Packed bookstores may be old hat for author Nick Hornby, but the bestselling "High Fidelity" scribe is the first to admit that songwriting is not.
“I’m extremely happy that even though I’ve written a love song for my wife it has the word ‘urinal’ in it,” Hornby told a full house -- mostly standing, a few balcony-dangling -- last night at Housing Works Bookstore in Soho.
Hornby took the stage with beloved nerd-musician Ben Folds to promote "Lonely Avenue," their newly released collaborative album for which the British author wrote the lyrics and Folds provided the music.
This event was the latest installment of SPIN’s Liner Notes, which pairs authors and musicians “to see what happens,” according to curator Emily Zemler. Past creative couplings include Augusten Burroughs and Tegan Quin, as well as Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. All proceeds benefit Housing Works, the nonprofit organization for the homeless and individuals living with AIDS/HIV in New York City.
Folds wore a bright red golf shirt and geek-chic glasses, and though his black Yamaha piano gleamed a bit more than Hornby’s bald head, the two artists clearly have well-matched wits.
The men have a longstanding professional relationship. Hornby wrote about Folds in his 2002 essay collection "Songbook," and in 2004, they collaborated songwriting efforts on an album for William Shatner.
“After that, Ben said let’s have a go at an entire album,” Hornby said.
For this project, as with his books such as "High Fidelity," "About a Boy" and "How to Be Good," Hornby looked for influence in his personal life and American pop culture. Some songs were also spawned from short story ideas on the cutting room floor.
For “Levi Jonhston’s Blues,” about the infamous young man who fathered a child with Bristol Palin, Hornby lifted many of the lyrics directly from Johnston’s MySpace page.
Folds, former front-man for the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five, found the collaboration a welcome change to his usual creative process. He normally writes a melody before the lyrics. This time he waited for Hornby’s email before getting started.
“Nick provided the life of a song for me to respond to,” Folds said.
Nick Hornby and Ben Folds will make a second appearance at 7:30 p.m. on Thurs, Oct. 14 at Union Square Barnes & Noble.
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