It’s not everyday that local police come in to shut down a live show because of loud cello playing. But that’s exactly what happened when Ben Sollee played at the Broad Ripple in Indianapolis last week.
The Kentucky native, indie-cellist, singer-songwriter and humanitarian extraordinaire has created his own genre-bending sound that wraps a soulful R&B voice with jazz, folk, and, a bit of bluegrass. He has turned the cello into an instrumental frontman and he can be counted on to do the unexpected.
Take, for instance, his preferred method of touring: bicycle. In 2009, he decided he and his crew would bike their way from his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, to play the Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
“It was an effort to slow down the tour, to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles,” he said in an interview this week.
In 2010, he and his band biked from San Diego to Kentucky, stopping in small towns every forty or fifty miles to play for locals.
“People pay attention when you ride into their town with a cello attached to your bicycle,” Sollee said. “And these are towns you wouldn’t normally stop into on a national tour.”
But it’s not a stunt for Sollee. It’s a way of making a real connection to the communities he visits. “You can’t roll up your windows on a bicycle like you can on a tour bus,” he said.
Beyond his endeavors in sustainable transportation and fighting mountaintop coal removal in his home state, Sollee is a champion for greater music accessibility. He uses platforms like StageIt.com to transmit home performances to virtual audiences, and is a huge advocate for the advent of live streaming shows.
“Live streaming is a great way to expand the musical community and to reach out to portions of your audience who wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience the show, maybe because the venue isn’t handicap accessible, because of transportation, or because a family with kids can’t come out to a rock club on a Wednesday night,” Sollee said.
Ben Solle is currently on tour, showcasing his brand new album “Half Made Man”, a fuller, more rocking advance from his minimalist, folksy beginnings, with special guests Jordan Ellis and Luke Reynolds. The show will be live streamed, and though he won’t be making this stop by bicycle, Sollee is offering a merchandise discount to anyone who busses, bikes, walks, or otherwise comes to the show via environmentally friendly transportation.
Ben Sollee performs Wednesday, Nov. 7 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, with Jordan Ellis and Luke Reynolds. Also on the bill is Mojo Stone. Tickets $15, show at 9 p.m.