These days i've been playing a lot of Ben Folds. I ordered two more books of his songs and they arrived a couple of days ago. They are a lot of fun to play — Lullabye in particular is not too hard, and sounds terrific.
I know this sounds corny, but i really do dream of being like him one day. Sometimes it seems almost possible. I feel as if i can learn to play his songs as well as he does if i practice long and hard enough, and that makes it appear within my reach. I can already play some of them and they sound passable. When i listen to recordings, especially Ben Folds Live (which is just him alone with his piano), the music sounds straightforward enough. A lot of popular songs are musically very simple (look at Elton John, for example). And maybe his stage persona isn't that extraordinary — by which i mean, he doesn't have to be a stand-up comic, he's just fooling around and making up shit as he goes along. And the audience loves it because he's genuine.
I thirst for the day when ideas can flow straight from my head to the piano, when i can really express myself with the instrument instead of thinking about key signatures and chords and what fingers go where — just as easily as Ben does it when he improvises stuff on the spot like Robert's Shirt or Rock This Bitch.
And then i think it's actually not that possible, because that kind of intuitive understanding flows in Ben's blood, and it comes from over 20 years of writing and playing starting from back when he was a teenager, and he was already writing good songs then. (One of them has reappeared on his last set of EPs.) And the reason Ben has all of these wonderful stories to put into his songs is that he's lived them — he's been all over the states, worked with all sorts of people, been through lots of relationships. And songwriters aren't just musicians; they're poets, and while i can see that i have some musical skill i can't imagine ever becoming a poet. And the reason Ben can do whatever he wants on stage and have it be magnified and adored by his audience is that he earned that enormous reputation. They wouldn't see just anyone that way. Ben could trip on his piano stool and the audience would love him for it. He played the piano by pounding a pumpkin on it when i saw him in concert in San Francisco, and it wasn't dumb, it was fantastic.
Oh, and not to mention the fact that i can't hardly sing.
I'm standing at base camp on Mount Everest. I can't quite see the top, but damn do i want to get up there.