No introduction was needed as Ben Sollee, Luke Reynolds and Jordon Ellis headed to the stage. They immediately grabbed their instruments and jumped right into the music, starting the night off with a slow melodic tune.
Sollee's new album, "Half-Made Man," will be released Tuesday, but Knoxville was able to get a sneak preview Friday night at The Square Room. Despite experiencing a few minor mishaps, Sollee laughed and continued to play as though surrounded by friends. The group's amiable energy remained throughout the night.
With fan favorites like "The Prettiest Tree on the Mountain," "Captivity" and "Built for This," the audience immediately warmed up. The band exchanged glances, quick-witted comments and smiles, and radiated a sense of companionship and genuine compassion for the music.
Sollee said this was the exact atmosphere he had hoped for. A family man through and through, Sollee made sure he reflected this to the audience.
"I just love playing for that (Knoxville) audience," Sollee said. "I can trust them."
The band played several new songs from their new album, trying out the new parts and instruments. Sollee even managed to stand up during his performance—an unusual occurrence for most cello players.
Peter Jantsch, second year graduate student in mathematics, said he enjoyed seeing how much Sollee enjoyed playing his music and how much of himself goes into each song he writes.
"Ben's songwriting manages to be both deeply personal and easily accessible," Jantsch said. "From what I heard at the show, I don't expect the new album to disappoint in that regard."
UT alumna Markie Newman said that it was one of the best shows she had been to in a long time.
"You could tell he was sharing a part of himself with the audience," she said.
"Half-Made Man" can currently be streamed at rdio.com and is an album full of eclectic, narrative songs that gives the listener a look into the elements of Sollee's life as a musician, husband and father.
"(This) record is a little bit more about capturing the vibe and the story of the song," Sollee said. "Writing has always been personal and it's always been about story telling."
Sollee worked with several different artists on this album, including Jordon Ellis, Abigail Washburn and My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel, to get the right vibe. He produced it himself as well. But with this particular album Sollee said that it is about the expression rather than the execution.
Sollee continues his tour in cities like Charlotte, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C. and Seattle, but Sollee said the tour never really ends.
He strives year-round to work hard and connect people with the music.
His Knoxville following has flourished throughout the years and keeps Sollee coming back for more. Although he just left town to continue his tour, he does expect to be back sometime in the spring.
"It's not about going out and making the big bucks while there's a hit single," he said.