Overflowing and Underway: The Music of Ben Sollee

Kentucky born cellist and composer, Ben Sollee, contains a creative superpower. His artistry and his music pull on my heartstrings in such a way that language cannot articulate. But that’s how music works, right? It holds this inherent, magical ability to invoke a visceral response that draws from our memories of the past, our pulsing sensations of the present, and our wildest dreams of the future.

Perhaps it’s the cello’s versatile quality of sound and the ephemerality of each note, infused with a potency that is both palpable and indescribable. Maybe it’s Sollee’s ability to weave together personal stories with collective experiences, daily mundane activities with descriptive emotional moments. Or maybe it’s his coalescing style that is both captivating and nourishing, as his music dances effortlessly back and forth between strength and sturdiness, softness and fragility. Whatever the reason, Sollee’s work contains a sense of familiarity that feels just beyond my reach, and I cannot get enough.

I was fortunate to attend an intimate performance at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA on a Wednesday night in April. The day was full of intense thunderstorms that flooded the streets, but I arrived to a room full of eager listeners. Ben Sollee is not only an artist whose work moves the hearts of many, but his kindness bleeds through him in every moment.

As I stood and listened, I felt my whole body slowly shift back into alignment. I felt my spine lengthening with each note, and my heart overflowing with a rare type of energy. Sometimes, when I witness a fabulous artist, I feel overwhelmed with inspiration and my head spins with ideas of what I can and should be creating. But when I get the opportunity to witness a true artist, I feel a stillness fall over my whole presence, and I feel a sense of being whole.

The paradox of this “whole” and “perfect” experience is that Ben Sollee’s music is not only aesthetically enlightening, it is also grounded in personal, social, and environmental progression. In both Learn to Listen and Boys Don’t Cry, he calls upon his audience to reevaluate the way they think, speak, and live (in the most beautiful and poetic way, of course). In DIY, Sollee stirs it up a bit, and recreates that feeling of being whole while also beckoning his audience to stand up and take action.

It’s safe to say that Ben Sollee is a master of his craft, but it’s more important than ever for us to be aware of WHY we love a certain style or piece of music. To me, Sollee’s work speaks to the heart of our current condition and invites individuals to connect with themselves and each other in a positive and more meaningful way.

by Maria Borghoff