektor. (If you haven’t listened to Ben and Regina sing You Don’t Know Me, I demand that you do so. Right Now.) He’s also worked with authors such as Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman.

His lyrics are honest and his music is always fresh–and while his music is constantly evolving, he has a style that is most definitely “Ben Folds.”

A few weeks ago, he did a free concert in Nashville at the Ryman. FREE. At the RYMAN. When I mentioned it to a friend of mine, he said, “I hate Ben Folds.”

To which I promptly replied, “I don’t even know you right now.”

HATE?! HOW CAN ANYONE HATE BEN FOLDS? SERIOUSLY?? I’ve been thinking about this for weeks and literally can’t come up with a reasonable explanation that doesn’t involve some sort of alien mind control or severe mental illness. I know that some musicians aren’t for everyone. But Ben-freaking-Folds? HOW CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE BEN FOLDS?

My friend’s (clearly insane) abhorrence for Ben Folds has been a good reminder to me that every artist has his or her critics. While I consider Ben Folds to be an amazing songwriter who offers something for everyone, my friend considers him a (Mr. Folds if you ever read this I swear to God I’m only saying this because my friend said it and I think you are the total best please don’t hate me I love you) “piano douche.”

I think it’s important for us, as artists, to remember this as well. Everything has its haters. When my book comes out next July, I know there will be a few bad reviews. Will that mean my book is crap? No. (Lord I hope not.) It means my book might not be for everyone. Some readers won’t get my humor. Others might not like my premise. Some people will simply be annoyed that my main character is a redhead. We’re never going to please EVERYONE.

Let’s do a little exercise, shall we?

  1. Think of your favorite book.
  2. Look it up on Goodreads.
  3. Read the negative reviews

I guarantee the reviewers will point out things that will leave you scratching your head, either because there are flaws you never noticed or simply don’t care about.

Now, let’s do another!

  1. Think of a book you hate.
  2. Look it up on Goodreads.
  3. Read the positive reviews.

You will think those good reviews are total nonsense. You’ll wonder how anyone could think that book was brilliant or that writing was solid.

We’re all different with a variety of things we look for in a book, song, tv show, movie, etc. I might hate your most-loved book. You might think my favorite song is dumb. That doesn’t mean either of those things is actually bad!  ISN’T THIS FUN?

Seriously, don’t get wrapped up in who loves or hates your work. You’re going to have fans and critics, and all that really means is that you have an audience. Isn’t that what we all want? Reviews of any sort couldn’t exist if we weren’t putting ourselves out there and  inspiring people to respond to what we create. That’s amazing, you guys! You made something! And someone read it!

Do what you love and what interests you. Evolve. Keep working. Be somebody’s Ben Folds.