Birmingham Weekly: Ben, thanks for your time. If you will, talk about the writing and recording of Inclusions.
Ben Sollee: Most of the songs had been around for a while. They took shape in a couple of different formats. First, demoing them around the house and then we did a lot of work with two DJs - DJ 2nd Nature out of Atlanta and D.L. Jones out of Detroit. We sat down to collaborate and to find a common ground between Hip-Hop and Folk music. I don't feel like they're that distant these days in our urban environment. In the DJ world, you make it from pre-existing sounds that you layer and filter to create something new. As a Classical musician, I'm coming from a place where I'm trained and I'm used to making music with a wooden box and strings.
BW: How did your style evolve? Your sound incorporates several musical elements.
BS: I think it's fairly organic in that I grew up having a dual musical life. With my family and friends, I'd listen to - and play - Folk and R&B and fiddle tunes with my grandfather who was an Appalachian fiddler. I chose the cello, whose ideas are taught through Classical music. So I had this institutional life where I'd study Bach and all the classics and then I'd come home to my social music life. Those two things have always collided, sometimes complimentary and sometimes dissonantly. That combination has put me on this path. I never feel like I'm taking Classical music and pulling it into a Pop sense and I never feel like I'm trying to take Pop music and dress it up as Classical.
BW: As an artist, how do you view the climate in the era of iTunes, Internet and satellite radio?
BS: I see it as an opportunity more than anything. The way people consume music is much quicker - they're listening to specific tracks and creating their own playlists. I feel like music travels faster, which is good as an audience member and an artist. The other side of it is that people have all-you-can-eat buffets of subscription music services. It makes it a real question mark for how recorded music will continue to be a source of income for artists.
BW: If you will, talk about the biking element of your tours.
BS: The biking reared its head when I was traveling around the country with a band called The Sparrow Quartet. We were flying across the country and driving through the night to get to shows. I wasn't experiencing the communities I was going through - it didn't feel musical to me because of the pace. I saw an advertisement for a bicycle that I could carry my cello on and I liked the limitation of that. As an experiment, I hopped on it and rode from Lexington to Bonnaroo music festival and that has grown into full-fledged bike tours that are about orienting ourselves into the communities that we are playing.
Tickets to the all-ages show are $14 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com