Ben Sollee (b. November 28, 1983) is an American cellist, singer-songwriter, and composer known for his innovative playing style, genre-bending songwriting, electrifying performances, political activism, and wide appeal. His music incorporates banjo, guitar, and mandolin along with percussion and unusual cello techniques to create a unique sound. His songs exhibit a mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and R&B elements. Sollee has also composed longer instrumental pieces for dance ensembles.
Raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Sollee began playing the cello in elementary school. Besides classical music, his early musical influences included recordings his parents played of Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Otis Redding, and later he discovered folk music.
In 2005, Sollee joined with Abigail Washburn (banjo and vocals), Bela Fleck (banjo) and Casey Driessen (violin) to form The Sparrow Quartet. The group's debut album, Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet, was released in May 2008. That same month, Sollee came out with his first EP If You’re Gonna Lead My Country. A month later, in June 2008, he released his solo debut album Learning to Bend.
In 2007, NPR's Morning Edition named Sollee one of the "Top Ten Unknown Artists of the Year". Following the release of his album in 2008, the public radio network's All Things Considered aired a feature on Sollee, describing Learning to Bend as "an inspired collection of acoustic, folk and jazz-flavored songs, filled with hope and the earnest belief that the world is good."
Sollee has also been featured on the PBS series On Canvas, recorded at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia; he was 17 years old when he started a weekly run as the cellist on the house band, the Folk Boy Orchestra, of the radio program WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Sollee's song "How to See the Sun Rise" was featured in a Season 4 episode of the Showtime television series Weeds.