Ben Folds Presents:: University A Cappella!

Ben Folds was intrigued to discover that there are 1,200 active college a cappella groups across the country, and that many of them love to cover his songs. As a result, Folds decided to A&R and produce a record gathering the best of these performances.

When word got out, the response was tremendous and resulted in 250 videos on YouTube. Folds would come off stage every night and spend hours pouring over these entries, ultimately choosing 15 groups to record. Ben, his wife Fleur, and his engineer Joe Costa packed up their equipment, and hopped on planes, trains and automobiles to record these groups. Over 2 months, they set up camp in dorm lounges, lecture halls and campus television studios. They even recorded in a Synagogue. Also wanting to involve students from other areas of campus life in these sessions, at each one Folds invited a student photographer and videographer to document the recording. After reviewing the footage captured, Ben then invited one of the student videographers – Jason Harper from Princeton University – to compile each school’s footage into one documentary of the entire project. The makeshift studio was simple: six area mics. But Folds wanted to capture what these groups actually sounded like in performance. The team allotted four hours for each session. Most groups nailed the recording in two.

Folds also recorded two of his own a cappella tracks: instrument-free versions of “Effington” (from his 2008 album “Way to Normal”) and “Boxing,” which originally appeared on the 1995 self-titled Ben Folds Five album. About recording his own two a cappella songs, Folds says, “It took f**king longer than four hours. I can tell you that much. I have a greater appreciation now for the university groups.” Summarizing the coast-to-coast endeavor, Folds stresses, “This is not a novelty. I consider this my new record. I’m incredibly proud of this. If this were Ben World, this would be my greatest hits album. I’d rather this be my greatest hits record than someone collecting my masters and slapping on a photo of me leaning against a piano. This is a better way. I’m a songwriter, and these are my songs.”

1. NOT THE SAME – The Spartones from Greensboro, NC.
Arranged by Chris Juengel / Recorded in Swain Hall (UNC – Chapel Hill)

2. JESUSLAND – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Loreleis
Arranged by Emily Riehl and Marianne Cheng / Recorded in Swain Hall (UNC – Chapel Hill)

3. BRICK -The Ohio University Leading Tones
Arranged by Brian Powers / Ohio University School of Music’s Recital Hall

4. YOU DON’T KNOW ME – The University of Georgia’s With Someone Else’s Money
Arranged by Jonathan Sparks / Recorded in Ben’s studio

5. STILL FIGHTING IT – Washington University in St. Louis’s Mosaic Whispers
Arranged by: Mark Partridge / Recorded in the 560 Music Building – Recital Hall (Washington University)

6. BOXING – Ben Folds
Arranged by Ben Folds / Recorded in Ben’s studio

7. SELFLESS, COLD, AND COMPOSED – The Sacramento State Jazz Singers
Arranged by Kerry Marsh / Recorded in Capistrano Hall, Jazz Rehearsal Room (Sacramento State)

8. MAGIC – The University of Chicago’s Voices In Your Head
Arranged by Chris Rishel / Recorded in Chris Rishel’s living room

9. LANDED – The University of Colorado Buffoons
Arranged by Misha Levental / Recorded at Coupe Studios

10. TIME – The Princeton Nassoons
Arranged by Jonathan Schwartz / Recorded in Mathey College Common Room (Princeton University)

11. EFFINGTON – Ben Folds
Arranged by Ben Folds / Recorded in Ben’s studio

12. EVAPORATED – The Newtones from Newton, MA
Arranged by Joel Esher / Recorded in Wellesley Chapel (Wellesley College)

13. FRED JONES PART 2 – The West Chester University of Pennsylvania Gracenotes
Arranged by Courtney Park / Recorded in Mathey College Common Room (Princeton University)

14. ARMY – The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers
Arranged by Brad Hartman & Dan Gross / Recorded in Havens Lounge, Wilson Commons (University of Rochester)

15. FAIR – University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire’s Fifth Element
Arranged by Joe Holtan / Recorded in Masters Recording Institute’s Studio A

16. THE LUCKIEST – The Washington University in St. Louis Amateurs
Arranged by: Joe Argus / Recorded in the 560 Building ballroom (Washington University)

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