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SouthBound: Ben Folds On Making Music, Making Mistakes, And Building A Creative Life


Ben Folds has pounded pianos into submission around the world for the past 25 years, playing everything from ballads to heavy-metal covers to symphonic pieces – often in the same night.

Now he has collected those experiences, and what he’s learned along the way, into a new book called “A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons.” He came by our studio in Charlotte the day of a recent show to talk about his lifelong obsessions, his bad decisions, and how they all became a part of his art.

One quick note: If this were a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13 for language. Just to let you know. 

Let's keep the conversation going. Who do you want to hear from next on the SouthBound podcast?

Submit your idea in the box below. You can also send a tweet to @tommytomlinson or @wfae, and email me at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Show notes:

Ben Folds music in this episode:

  • "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces"
  • "Boxing"
  • "Phone In a Pool"
  • "Rock This Bitch"
  • "Emaline"

New episodes of SouthBound come out every other Wednesday. Subscribe:

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SouthBound is a production of WFAE. Our host is Tommy Tomlinson. Our producer is Nick de la Canal. Our audience engagement manager is Joni Deutsch, and our main theme comes from Josh Turner.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary that airs every Monday. He's the author of "The Elephant in the Room," a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. He has also written for publications including Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Garden & Gun. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.