Epic Records is excited to announce the release of BEN FOLDS PRESENTS: UNIVERSITY A CAPPELLA! on April 28, 2009. Amazed to discover the large amount of colleges that have very active a cappella groups on campus across the country (1,200 in the US alone), and, on top of this, how many of them love to cover his songs, Folds decided to A&R and produce a record gathering the best of these performances.
When word got out, the response was tremendous and resulted in 250 videos on YouTube. Folds would come off stage every night and spend hours pouring over these entries, ultimately choosing 15 groups to record. Ben, his wife Fleur, and his engineer Joe Costa packed up their equipment, and hopped on planes, trains and automobiles to record these groups. Over 2 months, they set up camp in dorm lounges, lecture halls and campus television studios. They even recorded in a Synagogue. Also wanting to involve students from other areas of campus life in these sessions, at each one Folds invited a student photographer and videographer to document the recording. After reviewing the footage captured, Ben then invited one of the student videographers – Jason Harper from Princeton University – to compile each school’s footage into one documentary of the entire project.
No matter where the recording was to take place, the makeshift studio was simple: six area mics. It was a bold aesthetic choice for the project. In recent years, tools like Auto-Tune and overdub have become as prevalent in collegiate a cappella recording as on major label albums. But Folds wanted to capture what these groups actually sounded like in performance. The team allotted four hours for each session. Most groups nailed the recording in two.
Not to be outdone by the undergraduates, Folds recorded two of his own a cappella tracks: instrument-free versions of “Effington” (from his 2008 album Way to Normal) and “Boxing,” which originally appeared on the 1995 self-titled Ben Folds Five album. About recording his own two a cappella songs, Folds says, “It took f**king longer than four hours. I can tell you that much. I have a greater appreciation now for the university groups.”
Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! comes at an interesting time. After all, a cappella jokes have featured prominently on NBC’s “The Office” and in big-budget movies like “The Break-Up,” to name a few. Also, in May of 2008 Gotham Books published Pitch Perfect, a book written by GQ senior editor Mickey Rapkin that is a behind-the-scenes look at the bizarre inspiring and hilarious world of competitive collegiate a cappella.
Summarizing the coast-to-coast endeavor, Folds stresses, “This is not a novelty. I consider this my new record…I’m incredibly proud of this. If this were Ben World, this would be my greatest hits album. I’d rather this be my greatest hits record than someone collecting my masters and slapping on a photo of me leaning against a piano. This is a better way. I’m a songwriter, and these are my songs.”
Look for many of the a cappella groups to open up for Folds on many of his upcoming tour dates. A complete list of tour dates is posted at www.benfolds.com or www.myspace.com/benfolds.