As of last week John Mayer and Jessica Simpson aren't dating. Of course, that's probably changed a few times since this story was written (and maybe once or twice as you read that last sentence). Maybe J2 doesn't matter to you, but it does to Ben Folds.
OK, so it doesn't really matter to Ben Folds. But as the opening act on Mayer's mega-tour this summer, it might be good for Folds to stay current on the Mayer/Simpson sitch. You see, the last (and first) time Folds met Simpson, it ended, well, awkwardly. And it might be good to know if she will or won't be lounging backstage on a $19,000 one-of-a-kind, hand-stitched Juicy Couture couch.
'I met her once on an elevator,' explains Folds. 'I said something really weird to her father because I didn't know who she was. They were all talking about how Sony didn't do a very good job with her second single. There were, like, 10 people in the elevator, and I just chimed up, ‘They never do your second single well.'
'Her dad turned on me and said, ‘Are you in the music business? What do you know?' I said, ‘No, I'm an accountant, but everybody knows they don't do your second single well' and got out.'
Folds didn't impress Jessica and dear ol' Dad much, but, hey, let's let bygones be bygones-Jess' subsequent singles have done fine. Besides, it's Mayer he's working for-and Mayer digs Folds.
'I met John a good year before his first record had come out,' says Folds. 'A friend of mine was producing him and wanted me to play piano on what they thought was going to be their hit,' 'Your Body is a Wonderland.'
'I didn't have time to do it, and it turned out to be one of the biggest international hits of the year', Folds says, laughing, 'and now the little fellow is doing really well.'
Folds knows he runs the risk of being ignored by a million people on the summer tour but doesn't care. If the crowd tunes out, he plans on just doing his thing, maybe working on his left-hand skills (piano skills, that is) and enjoying some free food.
'It's just a gig,' he says. 'I'm paid well. I'm in good company because John's a good guy and good musician. He's actually a great musician. And I play for an hour, then hit the deli tray and have a tuna sandwich.'
If the Mayer tour seems like a bit of cornball overload, Folds has plenty of arty stuff to keep him busy-so busy he's on speaker phone answering questions while brushing his teeth and getting texts from Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer asking him where he is.
Always a versatile guy, Folds can hang with pop stars like Mayer and goths like Palmer. He's currently finishing up producing Palmer's solo record and is super-psyched about the results.
'I think that The Dresden Dolls are just great,' he says after a good toothpaste spit. 'That's the reason I'm working for her, because it's not that lucrative. I'm helping her record her solo material. We don't know exactly what form it will take, but it's been really fun. We've had a cellist in here the last few days recording just piano and this really aggressive cello. It's been great.'
Folds has been a fan for years and flatters himself thinking Palmer learned to attack the piano from him-even if he knows she probably didn't listen to him much. As different as the two are, they share a strong musical-theater streak. Of course, Palmer's of the Brechtian school and Folds is more Rodgers and Hammerstein-meets-John Waters.
'We could probably write queer Broadway musicals all day long,' he says. 'It'd be like Lennon and McCartney writing musicals. She has all the edgy ideas, and I have all the hooky ideas. And that's OK, I don't mind; she can be John Lennon if she wants.'
The two are really no odder a pair than John and Paul. Or John and Jessica, for that matter.
Ben Folds plays with John Mayer and Rocco Deluca at Coors Amphitheatre on Tuesday, June 5. Gates open at 7 p.m. $32.50-$55.50. 619-220-8497.
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