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Along for the Ride—Music Manager Matthew Fritz on Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee - Ditch the Van tour

I first saw Ben Sollee in 2009 at a club in Boulder, Colorado, called the Fox Theater. At the time I was a regular at the Fox, hanging out there almost nightly absorbing any and all live music that I could. On this particular night, I was excited that banjo extraordinaire Béla Fleck was in the house playing this small room with a band called The Sparrow Quartet. I knew nothing about them only of Béla but was surprised to see a young Ben sitting up there doing things with a cello that I was not aware possible.

Sparrow Quartet
The Sparrow Quartet is an American acoustic music group that formed in 2005. Its members include Béla Fleck (banjo), Abigail Washburn (banjo and vocals), Ben Sollee (cello), and Casey Driessen (violin).

Ben came back on my radar in 2011 when while attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival he opened up the event. This was around the time that he put out his album Dear Companion with collaborator Daniel Martin Moore. I remember watching his set and being impressed along with everyone else around me. I went to the merchandise tent and immediately bought the album, and listened to it fairly consistently.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I actually met Ben, who at the time was opening for another band that I was involved with. The performance was at the now defunct House of Blue in Los Angeles and my reaction was the same as other’s in the room, “this guy’s got something really unique.”

Cellist Ben Sollee performed in Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Cellist Ben Sollee performed in Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Soon there after we started working together and I witnessed and participated first hand in that uniqueness. Right away we jumped into projects like creating a virtual reality app called Vanishing Point which was the first animated music video that used VR to choreograph the video and animation with the music. Ben was also involved in a live theater production of Harold and the Purple Crayon where students drew their own solutions to Harold’s problems on tablets and took home a print out of their version of the play after it had ended. He has scored and continues to compose for countless films. His record Steeples was released in chapters instead of as a whole work, and the exploratory album Infowars listens much more like a podcast than an album. Ben and his crew even pulled off a Ditch the Van tour—traveling 5,000 miles on bikes outfitted with equipment trailers for their gear. You can check out a short documentary we created about the tour here, which won the “New Normal” award at this year’s Telluride Mountain Film Festival. Currently, Ben is channeling his creativity into the string band project Kentucky Native which ties everything back to my first time seeing him at the Fox Theater with Béla Fleck.

I have been lucky to get to help an artist like Ben fully realize his vision, while along the way broadening my own abilities as a manager. Ben is able to make the world and those around him better because of his artistic vision and it is exhilarating to be part of it day after day and witness it on the faces of his fans night after night.

We are excited to kick off our Kentucky Native Fall Tour at the Gibbes Art Museum in Charleston, SC.

—Matthew Fritz, Manager, Artifact Concepts
September 1, 2017

Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native will perform in the Lenhardt Garden at the Gibbes on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. For more info and tickets, visit gibbesmuseum.org/events.

Top Image, from left: videographer Marty Benson, cellist Ben Sollee, tour manager Katie Benson, and percussionist Jordon Ellis cycled from Beaufort to Savannah Thursday for a gig at Blowin’ Smoke BBQ. The four are traveling by bike on tour from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, Fla. Photo by John Carrington/Savannah Morning News

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