Ben Folds began playing the piano when he was nine years old, learning how to play by ear. While studying, he appeared in several bands as a pianist, bassist or drummer, beginning with the local band Majosha, which released one album in 1989. He later got a music publishing deal and moved to Nashville, where he became a go-to session musician. He took up music at the University of Miami, but dropped out one credit shy of graduating; he moved to New Jersey and pursued a stage acting career, before returning to his home state, North Carolina.
There, he formed the group Ben Folds Five, along with bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee. Described as "punk rock for sissies", none of their songs made it to the Billboard Hot 100, but they were still a presence in the AC and modern rock charts. However, they were popular in Australia and the United Kingdom. The band recorded three albums - most notably the 1997 breakout Whatever and Ever Amen - and went their separate ways in 2000.
Folds then focused on a solo career, releasing his solo debut Rockin' the Suburbs in 2001. His 2008 album, Way To Normal, is his biggest success to date: the album, buoyed by a single which featured the vocals of Regina Spektor, debuted at the 11th spot on the Billboard 200. He has collaborated with William Shatner, British writer Nick Hornby and Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer, and his songs were featured in the soundtracks for films such as Over the Hedge and Hoodwinked!. He also acts as a judge for the NBC series The Sing-Off.
Folds is currently married to Fleur Folds, with whom he has three children; he has twins from a previous marriage.