One of rock music’s most engaging artists is making a stop at The Vets in Providence on Friday, September 24th. Musician Ben Folds, known for his eclectic resume, keyboard riffs and brutally honest lyrics will be in town for a solo show at the Providence concert house.

I caught up with Folds by phone last week as he was in between sets at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where he is Artistic Advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra. He was there, along with several noted artists, playing a special show to welcome fans back to the revered venue.

“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center,” he explained, “and it’s a welcome back event. It’s really exciting, kind of overwhelming. I just stepped off the stage with Chris Thile, Bettye Lavette, Christian McBride and Keb Mo … so much great talent!”

The stage in Providence will be a bit less crowded … just Ben and his piano on the “In Actual Person Live for Real Tour.” He’s excited about getting back on the road after the pandemic hiatus.

It’s always home base for me – playing solo shows,” he said. ”It’s all on me – I would say it keeps me honest. I play songs that I wrote, no real big surprises, it’s the exercise of pure music for me, just the piano. I often do that before I write and record a record. It centers me, it becomes more about the song.”

During the pandemic, Folds stayed busy, and earlier this year, he began a podcast series entitled “Lightning Bugs: Conversations with Ben Fold.” Episodes centered around the theme of creativity and featured guests including Jon Batiste, Sara Bareilles, and Josh Groban.

“I did a podcast where I talked to people about creativity because I thought there were a lot of people who needed to exercise their creativity, who were creative but didn’t do it for a living. All kinds of people talk about the creative process.”

He spent much of the early part of the pandemic in Australia where he was touring in March, 2020.

“I was interrupted in the middle of an orchestral tour, times were crazy, it was a little tough getting back, so we stayed a while. If you can separate yourself from the horror of the pandemic, it seems we’ve also had a moment to be grateful for the change. Hopefully, everybody had some sort of silver lining out of it. Mine was that I slowed down for a moment. That was something I didn’t know I needed to do.”

With traditional performance venues shut down for over a year, touring came to a complete stop. Still, artists found ways to reach their audience as Folds explained.

“People needed it, artists and musicians stepped up, and gave people something, whether it was online or something else,” said Folds. “Everyone was forced to think about what they might want to make in that time -Taylor Swift did two albums, some of us felt like doing other things. People I had been on tour with were playing porch concerts. I’m proud of all the efforts of artists that just made stuff for people.”

Folds loves Providence and recalled playing in the 1990’s with his band Ben Folds Five. He even gave a shout-out to the now-defunct WBRU.

“Providences was one of the first places we made it – it was just really wonderful. We’d play a whole bunch of cities for nobody and then we’d roll into Providence and play Lupo’s in front of a big crowd. You don’t forget those things – when I think of Providence I get happy, I think about going to get some awesome Italian food before the show,” he added.

Sounds like a plan for Friday night – out to dinner and a show –find tickets more information about Ben Folds at The Vets here.

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Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.