Ben Folds on new album, What Matters Most: “I don’t think I could have made this at any other point in my career”

Ben Folds will release his new album, What Matters Most on June 2 via New West Records.

The 10-song set was co-produced by Folds and Joe Pisapia (K.D. Lang, Guster) in East Nashville, TN and features guest appearances by dodie, Tall Heights, and Ruby Amanfu.

What Matters Most is Folds’ first studio album since his chart-topping collaboration in 2015 with the string ensemble yMusic.

The new album is a bold, timely, cinematic work that examines the tragic and the absurd in equal measures as it reckons with hope and despair, gratitude and loss, identity and perspective.

Folds reveals that the songs are “bittersweet, hilarious at times, yet often laced with a quiet sense of longing and dread. Taken as a whole, the result is an undeniably joyful album that refuses to succumb to the weight of the world around it, an ecstatic reminder of all the beauty and promise hiding in plain sight for anyone willing (and present enough) to recognise their moments as they arrive

“There’s a lifetime of craft and experience all focused into this one record,” he adds. “Sonically, lyrically, emotionally, I don’t think it’s an album I could have made at any other point in my career.”

Today Folds shares the first new music from What Matters Most with the album highlight Winslow Gardens, an off-kilter pop song about losing track of the passing time while isolating with a loved one.

“I come from the vinyl era, and this perhaps more than any record I’ve made is a true album,” he shares.

“There’s a very specific sequence and arc to each side, all building up to this almost surreal positive finale, and that structure was really important to me. More than anything, I wanted to make an album that was generous, that was useful. I want you to finish this record with something you didn’t have when you started.”

Folds also announced an initial round of new tour dates in support of What Matters Most, with shows across the US, the UK - including a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London - and throughout Europe.

this, perhaps more than any record I’ve made, is a true album.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Folds first rose to fame in the mid-’90s with Ben Folds Five, whose genre-bending take on piano pop helped define an entire era of alternative rock.

After scoring multiple hit singles and a gold record with the band, Folds launched his solo career in 2001, releasing a series of similarly acclaimed albums that would firmly establish him as one of the most ambitious and versatile songwriters of his generation.

In 2010, Folds teamed up with celebrated author Nick Hornby on a collaborative record titled Lonely Avenue.

In 2014, he composed and performed his first piano concerto for the Nashville Symphony & Nashville Ballet. In 2017, he became the artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, where he began curating a series of performances marrying contemporary artists with symphonic orchestration.

In 2019, he released his New York Times best-selling memoir, A Dream About Lightning Bugs; and in 2021, he launched the Lightning Bugs podcast, an interview series on creativity and process with guests as diverse as Jon Batiste, Sara Bareilles, and Rainn Wilson, and his close friend Bob Saget.

Folds also revealed himself to be a prolific photographer with gallery shows in the US and Europe, appeared onscreen in films and television (most recently playing himself in three episodes of the hit Amazon Prime series The Wilds), composed music for a 25-minute stage adaptation of Mo Willem’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (which premiered at the Kennedy Center and was featured on PBS), and serves on the boards of the Arts Action Fund, the Nashville Symphony and Planet Word, a new immersive museum in Washington, DC, dedicated to celebrating the power of language.

Last year, Folds was nominated for an Emmy for his composition and performance of the theme song to the Apple TV special It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown.

“It can be difficult jumping back and forth from one discipline to another,” admits Folds, “but you learn so much from moving between worlds and collaborating with so many different kinds of artists.

“I performed some of the songs on this record with the National Symphony Orchestra before I finished recording them for the album, and that context gave me so much insight into how I wanted to handle them in the studio.”

Folds’ What Matters Most will be available across digital platforms, compact disc and standard black vinyl. A very limited to 200 Metallic Gold Colour Vinyl Edition autographed by Folds and featuring a flexi disc with an exclusive bonus track (a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ The Ghost in You) will be available via Rough Trade.

