Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

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The former front man of Ben Folds Five has teamed up with the author of High Fidelity to create Lonely Avenue, an album of touching, piano-driven pop that sounds almost like a collection of short stories.

How does the songwriting process work when one of you [Hornby] can't play music?

Folds: Nick just wrote what was in his head. He turned his thoughts into lyrics and e-mailed them to me.

Hornby: We tried it once with Ben sending me an existing melody and me writing words to fit, but the other way was much better.

"Belinda" is about a musician forced to sing an old love song written for someone he no longer loves. Has that happened to you?

Folds: No, I don't feel that way about the songs I'm singing. Once I write a song, it becomes like a cover. I don't relate to it anymore. I feel like I'm singing "Wooly Bully" or something.

Why did you write a song about Bristol Palin's ex, Levi Johnston?

Hornby: Levi seemed like a good metaphor for all the mistakes that we make when we're kids and the price that we pay for them.

Folds: It's like the expiration date on milk. You vaguely know when it will go bad, but for him it was like, Oh, time's up.

What's it like to compose a love song for your wife when you can't play music?

Hornby: I hoped Ben might provide a kind of insouciant, upbeat melody. But he went for the big ballad 'cause he knew it was a love song. So then I got found out.