Ben Folds Discusses Kesha’s BBMAs Performance: ‘It Is a Declaration of Independence of Some Sort’

2016 Billboard Music Awards - Show
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/BBMA2016/FilmMagic

And you thought you were a huge Kesha fan. Ben Folds, who co-arranged and accompanied Kesha’s Billboard Music Awards cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” sat down with Billboard to discuss his experience with the singer. Essentially, it was 100 percent positive. “We gave her a radical amount of space and she didn’t buckle underneath it,” Folds said of Kesha’s performance. “We were flying without a net — everything you see on those [awards] shows is computers, and all of sudden we’re in the middle of the stage with a couple of mics. And she took this giant pause that we never even discussed. I mean, I like danger like that — ‘Okay, where are we going?’ That’s real! I love that. So yeah, she’s dangerous. She’s a badass.”

Folds and violinist Rob Moose of yMusic had to do some scrambling to adjust the song’s arrangement after letting go of a small chamber orchestra they initially hired to perform. (They had heard the performance was canceled.) However, Folds was more than understanding about the on-again-off-again drama surrounding Dr. Luke’s potential veto power over Kesha’s performance. “[E]verybody in the music business has had legal troubles — I’ve had plenty of mine. I don’t ask,” said Folds. As for the choice of “It Ain’t Me Babe,” selected from a list of Kesha’s favorite songs, Folds says it speaks for itself.

“[People] want to hear, ‘I’ll be yours forever, everything I do is for you,’ and this song is the opposite,” he continues. “And if you wanted to make a stretch, it is a declaration of independence of some sort. It’s like, ‘I’m not going to be this for you.’ I don’t think we’re talking about literal things as much as it’s a metaphor for a giant — not just the music business, but people’s expectations. And that’s not even speaking about all that legal shit — it’s more about the right of an artist or person to grow.”

Kesha first performed the song with Folds and Moose May 18 at Los Angeles’s Orpheum Theatre.

Ben Folds Discusses Kesha’s BBMA Performance