Writer Nick Hornby collaborated with musician Ben Folds on the piano player’s latest album, Lonely Avenue. Last night, the duo took to the stage to talk and perform at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City.
Hornby began by reading the lyrics for a particular song, and then Ben Folds would play the song and sing. They performed six songs off the 11-song album: Belinda, Levi Johnston’s Blues, Practical Amanda, Your Dog’s, Picture Window, and Saskia Hamilton. The deluxe version contains the song featured in the video embedded above, Things You Think.
Hornby called Folds his “Cyrano de Bergerac” for transforming his lyrics into music. Folds explained that melodies come easily, but writing lyrics is more difficult. When the musician was asked whether or not he would ever consider writing novels, Folds answered: “No, the long form freaks me out.” When Hornby was asked about the lyric-writing process, he added: “What you’re writing isn’t finished. A lyric isn’t really a lyric until it’s part of a song.”
The funniest song of the evening was the discussion behind Levi Johnston’s Blues where Hornby drew inspiration from the real Levi Johnston’s MySpace page. Hornby said, “I looked at that and thought, ‘Wow, that’s a chorus.'” Folds explains, “It’s a song about growing up.” The chorus goes: “I’m a f***in’ redneck, I live to hang out with the boys. Play some hockey, do some fishin’ and kill some moose. I like to shoot the s*** and do some chillin’ I guess. You f*** with me and I’ll kick your ass.”
Hornby first partnered with Folds while writing That’s Me Trying for William Shatner’s speak-sing album, Has Been. While writing Lonely Avenue, the pair communicated primarily through e-mail due to Hornby’s travel schedule. In keeping with the Housing Works mission, all sales went to the homeless and those who suffer from AIDS.