Ben Sollee Brings His Innovative Art To Eastern Music Festival
While many artists are canceling shows in North Carolina over House Bill 2, an acclaimed cellist and singer will perform tonight as part of the Eastern Music Festival’s Fringe Series.
Ben Sollee’s musical influences run wide and deep: everything from classical to rock, R&B to Appalachian fiddle tunes, and at the center of it all, incredible cello sounds.
“The cello’s great. It’s like a swiss army knife of an instrument. You can do so many different things. If you’re going to take one instrument, take the utility cello."
Sollee discovered the cello at what he calls, "an instrument petting zoo" in elementary school. He says he loved all the wacky sounds it could make. “I would basically carry my instrument around to all the different places that I knew and loved, and I’d just play as much music as I could. That, over time, in a very organic way helped me blend all these things together into my own style.”
And he's shared that style through his solo work and participation in various ensembles, most notably, the Sparrow Quartet with Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck.
Sollee’s Greensboro performance comes as many musicians, most recently violinist Itzhak Perlman, are canceling shows in protest of HB2. But Sollee says playing here now is the right choice for him.
“I think at my size and scale, it’s much much better for me to come and make art, play the show, meet the people, and spread the love as it were. That’s how I make change, is playing music for people and being compassionate and raising their level of affection around certain issues.”
Sollee’s just released three songs as Steeples, Part 2. It’s a serialized approach to releasing music, a method he says naturally resembles the way he makes art. The project might be three parts, it might be ten.
It’s an innovative approach. But for Sollee, innovation is the norm.