A limited Seaglass Blue colour vinyl edition autographed by Folds will be available at independent retailers and is also available for pre-order now via New West Records.

I don’t think it’s an album I could have made at any other point in my career.

What Matters Most track listing:

1. But Wait, There’s More

2. Clouds With Ellipses (feat. dodie)

3. Exhausting Lover

4. Fragile

5. Kristine From The 7th Grade

6. Back To Anonymous

7. Winslow Gardens

8. Paddleboat

9. What Matters Most

10. Moments (feat. Tall Heights)

Ben Folds tour dates:

March 24 - Eau Claire, WI - The Pablo Center at The Confluence

March 25 - Viroqua, WI - The Historic Temple Theatre

March 26 - Dubuque, IA - Five Flags Theatre

March 28 - Fort Wayne, IN - The Clyde Theatre

March 29 - Urbana, IL - Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

April 21 - Tallahassee, FL - Capital City Amphitheatre *

April 23 - Atlanta, GA - Atlanta Symphony Hall *

April 25 - Cincinnati, OH - Cincinnati Music Hall *

April 26 - Knoxville, TN - Tennessee Theatre

April 28 - Greensboro, NC - Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts *

April 29 - Wilmington, NC - Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre

April 30 - Charleston, SC - Charleston Gaillard Center

May 30 - Chicago, IL - Orchestra Hall*

June 13 - New London, CT - Garde Arts Center

June 14 - Lowell, MA - Memorial Auditorium

June 16 - Lewiston, NY - ARTPARK Mainstage Theater

June 17 - Huber Heights, OH - Rose Music Center

June 18 - Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre

June 20 - Wilmington, DE - The Grand Opera House

June 22 - New York, NY - Beacon Theatre

June 23 - Greensburg, PA - Palace Theatre

June 24 - Indianapolis, IN - Rock the Ruins at Holiday Park

June 25 - Detroit, MI - Motor City Casino

June 27 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium

June 28 - St. Louis, MO - Stifel Theatre

June 30 - Onamia, MN - Grand Casino Mille Lacs

July 1 - Fargo, ND - Outdoors at Fargo Brewing

July 22 - Columbus, OH - Bicentennial Stage at the Columbus Commons *

August 2 - Bonner, MT - KettleHouse Amphitheatre *

August 4 - Park City, Utah - TBA *

August 8 - Milwaukee, WI - Riverside Theater

August 9 - Cedar Rapids, IA - McGrath Amphitheatre

August 10 - Kansas City, MO - Uptown Theater

August 11 - Salina, KS - The Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts

August 13 - Arvada, CO - TBA

August 15 - Mesa, AZ - Mesa Arts Center

August 16 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern

August 17 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theater

August 19 - Eugene, OR - Cuthbert Amphitheater

August 20 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre

October 6 & 7 - Minneapolis, MN - Orchestra Hall *

October 20 & 21 - Dallas, TX - Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center *

November 8 - Bath, United Kingdom - The Forum

November 9 - Brighton, United Kingdom - Brighton Dome

November 10 - Birmingham, United Kingdom - Symphony Hall

November 12 - Oxford, United Kingdom - New Theatre

November 13 - London, United Kingdom - Royal Albert Hall

November 15 - Gateshead, United Kingdom - Sage Gateshead

November 16 - York, United Kingdom - Grand Opera House

November 17 - Manchester, United Kingdom - O2 Apollo

November 18 - Edinburgh, United Kingdom - Usher Hall

November 20 - Dublin, Ireland - The Helix

November 23 - Zurich, Switzerland - Kaufleuten

November 25 - Berlin, Germany - Admiralspalast

November 26 - Wiesbaden, Germany - Kurhaus

November 27 - Utrecht, Netherlands - TrivoliVredenburg - Grote Zaal

November 30 - Paris, France - La Cigale

December 1 - Antwerp, Belgium - De Roma

December 2 - Dudelange, Luxembourg - Opderschmelz

December 4 - Essen, Germany - Lichtburg

* Orchestra dates