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Interview:
Ben Sollee at The Cube, 3 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Ben Sollee has been playing the “bull fiddle,” as a cello is known in bluegrass circles, since he was a youth, and over the years the 33-year-old has found a way to integrate it into a variety of music forms, including jazz and folk among others.

The progeny of a musical family, Sollee began his professional career in the house band of the syndicated “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,” and he bowed on his own with the 2008 EP “If You’re Gonna Lead My Country. Since then he’s released nine albums as well as collaborations with Daniel Marin Moore and Jordon Ellis, and his latest, “Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native,” is perhaps his most ambitious, blending a variety of other styles and flavors for an eclectic mix, both in the studio and live on stage...

• Sollee, who incorporated field recordings into the writing process for “Kentucky Native,” says the goal of the album is “continuing the practice of bluegrass being a mix of different influences,” many coming from those who migrated into Kentucky over the decades and even centuries. “We’ve incorporated some music of Mexico, different parts of Africa, that kind of stuff,” Sollee explains. “It’s a way of saying that if Bill Monroe had been around today with his Bluegrass Boys, I think these influences would have impacted him as well because they had their ears were open and they were playing music that was around them and incorporating it into their music.”

• Coming at a time when immigration is under fire from various directions, including the U.S. government, “Kentucky Native” can be seen as a bit of a statement, though Sollee says he prefers the focus to stay on the music. “For me it’s a self-exploration about where I’m from, but I think certainly from an external viewpoint it could be seen as making a statement,” he notes. “Much of our American music is based on immigrants’ influence, and I think that’s something that’s important to recognize in the arts, and certainly in talking about this record I make sure to point to my influences very directly because I think that’s an important thing to do as an artist. If anything the statement for me is, ‘Hey, Kentucky and maybe even Appalachia overall maybe thought of as a conservative place, but it’s a lot nuanced and diverse than people think.’”

• With “Kentucky Native” out Sollee is working on a number of other projects, including scoring an interactive book for a pair of dancers and two different documentaries. “I’ve got some other recording projects that are floating around,” he says. “And then my next album project, I don’t have anything set up for that yet. (‘Kentucky Native’) is still pretty new.” A larger “project” looms for October, however -- the birth of his second child, a daughter, to join his 10-year-old son. “Amongst the album release and all the touring there’s new life, which is pretty exciting, too,” Sollee says.



If You Go

• Ben Sollee

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30.

• The Cube in the Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

• Tickets are $15 and $49.

• Call 313-576-5111 or visit dso.org.

Web Site: www.diso.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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